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Big Business Evaluating Kagan as Ideological Groups Ramp Up Fight

Business groups, which have not been shy about lobbying on hot issues such as health care and Wall Street reform, are taking a more reticent approach when it comes to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Of the largest business organizations, only the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is expected to take a formal stand on Kagan, whose confirmation hearings began Monday.

The chamber is in the middle of a formal review process and is not likely to take a position on Kagan’s confirmation until after the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are over, according to spokesman Sheldon Gilbert.

Gilbert said his organization evaluates Supreme Court nominees “from a standpoint of legal scholarship, judicial temperament and a demonstrated understanding of business and economic issues.”

Over the years, the chamber, which typically sides with conservatives on legislative matters, has been bipartisan in its endorsements, backing every Supreme Court nominee since David Souter in 1990, including President Barack Obama’s choice of Sonia Sotomayor last year. The chamber adapted its court nominee endorsement process in 1987, and Souter was the first nominee to be considered under that system.

Most other business lobbying groups say they are staying out of the Supreme Court nomination fight altogether.

“At this time we are not dedicating any resources to the confirmation process,” said Jeff Ostermayer, a spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers. “We are mostly concerned about the manufacturing process.”

Kirk Monroe, a spokesman for the Business Roundtable, which represents major corporate executives, added: “We don’t comment on Supreme Court nominees.”

Stephanie Cathcart, a spokeswoman for the National Federation of Independent Business, also said her small-business group was abstaining from the Kagan fight.

“We don’t generally get involved with nominations,” she said.

While business groups remain in the background, advocacy groups on the left and right are weighing in on Kagan, holding press conferences and using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to spread their messages.

A number of liberal groups are using the confirmation hearings to echo the White House’s contention that the high court under Chief Justice John Roberts has become too business-friendly. They are particularly critical of the court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that ended most bans on political spending by corporations and unions.

Conservative groups have accused Kagan of being a political activist whose mentors are liberal jurists. Anti-abortion-rights groups fear she will favor abortion rights because she was a clerk to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was a vocal advocate.

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