A leaked internal document from the National Republican Congressional Committee is causing headaches for some of the House GOP's most vulnerable incumbents.
The document — a memorandum of understanding to be included in the NRCC's Patriot Program, which supports some of the House's most endangered Republicans — includes a provision that requires members to submit a "written legislative strategy" to the committee. That legislative strategy must also detail "political justifications" in order to be part of the program, which provides fundraising and organizational support to its members.
NRCC Communications Director Katie Martin said, “This question is for informational purposes only to know what members are interested in or going to be advocating for.”
But it's a line Democrats have tried to seize upon to raise questions about Patriot Program members' independence from their party.
In Colorado, GOP Rep. Mike Coffman's Democratic opponent pounced to try and say Coffman traded his independence for the promise of campaign cash.
“By giving authority to outside D.C. interests, Coffman is blatantly putting his political party over the people that he represents in exchange for campaign funds," state Sen. Morgan Carroll, who is vying for the Democratic nomination, said in a statement. "He is ensuring that the people of Colorado’s 6th Congressional District do not have a representative fighting for their interests in Congress."
Of course, insider party memos such as the Patriot Program document are often hard to translate into an effective campaign issue — especially this far from Election Day in a year in which presidential politics reign.
And since the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee almost certainly has a similar memo to for candidates to sign to be part of its Frontline Program — which provides the same kind of goal-driven campaign support — it's unclear whether the DCCC would use the memo in ads and possibly open itself up to the same attack.
Even some members of the Patriot Program dismissed the attacks, with at least one Patriot member unaware a leak occurred — a sign there's little chatter, and therefore worry, even on Capitol Hill.
"It's inside baseball," said one member of Congress in the Patriot Program. "And if this is the only issue they have to run against members in competitive districts, then they're going to get shellacked again.
Still, some Republican consultants who have worked on House and Senate campaigns said they are frustrated such a document exists at all. They said drawing up such a document wasn't worth the risk it might be leaked, as it was last week to The Washington Post.
"Members of the Patriot Program will be having to either defend that memo or distance themselves from that memo," said Chip Lake, a longtime Republican consultant from Georgia. "No committee should put their candidates in that position, and this committee did."
Lake said he took specific offense to the legislative plan line, saying it was an "arrogant" thing to ask for, and assumed members of Congress and their staff were "idiots."
"That is an official legislative action and it has no business being in a party committee memo," Lake said.
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