Earlier this month, Washington Post political reporters James Hohmann and Elise Viebeck revealed that the paper had gotten ahold of a leaked contract that Republican congressional candidates are expected to sign
if they want to participate in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Patriot Program, which is designed to help candidates in competitive districts.
The contract raised eyebrows because it included a requirement that members of Congress and their chiefs of staff provide “detailed, written legislative strategy that provides short-, intermediate- and long-term legislative goals, including political justification for those goals.”
As it turns out, Southern Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally is among the Republicans who are participating in the Patriot Program and Democrats are focusing on the NRCC document as evidence that McSally is not as independent as she made herself out to be during her successful campaign to unseat Democrat Ron Barber last year.
State lawmaker Victoria Steele, a Democrat who wants to challenge McSally next year, said via email that “McSally pledged to be an independent voice—that’s turned out to be a false promise. Not even halfway through her first term, she’s gone Washington and sold out the people in her district.”
And Democrat Matt Heinz, a former state lawmaker who also wants a shot against McSally, said that he found it “very disturbing that any representative would be beholden to D.C. party bosses and not to the voters who put them in office.”
Heinz called on McSally to publicly reveal any documents she signed with the NRCC.
“If Martha McSally wants to renew her contract with Southern Arizona voters, she should reveal the details of whatever she signed with the National Republican Congressional Committee to see what those promises were,” Heinz said.
Team McSally declined to release a copy of any agreement between her and the NRCC but pushed back against accusations that the NRCC is controlling McSally’s priorities. McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak told the Weekly that neither McSally nor anyone on the congressional staff signed the Patriot Program agreement.
“Both the NRCC and DCCC (Democrat campaign committee) provide valuable assistance for both members and candidates in their campaigns,” Ptak said via email. “Like her predecessor, Ron Barber, and other Arizona members of Congress like Congresswomen Sinema and Kirkpatrick (all three participate(d) in the equivalent DCCC Frontline program), Martha has received help from her party’s campaign committee. However in this case, Martha did not feel the need to sign the Patriot Program plan, though she has and continues to work with them for her campaign.”
Ptak added that the “NRCC along with her 700,000-plus constituents and anyone else who has listened to Martha over the last 3.5 years is aware of what her priorities are. However, there was no back and forth discussion between the NRCC and Martha about what Martha's priorities should be, and at no point did the NRCC approve, edit, or provide any input whatsoever into what Martha deemed as her priorities.”
Democratic strategists concede that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee works closely with candidates in the Frontline Program, which is similar to the NRCC’s Patriot Program. In both cases, party strategists want to see that candidates in tough districts are raising money, hiring professional campaign staff and taking other steps to position themselves for victory, with the thinking that if the national campaign committee will be providing campaign resources, the candidate needs to be running a solid campaign.
But Dems say the Patriot Program is crossing the line by asking members of Congress and their staffers to sign agreements regarding legislative work—and the Post’s revelation about the contract has made headlines around the country.
At least one Republican strategist agrees that the NRCC went too far with the contract. Roll Call reports:
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.