Speaker John Boehner and NRCC chairman Greg Walden (AP Photo)

THE BIG IDEA: Two dozen House Republicans have agreed to privately detail their “legislative strategy” to party operatives, promising to offer “political justifications” for their goals in Congress.

The Daily 202 obtained a copy of the three-page contract that the National Republican Congressional Committee requires members to sign if they want to participate in its Patriot Program. The initiative, designed to protect potentially vulnerable incumbents, brings with it special attention and access to mounds of campaign cash. But strings are attached.

One of the 13 requirements is to submit an off-year “campaign plan” that includes: “Detailed, written legislative strategy that provides short-, intermediate-, and long-term legislative goals, including political justifications for those goals.”

“Be sure to include local issues unique to the district or region,” the contract says. “Complete a Patriot Policy Priorities worksheet to be used by NRCC staff to evaluate legislative priorities for the current Congress and to promote and advocate for those priorities where appropriate.”

The closely-held document offers a window into how much autonomy lawmakers often must forfeit to unelected Washington insiders. For instance, in exchange for reelection support, lawmakers must promise to exclusively use vendors sanctioned by establishment-aligned party chieftains, attend training sessions and raise six figures for the NRCC. They must also commit to holding a certain amount of cash-on-hand at the end of each fundraising quarter and limit their spending. These goals are tailored to the individual member, so someone who sits on a prominent committee (say Financial Services) would be expected to bring in a bigger haul. And let’s face it, some of the goals are simply smart ways for members to prepare early in the era of the permanent campaign.

NRCC officials defended the program, begun in 2009, as voluntary and described the document as routine, saying they assume that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee makes members of its “Frontline” program sign a similar document.

Attorneys who work with Democratic committees responded that it’s not standard operating procedure, saying that they’re careful to never be so explicit when it comes to mixing legislating and campaigning.

Here are Republicans members who are in the Patriot Program and apparently signed the contract: Barbara Comstock, Rodney Davis, Jeff Denham, Dan Benishek, Tim Walberg, Martha McSally, David Valadao, Mike Coffman, Carlos Curbelo, David Young, Bob Dold, Mike Bost, Bruce Poliquin, Frank Guinta, Cresent Hardy, Lee Zeldin, John Katko, Will Hurd, Ryan Costello, Steve Knight, Elise Stefanik, Dan Donovan and Mike Bishop. Interestingly, the contract appears to give members the opportunity to be part of the Patriot Program without being publicly listed. Read the full “memorandum of understanding” here.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Hillary on the trail (AP Photo/David Richard)

— Hillary’s IT guy tells Congress he’s going to plead the Fifth: “A former State Department staffer who worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private e-mail server tried this week to fend off a subpoena to testify before Congress, saying he would assert his constitutional right not to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself,” Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger report. “The move by Bryan Pagliano, who had worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before setting up the server in her New York home in 2009, came in a Monday letter from his lawyer to the House panel investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The letter cited the ongoing FBI inquiry into the security of Clinton’s e-mail system, and it quoted a Supreme Court ruling in which justices described the Fifth Amendment as protecting ‘innocent men . . . who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.’”

— Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis filed an emergency motion to try circumventing the order forcing her to issue same-sex marriage licenses. It comes ahead of a contempt hearing scheduled for 11 a.m., where she could be jailed or fined for not signing off on the marriages. “In the injunction motion filed Wednesday, Davis said she wouldn’t object to another county official issuing marriages licenses in Rowan County, as long as they are not issued with her signature,” the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. “But under Kentucky law, that’s the rub: Issuing marriage licenses is a required duty for a county clerk in this state. At least two other county clerks in Kentucky have followed Davis’ lead with less publicity.”

— Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina announced his resignation, through a spokesman, just a few hours after a judge ordered him to appear in court to face charges of fraud, illicit association and corruption related to an alleged massive, multi-million-dollar customs fraud ring. (Michael E. Miller)

GET SMART FAST:

  1. Five Chinese Navy ships are operating off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea, the first time U.S. officials have ever noted such activity. Meanwhile, back in China, President Xi Jinping announced that he will cut some 300,000 soldiers from the country’s two-million strong armed forces, a move that would accelerate his campaign to shift military resources from land to sea and air.
  2. The U.S. Army announced it will open its Ranger school to women full-time, after two females graduated last month. (Dan Lamothe)
  3. The Iowa Democratic Party announced it will hold satellite caucuses next February in places like factories and senior centers to enable more people to participate; the GOP currently has no similar plans.
  4. The House Judiciary Committee will hold the first in a stream of anti-Planned Parenthood hearing next Wednesday. (Mike DeBonis)
  5. A judge ruled that the six Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray’s arrest and death must be tried separately.
  6. Akin Gump, the nation’s largest lobbying firm, is launching a Cuba practice to take advantage of thawing relations.
  7. A senior Commerce Department official smuggled home seven government computers, allowing her kids to download explicit adult content and “racially offensive materials.” (Lisa Rein)
  8. Hackers swiped sensitive emails and donor information from the Heritage Foundation, some of which have apparently started surfacing on the Internet, after an arm of the think tank blamed Obama’s poor judgment for allowing the OPM hack. (Politico)
  9. Pope Francis will say mass in Spanish when he visits Washington later this month, with 25,000 tickets to the outdoor service at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The federal government is encouraging employees to telework rather than fight downtown congestion during the three days of the papal visit. Finally, a Quinnipiac poll out this morning shows the new pope is viewed favorably by 66 percent and unfavorably by 14 percent of Americans.
  10. A 19-year-old Houston man posing with a gun for a selfie accidentally shot and killed himself, police said.

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus and Donald Trump will meet today in New York as the RNC asks candidates to sign a loyalty pledge that they won’t run as independents in 2o16. Trump has scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference, at which he could make an announcement.
  2. President Obama clinched a major foreign policy victory when Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said she would back his Iran nuclear deal, meaning Congress doesn’t have the votes to reject the pact.
  3. Hillary proposed a $10 billion plan to treat addicts and curb incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses. “The program, much of which would be funded by the federal government, would also help get a life-saving rescue drug into the hands of more emergency responders to improve the odds for overdose victims,” Anne Gearen reports.
  4. “North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, the combative conservative who made waves this summer with his threat to try to boot John Boehner as speaker, acknowledged that his former chief of staff received hundreds of dollars in improper mileage reimbursements, and has cut a check to the government to attempt to ‘rectify the situation,’” per Politico.
  5. Scott Walker blamed Obama for rising “anti-police rhetoric” in an op-ed for the conservative site Hot Air.
  6. Walker’s super PAC plans to spend more than $8 million in South Carolina, from early November through the primary on Feb. 20, a sign that the Palmetto State is central to the Midwesterner’s strategy. The group, Unintimidated PAC, is kicking off a $7 million Iowa buy next week.
  7. Generation Forward, the super PAC supporting Martin O’Malley, has laid off 38 organizers in Iowa, about three-quarters of its staff in the state. (John Wagner)
  8. Lindsey Graham’s super PAC is launching a $1 million buy in New Hampshire this week, with an ad saying the senator has 30 years of military experience and “held Hillary Clinton’s feet to the fire on Benghazi and demand she tell the truth.”
  9. Rick Perry now has no paid staff in New Hampshire due to ongoing financial problems.

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

Inside Jeb Bush’s fall strategy to deflate Trump and court conservatives,” by Robert Costa and Philip Rucker: “Through it all, Bush is sticking to the same strategy that he and his advisers laid out months ago: establish himself as a tested conservative reformer who served eight years as Florida governor, ride out the chaotic pre-primary season and wait for the party to coalesce around him… ‘That’s the campaign we’re running — first and foremost — to highlight this record of reform and results,’ Danny Diaz, Bush’s campaign manager, said in a rare interview this week outlining the fall strategy…At Bush’s Miami headquarters, aides are positioning themselves for a drawn-out battle, using phrases like ‘long game,’ ‘slow and steady’ and ‘tell our story.'”

  • Concerns have been drifting through Bush’s wide circle, including about whether his wonky recollections of programs he shepherded as governor a decade and a half ago are enough to excite a GOP base that has been enthralled by Trump’s populist bravado.
  • “We all underestimated Trump at the outset,” said Bush adviser Vin Weber, the former Minnesota congressman. “Now we’re overestimating him.”
  • An interactive quiz on Bush’s web site goes so far as to attack Trump for being “a germophobe when it comes to shaking hands.”
Vice President Joe Biden was in campaign mode as he posed for a selfie with supporters yesterday at Miami Dade College in Florida. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

— “Biden, weighing a 2016 run, delivers a campaign-style speech in Florida,” by Ed O’Keefe: “The speech was the first stop on an itinerary that marks the vice president’s most active political trek since his son Beau Biden, the 46-year old former Delaware attorney general, died of brain cancer in May…Steve Schale, a Tallahassee-based lobbyist and adviser to Draft Biden, said that the vice president’s entrance into the race ‘would be healthy for the process’…Dismissing concerns that a protracted race between Clinton, Biden and others would damage the party, Schale, who served as Florida director for President Obama’s 2008 campaign, noted that Democrats registered hundreds of thousands of new voters in Florida during the epic Obama-Clinton battle.” Biden reportedly said Bernie Sanders is doing “a helluva job” during the DSCC fundraiser last night.

SAT scores at lowest level in 10 years, fueling worries about high schools,” by Nick Anderson: “Scores on the SAT have sunk to the lowest level since the college admission test was overhauled in 2005…The average score for the Class of 2015 was 1490 out of a maximum 2400, the College Board reported Thursday. That was down 7 points from the previous class’s mark and was the lowest composite score of the past decade. There were declines of at least 2 points on all three sections of the test — critical reading, math and writing.” The scores, experts said, “reflect a troubling shortcoming of education-reform efforts. The test results show that gains in reading and math in elementary grades haven’t led to broad improvement in high schools.”

— Donald Trump cheats at golf, former partners allege“When it comes to cheating, he’s an 11 on a scale of one to 10,” sportswriter Rick Reilly, who has golfed with Trump, told Ben Terris. He’s one of several people quoted on the record. Unsurprisingly, The Donald strongly denies it.

Trump in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., in 2002. (Photo by Damian Dovarganes, AP File)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Wednesday was just another day on the long road to the White House. Donald Trump lambasted Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish, while Stephen Colbert mocked the former Florida governor for trying to raise money off his upcoming appearance on Colbert’s new show. Twitter erupted, and television swooned. But a look at how each medium handled the news, and the share of voice each of the two Republican hopefuls received, tells a story of two very different campaigns.

Here’s how the conversation split in the old media:

0902Broadcast2

And here’s how it broke down on social media:

0902Twitter

–Pictures of the day:

It was a big day for the political selfie. President Obama used a selfie stick in Alaska:

And Rand Paul’s campaign launched a selfie feature as part of its new mobile application. Naturally, the Internet took no time abusing it:

–Tweets of the day:

Mike Huckabee stood behind the Kentucky county clerk who refused to hand out marriage licenses to gay couples:

Democrats in Congress blasted the clerk:

Hillary Clinton celebrated Obama’s victory on the Iran deal, saying she would “aggressively enforce” it as president:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) enjoyed lunch at the New York State Fair:

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) bumped into Kevin O’Leary, better known as “Mr. Wonderful” from Shark Tank:

–Instagrams of the day:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) marked the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in WWII with a photo of the surrender ceremony, observed by his grandfather Admiral John S. McCain Sr.:

Marco Rubio visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— Boston Globe, “Warren had ‘long conversation’ with Biden, she says,” by Travis Anderson: “Warren said Wednesday that she will probably endorse a Democratic nominee for president during the primary and refused to say whether she will serve out her full Senate term…’Right now that’s not where we are,’ Warren said of a possible endorsement. ‘I imagine that’s what I’ll do.'” During a meeting with Biden last month, Warren said they “discussed several topics including helping the middle class and ‘the capture of this country’ by the wealthy and powerful. Warren demurred when asked if there was talk, even jokingly, of her joining Biden on the Democratic ticket if he enters the primary and wins the nomination. ‘It was a long conversation,’ Warren said.”

New York Times, “Coordinated Strategy Brings Obama victory on Iran nuclear deal,” by Carl Hulse and David M. Herszenhorn: “The president’s potentially legacy-defining victory — a highly partisan one in the end — was also the result of an aggressive, cooperative strategy between the White House and congressional Democrats to forcefully push back against Republican critics, whose allies had begun a determined, $20 million-plus campaign to kill the deal…Under the direction of Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, and a team of lieutenants, House Democrats orchestrated a daily roll-out of endorsements of the Iran deal from a Capitol war room, tucked into Ms. Pelosi’s office just off the House chamber…Cabinet members and other senior administration officials talked directly with more than 200 House members and senators. The president spoke personally to about 100 lawmakers, either individually or in small groups, and aides said he called 30 lawmakers during his August vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Conservatives are now convinced that Black Lives Matter is a hate group. From Talking Points Memo: “Conservatives have long viewed the Black Lives Matter movement with skepticism and questioned the group’s tactics, but this week pundits grabbed hold of a new label for the organization … After the Friday shooting death of a sheriff’s deputy in Texas and a Black Lives Matter protest at the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday, conservatives doubled down in their criticism. During a segment on the shooting and protest on Monday morning, ‘Fox and Friends’ co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked why Black Lives Matter has not yet been labeled a hate group.”

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Report: More than half of immigrants on welfare. From USA Today: “More than half of the nation’s immigrants receive some kind of government welfare, a figure that’s far higher than the native-born population’s, according to a report [released Wednesday]. About 51 percent of immigrant-led households receive at least one kind of welfare benefit, including Medicaid, food stamps, school lunches and housing assistance, compared to 30 percent for native-led households, according to the report from the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for lower levels of immigration.”

DAYBOOK:

–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Bernie Sanders campaigns Grinnell, Ottumwa and West Burlington, Iowa. Marco Rubio attends a rally in Chattanooga, Tenn. In New Hampshire, Jeb Bush tours a manufacturer in Hampton and holds in a town hall meeting in Laconia; Rand Paul greets voters in Gilford; Chris Christie holds a town hall in Berlin; and Lindsey Graham campaigns in Henniker, Manchester, Portsmouth and Hebron. In Iowa, Bobby Jindal stops in Dubuque and Cedar Falls, while in South Carolina, Mike Huckabee visits Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Lancaster. Finally, Ted Cruz campaigns in Fort Worth, Tyler and Kingwood, Texas.

–On the Hill: Both chambers are in recess. But Cheryl Mills, Hillary’s chief of staff at the State Department, will testify in closed session before the House Benghazi Committee.

–At the White House: Vice President Biden will meet with Jewish community leaders in Miami to discuss the nuclear deal reached with Iran. Later in the day, he will deliver remarks at an Atlanta synagogue.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“I like Jeb,” Trump told Breitbart News after Bush criticized him in Spanish for not being conservative enough. “He’s a nice man. But he should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States.”

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

“Plenty of sunshine on tap but a hazy sky is still likely to keep the rays a little muted. Unfortunately it does little to stop highs from reaching the low to even mid-90s for most areas. Clouds bubble up in the late afternoon but isolated thunderstorms are few and far between,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts.

–The Nationals pull one out over the St. Louis Cardinals, winning 4-3.

— Former Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington says RGIII may find success in “a different profession.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Ted Cruz wished former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) a happy birthday:

Is Donald Trump in your head? He will be if you listen to this parody song, featuring Roger Stone:

The National Zoo livestream gave us a good look at the new (surviving) giant panda cub: