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GOP rolls out ‘planning kit’

Packet aimed to help Republicans stay on message during recess

McMorris Rodgers
McMorris Rodgers

House Republicans seem to be leaving little to chance as their members prepare to spend the August recess among their voters, issuing a “planning kit” with tips on maximizing exposure and minimizing contrary opinions on issues like health care reform.

As chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is in charge of this year’s kit, called “Fighting Washington for all Americans.”

In an introductory letter to her fellow Republicans, McMorris Rodgers says members should stress that the GOP is fighting for them against federal government overreach. “There is no better message than one that puts the American people before an out-of-control government,” she wrote.

The kit offers suggestions for events on energy, health care and jobs; for “issue tours” at power plants, on Main Street and on farms; and provides guest editorials and columns that can be submitted to hometown media under the member’s name. It also suggests events aimed at “millennials” – young adults – who voted strongly for Democrats in the 2012 election.

Riva Litman, a conference spokeswoman, said something similar goes out before each August recess, “a playbook of best practices” gleaned from many members’ experiences.

One suggested event is called an ObamaCare Media Tour, “to emphasize the need to repeal ObamaCare to protect employees, small businesses and jobs.” House Republicans have voted 37 times to repeal the law, also known as the federal Affordable Care Act, but it remains on the books.

In planning such an event, the kit advises members and their staff to “make sure all participants will be 100 percent on message.” It notes that participants don’t have to be Republicans, but they “need to be able to discuss the negative effects of ObamaCare on their employees.”

Litman said she didn’t see presenting only opponents of the health care act as a form of stacking the deck against the law. Having both positive and negative comments would be more muddled, she said.

Opponents would be free, for example, to ask questions at an Emergency Health Care Town Hall, which the kit suggests should focus on the negative effects of the health care law and the House Republicans’ plan to dismantle it.

“Anybody can ask whatever they want,” she said, adding that at her town hall meetings, McMorris Rodgers “never knows what questions are coming.”

Some suggestions back up McMorris Rodgers’ long-running efforts to get GOP House members to use more social media. Promote your events on Facebook, the kit says. Have a staff member tweet live while you visit senior centers, businesses or hospitals, or when you pump gas or bag groceries for constituents. Post photos and video clips afterward on Facebook or Vine.

The kit offers tips on managing the news media as much as possible: Grant interviews promoting the various events, but don’t let reporters attend your roundtable discussions.

Litman said that was for the comfort of the people coming to speak. “It promotes an open, candid conversation,” Litman said. “It’s just to protect the confidentiality of what’s being said.”

House Democrats do not yet have what a staff member called resource materials for the August recess.

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