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Reports: Liberal PAC Behind Secret McConnell Recordings

The same liberal Super PAC that was criticized for Twitter references to the ethnicity of Senator Mitch McConell's wife, Elaine Chao, is now accused of being behind the secret recordings of a McConnell campaign strategy session.

The recordings highlighted the campaign's plans to target one-time potential rival Ashley Judd's mental health and to treat all possible challengers as a Whack-a-Mole game. The recordings came to life in the national magazine Mother Jones where the author refused to identify the source of the recordings.

On Thursday afternoon, Louisville public radio station WFPL cited a source that claimed "Progress Kentucky", a liberal Super PAC taking on McConnell, was responsible for the recordings:

Jacob Conway, who is on the executive committee of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, says that day, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, who founded and volunteered for Progress Kentucky, respectively, bragged to him about how they recorded the meeting.

On the tape, McConnell and his advisors are heard laughing and joking about opposition research they had on actress Ashley Judd, who had been considering running against McConnell next year. Many Democratic groups blasted McConnell for the remarks yesterday, disgusted by the fact McConnell would potentially use Judd's suicidal thoughts as a child against her.

Reilly and Morrison have declined to comment for this story.

The report prompted other media outlets to talk to Conway. SEE: WHAS, Courier-Journal.

Reilly and Morrison, the founders of Progress Kentucky, may be under investigation by the FBI. Louisville alternative weekly newspaper LEO Weekly suggests that the McConnell campaign should not press charges because of the continued ineptness of the PAC:

If the McConnell campaign was smart, they wouldn’t press charges. With those two in jail, the campaign would lose two of their greatest allies in the race so far, as they’ve helped McConnell’s cause more than any person outside of Rand Paul. Fortunately for Democrats, every single one in the state has distanced themselves from the amateurs and made it clear that they wouldn’t touch the toxic group with a 10-foot pole.

As for the McConnell campaign’s accusations of “wiretapping,” “bugging” and “Gestapo” tactics by “the Left,” those look really silly right now. But they will certainly do their best to continue portraying the incompetent Gang of Two as part of an alliance of important Democrats in D.C. and Kentucky, probably even the White House. That’s what they do. Let’s see if the media falls for it.

Meanwhile, Jacob Conway is reportedly cooperating with the FBI according to Talking Points Memo.

On the McConnell side of the controversy, Kentucky's senior senator may face an ethics complaint for using government time in the strategy session, reports the Huffington Post:

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has asked the Senate ethics committee and the FBI to investigate whether McConnell was having a discussion about potential Judd weaknesses -- including her mental health and religion -- on government time.

“Using taxpayer-funded resources to pay staffers to dig up dirt on political opponents isn’t just an ethics violation, it’s a federal crime,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “As Sen. McConnell requested, the FBI is investigating the recording. A thorough and fair investigation necessitates the bureau also inquire into whether Sen. McConnell himself violated the law.”

This case also isn't the first Kentucky sneate race involving McConnell and secret recordings, reports The Independent:

But in 2008, it was McConnell’s campaign which surreptitiously taped his Democratic opponent, entrepreneur Bruce Lunsford.

At a forum in western Kentucky, Lunsford and McConnell stood behind podiums. As the debate concluded, Lunsford removed a legal pad and notes he was using to disclose a tape recorder. Assuming the recorder belonged to his own campaign staff, Lunsford placed it in his pocket and subsequently handed it to his press secretary.

“I handed it to Cary (Stemle) and that’s when he told me it wasn’t ours,” Lunsford said Thursday, recalling the event in 2008.

Richard St. Onge, a staffer for the McConnell campaign at the time, demanded the recording device be returned. At first the Lunsford campaign refused, but then relented.

But then the McConnell campaign claimed the tape had been erased and St. Onge went so far as to swear out a criminal complaint which was later dropped.

Five years later, Lunsford finds it ironic that McConnell has criticized someone for “Nixonian” tactics and McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, described the taping originally reported by Mother Jones Magazine as “Gestapo” like.

Full story: The Independent/Ronnie Ellis

 

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