Earlier in the week, David Corn and Mother Jones magazine published an article revealing a strategy session regarding the possibility of campaigning against Democratic activist Ashley Judd.
"They want to fight? We're ready," he declared. McConnell was serious: Later that day, he was huddling with aides in a private meeting to discuss how to attack his possible Democratic foes, including actor/activist Ashley Judd, who was then contemplating challenging the minority leader. During this strategy session—a recording of which was obtained by Mother Jones—McConnell and his aides considered assaulting Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views.
Typically, the McConnell campaign cried victim and ran to the FBI
"Senator McConnell's campaign is working with the FBI and has notified the local U.S. Attorney in Louisville, per FBI request, about these recordings. Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell's campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation," said campaign manager Jesse Benton in a statement. "We've always said the Left would stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters are above and beyond."
The FBI field office in Louisville had no comment, and the U.S. Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a message.
Interesting trivia: Jesse Benton is married to Ron Paul's granddaughter, making her the niece of Sen. Rand Paul and according to Mother Jones, "was hired last year by McConnell to run his reelection effort. Three years ago, Benton worked on Rand Paul's successful tea-party-driven Senate primary campaign against a GOP establishment candidate handpicked by McConnell."
Yesterday we found out the sources of the recording. From Louisville NPR station, WFPL
On Feb. 2, McConnell opened his campaign headquarters in the Watterson Office Park in Louisville and invited trusted GOP activists and select media outlets to an open house. The event lasted roughly two hours. Afterward, McConnell and several campaign advisors held a strategy session in an office meeting room.
Morrison and Reilly did not attend the open house, but they told Conway they arrived later and were able to hear the meeting from the hallway. (snip)
Kentucky law says it is a felony “to overhear, record amplify or transmit any part of a wire or oral communication of others without the consent of at least one party thereto by means of any electric, mechanical or other device."
But if the conversation was audible from a hallway, it's disputable whether recording qualifies as eavesdropping.
The people who made the recording were part of a Super PAC called Progress Kentucky, and that means it was not the Democratic party, as was alluded to by the McConnell campaign.
At this point, is is fair to say that this probably wasn't some kind of Watergate-style tactic, but rather very sloppy, strategery
on the part of the campaign itself. The McConnell campaign representative responded:
"WFPL's reports that left-wing activists illegally recorded a private meeting inside our campaign headquarters are very disturbing," says McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton. "At this point, we understand that the FBI is immersed in an intensive criminal investigation and must defer any further comment to them."
It was the McConnell campaign that called the FBI and the U.S. Attorney office. They are raising holy hell over this tape being made public.
It's understandable that a political campaign is upset that its strategy session was opened up to the prying eyes of the public. This is the secret dirty work of politics: opposition research. It was such research
that brought us the now famous 47% recording. We live in a digital age and it is getting harder to keep some of these unsavory things behind closed doors. McConnell is entering murky waters if he is going to approach this alleged 'campaign bugging' as illegal. It may not really be eavesdropping if something can beard in a hallway and a person is actually present to record. That person could be considered a consenting party.
Here is where things might go awry to the very very outraged and violated McConnell campaign. They may have broken federal laws. CREW has filed an ethics complaint
Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the FBI and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate whether Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) violated federal law and Senate rules by misusing Senate staff or resources to conduct opposition research on potential campaign opponents. (snip)
“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.” (snip)
In the recording, an unnamed presenter thanked the individuals who conducted the research, including “LAs,” an acronym for legislative assistant or legislative aide. The presenter specifically names Phil Maxson, who has been employed as a legislative aide in Sen. McConnell’s office since early 2011, and appears to refer to the senator’s chief of staff, Josh Holmes. Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show neither man has been paid by Sen. McConnell’s campaign committee or leadership PAC.
It appears the McConnell campaign, led at the helm by tea-bagging enthusiast Jesse Benton may have shot themselves in the proverbial foot. In their haste to try to paint someone who wasn't ever officially a candidate with a smear brush, they appear to have proven exactly how bad they are at following law.
Let's hope the McConnell keeps yelling. The louder they scream victim, the more we will will see how they are the actual abuser.
Also possibly related: Matt Bevin, mentioned in some circles as a Tea Party Primary challenger to Senator McConnell appears to be faced with an un-sourced controversy
. Is this another result of the McConnell strategy?
“McConnell has always been a master of making whatever race he’s in a race about the opponent and not himself.”