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For Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY), karma's a bitch:

The flap over a secretly recorded discussion of how to attack potential opponents of Sen. Mitch McConnell isn’t the first such taping controversy.

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. - Daily Independent, 4/11/13

But this isn't the only occasion that karma has bit McConnell on the ass.  You'll recall the offensive Tweet from a member of Progress Kentucky making a joke about McConnell's wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao's ethnicity?  Well McConnell invoked race and ethnicity to help get his buddy Jim Bunning (R. KY) elected to the Senate:

McConnell, being the puppet master he is, was up to his elbows in that race, loaning his crack campaign staff to Bunning and orchestrating the state Republican Party’s message.

A few weeks before the election, the Republican Party of Kentucky, using money from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which McConnell directed at the time, ran an ad that played on the same xenophobic fears.

It cited Baesler’s vote for the North American Free Trade Agreement, claimed he sent thousands of jobs to Mexico and had a Mexican actor saying, “Muchas gracias, Senor Baesler.”

The ad then says, “But he also voted to give China special trade privileges, even though they’re shuttin’ out Kentucky-made products.”

And then, with Chinese music playing in the background, an actor said, “Thank you, Scotty Baesler,” in Cantonese, a Chinese language.

McConnell’s campaign spokesman said at the time that McConnell, who was Bunning’s chief strategist in that race, personally signed off on the ad. - Louisville Courier-Journal, 3/17/13

Plus I pointed out earlier that the Progress Kentucky members taping McConnell and his staff's conversation about how to attack Ashley Judd isn't considered a felony:

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. - WFPL News 89.3, 4/11/13

But ironically, the recording revealed that McConnell committed an ethics violation:
The bigger problem for McConnell is that CREW has filed an FBI complaint against him for misusing official staff for campaign purposes. “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. 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,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.

The leaked tape opened up a can of worms for McConnell. The Republican still hasn’t answered questions concerning his remarks about Ashley Judd’s mental health, and now he has to deal with an ethics complaint.

Mitch McConnell is not the victim here, and he has definitely not been vindicated. What Progress Kentucky did, much to the dismay of Democrats, was feed the vulnerable incumbent’s desperate attempt to ride right wing paranoia to reelection. - Politics USA, 4/11/13

McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, tried to claim that there's no legitimate reason to compare what Progress Kentucky did to McConnell to what McConnell's campaign team did to Lunsford:
“McConnell's 2008 campaign team getting their own audio from a public debate, conducted in front of the media, broadcast on television and in front of a live audience of hundreds, is completely different than a shadowy left-wing activist sneaking into a private office, hiding in a hallway and secretly taping a private conversation under a door,” Benton said. “It's not in the same ballpark. Heck, it's not even in the same zip code.”

Lunsford scoffed, noting the recorder was hidden under other papers on the podium and was clearly against the rules established for the forum.

“When they did it to me in 2008, they did it at an event where the rules were clear and they knew the rules,” Lunsford said.

Lunsford also thinks McConnell’s skillful public relations reaction to the taping has obscured the real issue which ought to be foremost in the public mind.

“The information they were gathering on (Ashley) Judd and Alison (Grimes) is the real issue here,” Lunsford said. “I think they just got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. If they’re not careful, they’re going to get themselves in trouble.” - Daily independent, 4/11/13

Lunsford said that McConnell's attacks on Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergran Grimes (D) would backfire on him.  McConnell's early attack ads did give Judd's approval numbers a hit but they didn't help McConnell's image at all:

36% of voters approve of the job McConnell is doing to 54% who disapprove. That -18 net approval is the same as we found in December when he was at 37/55. McConnell gets tepid approval from Republicans (53/34) while meeting with disapproval from most Democrats (23/69) and independents (32/54).

It's just as well for Democrats that Ashley Judd decided not to challenge McConnell. Her popularity declined quite a bit over the last 4 months. In December a plurality of voters had a positive opinion of her at 42/36, but now her favorability numbers are under water at 34/41. The attacks on her clearly took a toll on her image.

The good news for Democrats is that they still have several candidates who poll within striking range of McConnell. Alison Lundergan Grimes, despite having only 50% name recognition, comes within 4 points of McConnell at 45/41. She's gained a little bit of ground on him since our December poll that found him with a 47/40 advantage. And former Congressman Ben Chandler trails McConnell just 46/41. Ed Marksberry, the only announced Democratic candidate in the race at this point, trails the incumbent 46/35.  - PPP, 4/9/12

So yeah, karma has been a bitch for McConnell and hopefully karma will be a huge bitch to him next year.  By the way, this story keeps getting more ridiculous:

On April 11, WFPL reported Jacob Conway -- a member of the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee -- said Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison of the group Progress Kentucky bragged to him about recording the McConnell meeting. Now, Conway is saying he may never have spoken to Reilly.

“I had a lot of conversations with both of them during that time period, and maybe I was just confused, and maybe Shawn never said anything,” Conway told The Courier-Journal.

“I did reach out to Mr. Reilly’s attorney and said that maybe my memory was not correct and I’d be willing to say that at a joint news conference,” Conway said. - Huffington Post 4/13/13

Originally posted to pdc on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by My Old Kentucky Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    Funny Stuff at

    by poopdogcomedy on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 06:00:23 AM PDT

  •  So many problems with what you are saying. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shippo1776, VClib

    1.  There is a significant legal difference between what McConnell's campaign did, and what Progress KY did.  Kentucky law says you can't tape a conversation without the consent of at least one party to the conversation.  If two people are at a forum and one of them tapes it, that's the consent of one party -- legal.  In addition, an open speech in front of an audience is not a conversation that's private.  It's the reason there's a HUGE legal difference between taping Romney's 47% speech (legal) and taping a private conversation without the consent of any party to that conversation by standing outside a locked door on private property (a campaign office).

    2.  I have no idea why that one source says that taping a private conversation by standing outside of a locked door with a taping device may not be illegal.  It seems to me that it's pretty clearly illegal, but I will defer to the authorities on that.  But nobody has made clear to me why they think it does not present a problem under Kentucky law.  There may well even be a violation of federal law.  See pdf here.

    3.  I have no idea why anybody thinks that this taping of a private conversation between Sen. McConnell and aids at his campaign headquarters on a Saturday.  There's only an ethics violation if Sen. McConnell uses his Senate office for campaigning, or if his Senate aids do campaign work while they putting down on their timesheets that they are working for the taxpayers.  

    4.  The one thing you correctly reported are the poll numbers, which is why Democrats have put Sen. McConnell high on their priority list.  

      Recommended by:

      Why isn't the above the issue?

      •  READ THE LAW. There's no problem as long as (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, nextstep

        (1) they don't use government property, and instead use campaign property; and (2) they do it on their own time, not while they are billing the federal government for their time.  

        This was (1) at McConnell's campaign office; (2) on a Saturday.  

        See this from the Senate website:

        Subject to the restriction on handling federal campaign funds (see link below on “Political Fund Designees”), Senate employees are free to engage in campaign activity, as volunteers or for pay, provided they do so on their own time, outside of Senate space, and without using Senate resources.  Staff may not be required to do campaign work as a condition of Senate employment.  Because Senate pay should be commensurate with Senate duties performed, when an employee intends to spend additional time on campaign activities beyond regular working hours and any accrued annual leave, a Senator should either reduce the salary of or remove the employee from the Senate payroll, as appropriate.  Staff must work at least one full day a week in the Senate office to continue to receive Senate pay and benefits.  Members and staff are encouraged to contact the Committee regarding specific proposed official/campaign work arrangements.

        Anyone earning a Senate rate of pay in excess of $119,554 (CY 2013) may not earn more than $26,955 (CY 2013) from all combined outside sources, including campaign work.

        Please explain how Senate employees who were engaging in a meeting on their own time (this was on a Saturday -- they can even work during the week if they are not taking Senate pay for those hours) not at a Senate office (but at a campaign headquarters) and without using Senate resources (like Senate office computers) violates that rule.

        This kind of thing is exactly what the rule permits.   And it's pretty much what every Senator -- Democrats included -- does.  

      •  Darly - because it's allowed and routine (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        All Senate staffs engage in campaign activity, subject to specific rules. See coffeetalk's comment which includes the rules.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 08:30:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Has it been confirmed that Progress KY did the (0+ / 0-)

      taping?  Have the two people, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, admitted to it?

      Jacob Conway has walked back his claim that they bragged about it to him.  I'm a little confused as I haven't been closely following the recent details of this story.

      "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

      by 417els on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 07:32:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Reilly indicates that Morrison did it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and that Reilly was "at most, a witness to Mr. Morrison's criminal activity."  See, for example, here.

        •  Reilly is head of Progress Kentucky (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Morrison was just a volunteer. And Morrison was NOT the one who sent out the "racist" tweet several months ago. That was done by another volunteer.

          Furthermore, Morrison was not involved with Progress Kentucky for the past few months... he resigned back in February.

          And Morrison is a journalist... was a journalist... he got fired from his alt-weekly job... I would think he should have some protection for his professional line of work. Of course, the al-weekly folks fired him so they could get out of the line of fire and not provide a support system to Morrison's journalism. By many accounts Morrison is a nice guy, but a loose gun. Too politically active. And, from my readings, he's an idealistic chump.

          Everyone is abandoning him. That is sad.

          But, Reilly is ultimately the one in charge and some of the responsibility for any fallout should fall on his shoulders.

          A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.

          by bronte17 on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 09:51:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Jacob Conway is an idiot and no friend of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:


        He went on Fox News with Megan Kelly to blow the bullshit around.

        Total idiot. And total audacity to presume that he was "saving" the Democratic Party by snitching.

        A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.

        by bronte17 on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 10:02:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ah, yes. To save the Democrats. So he's the one. (0+ / 0-)

          To this outsider, it sounds like a lot of puzzle pieces are still missing over there in KY.

          Conway seems to have his own stench, along with the entire McConnell compost pile.

          "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

          by 417els on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 02:06:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's a complex puzzle and I'm not sure whether (0+ / 0-)

            all the pieces fit nice and tidy even if you could make them.

            It really does appear that most of the players in this drama are in it for themselves. Reilly is a wanna-be player (probably for the big bucks flowing into a SuperPAC). Conway got on the holier-than-thou soapbox and makes it worse and worse for the Democratic Party that he supposedly champions.

            Reilly is a "nice Catholic boy" and he's a former Republican... kind of a quasi teabagger-leaning financial analyst (who possibly quit his job to start up and manage this supposed SuperPAC). Progress Kentucky is his baby.

            Morrison was a volunteer with them. He did NOT send the tweet pertaining to Elaine Chao and her wealthy Chinese father and all the donations to Mitch's campaigns. That was done by another volunteer. But, Morrison was the "spokesperson" for Progress Kentucky and he wouldn't back down to apologize when pressure was applied over the tone of the tweet.

            And he was a journalist when he (supposedly) recorded the voices coming out of that huge gaping hole in the door that he walked by. Guess he could have kept on walking, but hearing the ugliness that came out and being a journalist.... he stopped and took notes.

            Morrison quit ProgKy back in February. He's broke and unemployed and now in hot water up to his ears... because of his passion and earnestness. A chump is a chump though.

            A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.

            by bronte17 on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 03:15:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  CREW sure thinks this was illegal... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobatkinson, peacestpete

      and I'm not talking about the recording, either. As poopdogcomedy points out, CREW has filed a complaint with the FBI, based on the idea gleaned from the recording that McConnell's staff may well have conducted campaign business on the taxpayer's dime, which is not simply an ethics violation. It is, as the diarist rightly points out, a Federal crime, specifically a violation of U.S.C. 18 § 641 and U.S.C. 18 § 1341. These two statutes combined do, in fact, bar congressional staff from campaign activity on the public dime. The CREW report also points out that since there is no record whatsoever of any of the staffers mentioned in the tape being paid by McConnell's campaign, then the question arises about how exactly their time (and expenses, even more importantly, since those can't be "volunteered" and must be counted as campaign expenses if McConnell's campaign wishes to avoid violating other Federal laws on that subject) was paid for.

      So no, if what CREW's complaint alleges is correct, then McConnell (or at least his campaign staff) violated Federal law, not merely Senate ethics rules (though in that case, they did violate those as well.)

      The case for the recording being illegal is also not so cut-and-dried as you imply. It may turn out that it is, but there are some questions as to how the law might apply in this case. The problem with your reading of the applicable law is that the hallway from which the conversation was overheard is technically public space (i.e., it belongs to the building itself, not to McConnell's campaign offices) and overhearing or even recording a conversation in a public space is not covered by the statute according to long legal precedent in Kentucky. So there certainly is a question about whether the recording is illegal or not.

      While you're right that the recording of Lunsford was legal (though, as Lunsford himself pointed out, it did violate the rules of the forum that McConnell himself had agreed to) and not quite the same thing as the Progress Kentucky recording, the difference is not so extreme as you're portraying it, either. Both are a form of the old "dirty tricks" kind of campaigning that we'd all like to see go away but likely never will (humans being humans and politicians being, well...politicians.) Both are ethically challenged but not necessarily illegal, especially since the Lunsford recording device really had no other purpose but to catch remarks from Lunsford that were not made for the public (i.e., remarks made off-mike that would not be on the official recordings of the event.) The difference lies more in context than in degree, as you contend, and doesn't give McConnell nearly as much cover for his own activities as you imply.

      Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

      by Stwriley on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 08:52:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The door had a huge hole under it and a large vent (2+ / 0-)

      anyone with any sense would never expect to have any modicum of privacy in that capacity. It's illusionary to presume otherwise.

      You may as well put up paper walls... they would probably provide better privacy.

      It's kind of like undressing in front of an open window and expecting neighbors not to look. There is no expectation of privacy when you do stupid things like that.

      And why the hell would a campaign locate their meeting office beside this open megaphone door? Oh yeah... because it was a Senator's office and not a campaign office. But, they get upset because their campaign smut was broadcast out through their megaphone door to anyone walking by.

      If you are going to have a big gaping open hole in your privacy and yet you expect people in the public hallway to ignore your ugly insulting speech that floats out... especially a journalist... you should take better care and seal up the megaphone door.

      A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.

      by bronte17 on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 09:41:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  beating him would be a great win (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    he is such a piece of work

    if the grass roots could get really organized about beating him in the election, this would be a big step forward

    in the mean time we have to work to defeat Obama's Grand Betrayal.

    and if a democrat is elected in KY Senate, it would be good if it were actually a democrat whose support of the New Deal was explicit and without compromise

  •  What did the staff say to the FBI (0+ / 0-)

       While some want to nit-pick this, what we do know is that the McConnell staff was overheard and that they talked to the FBI.  
         If in fact they were at the Sat meeting - it depends on what they did and when.   The KISS answer could be as easy as searching their Taxpayer owned computer's.


  •  McConnell (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    playing the victim...AGAIN! Guy never stops with this one, a complete one trick pony.

    Unfortunately, thanks in part to state Democrats trying to out-Republican Republicans (which has worked so well the federal delegation is done to one), McConnell is probably more vulnerable to a more heinous Repug in the primary than any Democrat in the general.


  •  not the same (0+ / 0-)

    both were speaking at a public event and there was no expectation of privacy.  That the recorder was on his podium rather than McConnell's is almost irrelevant under Kentucky law, which would have protected McConnell even were it a private conversation between the two candidates

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 09:23:17 AM PDT

  •  We ARE going to beat Mitch McConnell (0+ / 0-)

    And it won't be easy but it also won't be impossible.  GOP voter sentiment is continuing to decrease and McConnell really is becoming a disgrace to government.

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