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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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