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Remember how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY) claimed that activists from the Super PAC, Progress Kentucky, who recorded McConnell's conversation with his staff about going after Ashley judd as a "Nixonian" tactic?  Well one man who;s very familiar with everything Nixon begs to differ:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, May 25,  2007.   (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
It could be said that John Dean, former White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon, knows a thing or two about Watergate.

According to Dean, the recording of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is not only far from "Nixonian," it may not have been illegal, Politico reported on Wednesday.

On April 9, McConnell said the leaking of the tape -- reportedly recorded during a Feb. 2 meeting and later published by Mother Jones -- was "quite a Nixonian move" and resembled "Watergate."

Dean, who was disbarred after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges in the Watergate scandal, offered his analysis of McConnell's claims. - Huffington Post, 4/17/13

Here's Dean's argument:

McConnell and his staff’s claim that this activity was a Watergate-like event is long on hyperbole, and short on historical accuracy. The only thing that appears comparable to Watergate in this situation is that operatives of the Progress Kentucky organization, which has been described as a “gang that can’t shoot straight,” were foolish and a bit bungling.  Otherwise, it is not even close.

Watergate, as all but the youngest readers will know, was the 1972 surreptitious entry and effort to bug and wiretap the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters on two occasions.  On May 28, 1972, Gordon Liddy and his army of burglars and buggers successfully wired the DNC, but they failed to bug the office that they had targeted, namely, that of DNC Chairman Larry O’Brien (they never found his office). The wiretap they mistakenly placed on another phone picked up nothing but secretaries talking to their boyfriends; and the third bug they placed did not work at all.  They returned on June 17, 1972 to fix the problems—and after that, they planned to move on to bug President Nixon’s opponent Senator George McGovern on Capitol Hill. But that never happened, because they were arrested at the Watergate after conspicuously leaving electrical tape on the door locks to keep them open, which the night watchman noticed, and which prompted him to call the police.

McConnell is wrong making this incident sound Nixon-like, for neither Nixon nor anyone in the Nixon White House knew that these activities at the Watergate were going to be undertaken.  The Watergate break-in and bugging was illegal from start to finish.  Nixon made Watergate a terminal event for his presidency not by illegally recording anyone, but rather by covering up the activities of the burglary team, which had previous connections to his White House (where they had performed another illegal break-in, purportedly for “national security” reasons, along with unseemly political activities.) And recording himself doing it all.

To call the activities at McConnell’s campaign Nixonian, or Hitler-like behavior, is so far over the top as to make the Senator and his aides appear stupid.  Unlike in Watergate, there was no reported breaking and entering by Reilly and Morrison.  And based on the available information, they did not go beyond the hallway, which was accessible to anyone in the building.  If it was while in the hallway that they overheard and recorded the conversation that would hardly be a violation of federal law.  Nor has there been any effort, so far, to cover up what Reilly and Morrison did. - Verdict, 4/16/13

Dean also argues that there isn't a lot of ground to claim that what Reily and Morrison did was illegal:
The applicable federal law appears to be Title III of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which prohibits wiretapping and electronic surveillance of many wire, oral, or electronic communications.  Clearly, Morrison recorded an oral communication.  Under the law, “oral communications,” by definition, include only face-to-face conversations taking place in a constitutionally protected area, and that type or area is defined as a space where the speakers have a justifiable expectation of privacy.  By the terms of the statute, if one person in a conversation consents to a recording, there is no prohibition on his or her making that recording.  But here, no persons in the recorded meeting consented, and neither Reilly nor Morrison attended the meeting.

The key question is whether McConnell and his staff had a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Merely the fact that they were behind closed and locks doors will not be determinative.  While I have not done exhaustive legal research on the question, a quick look at the law indicates that a conversation that could be heard in a public hallway would not be a protected oral communication under Title III of the ECPA.

The “expectation of privacy” standard was developed under the Fourth Amendment by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Katz v. U.S.  (1967), where a suspect was recorded in a telephone booth by the FBI and the Court held: “What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of [4th] Amendment protection.” Following this line of reasoning, the High Court later stated in U.S. v. Santana (1976) that a person at the “doorway of suspect’s home” had no expectation of privacy since the person was all but standing outside. Lower federal courts have found no privacy expectation in a lobby or in common areas of an apartment building in U.S. v. Brown (1999); and held similarly where there was a common hallway that required a separate key to enter the building in U.S. v. Barrios-Moriera (1989).

Regarding overheard conversations in U.S. v. Llanes (1968), a federal court found no reasonable expectation of privacy for a conversation conducted within a home that was audible in a hallway.  More strikingly, in a Pennsylvania case, Commonwealth v. Louden (this 1994 ruling is not available without subscription), the court found no justifiable expectation of privacy even within a home where the conversation was audible through the walls. (I noticed, when checking for additional facts, that George Washington Law Professor Orin Kerr has blogged on this subject, and he located federal cases with even closer factual situations, see, e.g., United States v. Carroll (1971), where a conversation was overheard and recorded through a hotel-suite door and the recording was found not to violate the federal statute.)

In short, it appears that a conversation that was overheard and recorded in a public hallway of the building where McConnell has his reelection headquarters is not covered by the federal statute.  So I suspect the McConnell campaign will not be holding future opponent-trashing sessions in that room, at least until the landlord provides better soundproofing. - Verdict, 4/16/13

So Dean is basically saying, "I knew Nixon, I knew Watergate.  Progress Kentucky is not Nixon and what they did was not Watergate."  So Dean basically makes McConnell look like a fool.  By the way, it's looking Northern Kentucky will be the big area that will decide next year's election:

Democrats, and even some Republicans, see McConnell as having an uphill climb in Northern Kentucky, which could decide his re-election.

At stake in Northern Kentucky for McConnell are the 100,000 votes he garnered in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties that helped provide the difference between him and his last Democratic opponent, Bruce Lunsford, in 2008.

McConnell won the three Northern Kentucky counties in 2008 with 64 percent of the vote. Whether he still enjoys that much support here depends on whom you ask.

McConnell’s votes for the Patriot Act, Troubled Asset Relief Program “bailouts” and National Defense Authorization Act, among others, have alienated him from the tea party contingent of the Republican Party and cut into his Northern Kentucky support, said Rick Brueggemann, chairman of the Boone County GOP. He thinks a viable Republican challenger could surface.

“I think Mitch McConnell’s big problem is his voting record,” Brueggemann said. “It’s going to be tough. People have to believe he’s had a change of heart. ... Maybe if he gave a public apology, people might believe that. Otherwise there are too many votes that have people upset.”

The list of potential Democratic candidates has many Northern Kentucky Democrats sanguine about the 2014 race.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is often cited as the most viable among Democratic candidates who have expressed interest.

“Alison Grimes could be a very strong candidate,” said Col Owens, chairman of the Kenton County Democrats. “She has no big negatives. ... As I look at Alison as a candidate, she’s already won a statewide race and has the vigor and intelligence to win.” -, 4/17/13


By the way, here's some interesting news:

Actress Ashley Judd had purchased a house in the northeastern Kentucky city of Ashland when she was considering running for U.S. Senate.

Boyd County Property Valuation Administrator Chuck Adkins said Monday that Judd paid $120,000 for the house that once belonged to her father, Michael Charles Ciminella. The deal was finalized in March, about a week before Judd announced her decision not to run against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

"It was kind of her old home place," Adkins said of the modest home on Morningside Drive. "I think it was for sentimental reasons."

To run for Senate, Judd, a resident of Tennessee, would have had to establish a residence in Kentucky. She lived in Ashland for a while as a teenager and attended Paul G. Blazer High School. Her grandmother, Polly Judd, still lives in Ashland, where she remains active in local politics and is a former city commissioner.

The 44-year-old actress who has starred in such films as "Double Jeopardy" and "Kiss the Girls" said she had given serious thought to a campaign but decided her responsibilities and energy need to be focused on her family. She had met with several Democratic leaders, including Gov. Steve Beshear, to discuss a possible run before she opted out. - Kentucky New Era, 4/16/13

Judd's residency was one of my major concerns about her running.  I was afraid she would suffer the same fate former Senator Bob Kerrey (D. NE) would face when he moved back to Nebraska last year to try and reclaim his old seat.  Who knows how strong of a candidate Judd may have been against McConnell and she could just be buying her father's old house to keep it in the family.  But now knowing that she can claim residency in Kentucky could come in handy in a few years.  Especially if this guy decides to run for President:

Originally posted to pdc on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 02:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party and My Old Kentucky Kos.

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