April 11th, 2013
03:52 PM ET
5 years ago

Kentucky Democratic official claims liberal group behind McConnell tape

(CNN) – An official with a local Democratic Party group alleged Thursday a Kentucky-based liberal organization was responsible for the secretly recorded tapes of Sen. Mitch McConnell plotting campaign strategy.

Jacob Conway, an executive committee member of the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party, told CNN that members of Progress Kentucky admitted to him in February they made the recording. That's the same group behind offensive tweets posted last month targeting McConnell's wife.

"They told me about it pretty much the day or the day after it happened," Conway said of members of Progress Kentucky. "They were, for some reason, at McConnell's office after he had his grand opening that day, and they started hearing this salacious conversation."

"They apparently decided to record it," Conway continued. "One of them held the elevator and the other one recorded it."

In the recordings, which appeared Tuesday on the website of the liberal magazine Mother Jones, political operatives huddling at the senator's campaign headquarters in Kentucky are heard discussing potentially attacking Ashley Judd's mental health, as well as her left-leaning politics.

Judd decided against making a bid against McConnell in March.

Conway said one of the Progress Kentucky members told him about making the recording, which he then confirmed with the other member present at McConnell's office. When he read the Mother Jones article detailing the tapes, "I put two and two together," Conway said.

"They decided to record it because they thought it was something that needed to be heard," Conway explained, adding he thought the Progress Kentucky operatives were "good men" with "hearts in the right place."

"They're inexperienced. They're very dedicated," he said.

One of those men confirmed to CNN through his lawyer that he was at McConnell’s office after the public event, but said while he did witness his colleague making the recording, he had no direct involvement.

The lawyer said his client has been cooperating with the FBI.

On Tuesday, FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the agency was "looking into the matter" of the secretly recorded tapes, and Conway told CNN after his interview that he was also talking to FBI agents.

Progress Kentucky did not return a call asking for comment.

Jesse Benton, McConnell's campaign manager, wrote in a statement Thursday that "reports that left-wing activists illegally recorded a private meeting inside our campaign headquarters are very disturbing. At this point, we understand that the FBI is immersed in an intensive criminal investigation and must defer any further comment to them."

A controversy was ignited in February when Progress Kentucky drew a connection in a tweet between McConnell's wife Elaine Chao, who's Chinese-American, and the practice of outsourcing of jobs. Chao served as labor secretary under President George W. Bush.

"This woman has the ear of @McConnellPress – she's his #wife," read the February 14 tweet from the group, referring to McConnell by his official Twitter account. "May explain why your job moved to #China!"

After strong criticism from McConnell's campaign, Kentucky Progress apologized to the senator and his wife.

Filed under: Kentucky • Mitch McConnell
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. SkyKing169

    How about that. recorded the elevator conversation.
    That's keeping your wits about you!

    April 11, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. GaryOwen27

    Loose lips, sink ships.

    April 11, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  3. Bob

    They belong in jail for wiretapping. Every political camp plans attacks on their rivals, acting as though it's unusual or an atrocity is ignorant. Only one party broke the law here and it was those who taped the conversation.

    April 11, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. Larry in Houston

    Have you noticed every time you see a photo of 'ol Mitch, there's "corny" Cornyn constantly Behind Him ? Guess the corny one's got seniority over Cruz.

    April 11, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  5. DZ

    I'd much rather talk about the emails that frontline got their hands on that circulated between republicans, that stated to even refuse 100% of what they wanted in order to create a great depression, since they felt it was the only way to hurt the Obama administration and see it as their only option to save face. They are willing to throw the entire country under the bus to save face, exactly why people like this need to be replaced.

    April 11, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  6. Bob1god

    In 2014 & 2016, the republitards/ teabaggers b all history!

    April 11, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  7. secos

    Smoke and mirrors to obscure the fact that McConnell and his GOP would hit a woman below the belt to save his campaign. But if someone were to hit him below the belt, he probably wouldn't feel a thing!

    April 11, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Martin

    Whether the recording was illegal or not doesn't change the fact that McConnell is a total slime.

    April 11, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  9. Anonymous


    Liberals were claiming that McConnell outed himself.

    Well, he did. When he stated only those closest to his campaign were privey to his conversation held in a secure and tightly locked room. Where McConnell was doing nothing less than mouthing off to a group of people he didn't know and who weren't on his campaign committee. Nor, apparently, was the room tightly locked and secure. And here McConnell is now crying gestapo bugs. It was a cell phone, not a bug. Ten to one, Mitch contrived to whole episode. What an awful man McConnell is.

    April 11, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    Seems the issue will turn on whether the fact that the conversation was audible outside the room in the hallway made it public. Courts have upheld thing like a private investigator secretly recording a conversation taking place in an apartment but that could be heard from the sidewalk where the recording took place. Same for paparazzi recording two people at a restaurant's outdoor tables. It would be interesting to know if this hallway is internal to the new office or part of the building's common spaces. The latter seems likely since the door was apparently right by an elevator. Also, it seems this was right after Beaker's office invited the public to an open house, which raises some interesting questions as well. In any event, one thing becomes clear: McConnell's hyperbolic hissy fit about this being "watergate all over again" or "gestapo style tactics" was comlpete and utter BS, particularly in light of the fact that they KNEW what happened and KNEW that they were not bugged/wiretapped. How do I know they knew? Because they gave the FBI the security tapes. They knew all along it was just two opportunists outside the meeting room door, but still chose to prove make all sorts of ridiculous accusations.

    April 11, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  11. Dan Halen

    If they were legally at the office and the recording device was on their person and not "planted" in the office, then there is no crime. Get over it. Mitch and his goons should have kept their door closed or made sure no one could overhear them, but then again, they have been sucking at the public trough for so long, standing around in ear shot of others and talking trash is just another day at the office for them.

    April 11, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. Jim

    Is it illegal to record a conversation that's loud enough to be heard in another room. Me thinks the right to privacy assumes that you want your conversation to be private – speak softly.

    April 11, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. jnpa

    Goodbye McConnell. You're outta here!

    April 11, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    Also, chalk this up to Beaker having egg all over his face: they negiligently failed to make sure of their privacy/secrecy. That may not exonerate the two people who did the recording, but still...way to go team McConnell!!! Super good job assuring your secrets aren't leaked!!!

    BTW, when is the ethics investigation scheduled to begin for him using legislative aides to do this research on Judd?

    April 11, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  15. DirtyHeat

    I love how all you liberals act as if McConnell did something horrible here. All he did was have a meeting in which he strategized how to beat his opponent. You are incredibly ignorant if you don't think every politician in America does this.

    April 11, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. Dan

    When will the hatred stop between all parties? Majority of politicians, no matter Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian, no longer have the interest for the populous of the United States. There should be term limits on all elected offices to limit the greed and damage any individual could cause.

    April 11, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  17. mylife55

    Boohoo! I wish i could feel sorry for poor Mitch, but he plays pretty dirty himself.

    April 11, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  18. kathy/Minnesota

    Sooo, because you put the word/name "DEMOCRATIC" on it we are suppose to beleive it? come out mitch we don't all live in the woods of "KENTUCKY"

    April 11, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  19. Thinkergal

    Hey, McConnel & crew: If you said those horrible things, you said them! It's good to get that kind of nastiness into the clear light of day. The voters need to know just how awful you are.

    April 11, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  20. Blackcurry

    Everybody knows the lengths to which politicians will go to discredit their opponents. There is nothing new here. Mitch McConnell needs to be put out to pasture for his obsessive drive to inhibit Congress from passing any meaningful legislation. I'm from Kentucky and I say "Ditch Mitch." He has outlived his usefulness.

    April 11, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. aCriticalEye

    McConne is the same a$$ clown that was quoted as saying, "We will do everything in our power to ensure Mr. Obama is a one term president". Obstrustionism and 400+ filibusters, and a wrecked economy, why the hell do we americans put up with the Good 'ole Boy party and their Tea Nuts.

    April 11, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. The Film Professor

    Mitch is as ugly on the inside as he is on the outside. I still wish Ashley Judd would run: Beauty vs the Beast.

    April 11, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "You are incredibly ignorant if you don't think every politician in America does this."

    Nope...sorry...not every politician is such a lowlife d-bag who would stoop to gleefully discussing the strategy of trying to paint someone who suffered some mental illness decades ago as currently unstable and crazy rather than stick to the issues. I don't care what party we're talking about. Not ALL of them are this bad and wililng to sink this low.

    April 11, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  24. rs


    I love how all you liberals act as if McConnell did something horrible here. All he did was have a meeting in which he strategized how to beat his opponent. You are incredibly ignorant if you don't think every politician in America does this.
    The woman was not a declared candidate. Therefore this Senator was plotting against a private citizen of his state, and apparently not bright enough to do so outside the earshot of someone with a recording device. That defines the term "creep".

    April 11, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. aCriticalEye

    What is so terribly funny is their office wasn't bugged! Two people were standing there hold a recorder, and the brain dead senator from KY didn't even look.

    Yep, lets blaim the liberals!

    April 11, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
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