Mitch McConnell

10:02 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Beshear: McConnell "Vulnerable" in 2014, Democrats Just Need "Good Alternative"

Governor Beshear has some strong words about the state's senior U.S. Senator. During a visit to Bowling Green Wednesday, Beshear told WKU Public Radio that he thinks Republican Mitch McConnell symbolizes the partisan bickering and obstructionism that has plagued Washington D.C. recently.

"And of course Sen. McConnell has been a part of that for the past 30 years. It's gotten worse, it hasn't gotten better. And he's gotten to be part of the problem and not part of the solution. So I think people are looking for a change," said Beshear. "We just have to give them a good alternative."

Beshear says he believes Senator McConnell would be "vulnerable" against a strong Democratic challenge next year.

McConnell has said he's ready to defend his record against any challengers during the 2014 Senate contest, and believes the majority of Kentuckians support his efforts to block key parts of President Obama's agenda.

McConnell has been amassing a campaign war chest and staffers to help his re-election efforts. Scott Jennings, a longtime Kentucky GOP operative who is working with two SuperPacs that support McConnell, says the Republican incumbent has attracted a great deal of support based on his legislative work in Washington.

"And I think that's why you're seeing such an early formation of a political apparatus designed to re-elect him, because he's done a good job and he's done right by the state of Kentucky and that's why you have some of these folks doing what they're doing," Jennings recently told Kentucky Public Radio.

Democrats have yet to land a high-profile challenger to take on McConnell next year.

3:51 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

As IRS Scandal Endures, Kentucky Tea Party Activists Split on Mitch McConnell

As the scandal surrounding the targeting of tea party groups by the IRS continues,  some Kentucky tea party activists are upset with Senator Mitch McConnell's role in the process—even as the state party is asking them to support him.

In Kentucky, only the statewide 9/12 project has come forward to acknowledge that they were targeted and that they were rejecting the IRS' apology on the matter.

But that hasn't stopped Kentucky politicians, including McConnell, from consistently pointing to the issue. He's demanded a full investigation into the matter.

The Republican Party of Kentucky is circulating a letter to back up McConnell on his efforts, asking tea party activists in Kentucky to sign it.

But Kentucky tea party activist David Adams called the attempts opportunistic.

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8:11 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Kentucky Republicans Beef Up Campaign Army for U.S. Senate Race; Democrats on Standby

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Kenny Colston's report on Kentucky's 2014 U.S. Senate race

Senator Mitch McConnell's next election is a year and a half away, and he doesn't have a serious opponent. But this hasn't stopped him from amassing significant money and personnel for his re-election. 

Every week, new field directors, political staff and fundraisers join the effort to re-elect McConnell. But while they have the same goal, they don't have the same boss. Some of the staffers work for McConnell's campaign. Others are paid by the Republican Party of Kentucky, while some answer to various SuperPACs.

Scott Jennings is in that last category. He's a longtime political operative who has worked on two presidential campaigns and for McConnell in the past. This year, he's working with the newly-formed Kentuckians for Strong Leadership and the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, which has just begun running ads supporting conservative ideas.

SuperPAC Impact

Jennings controls those organizations from an East Louisville office, which he shares with the PR firm he founded this year.

Jennings says conservative interest in the race has picked up now because supporters respect the role McConnell has played in blocking President Barack Obama's agenda.

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7:55 am
Thu April 18, 2013

Beshear Calls McConnell Recording 'Deplorable,' Criticizes McConnell's Remarks

Governor Steve Beshear is criticizing the secret recording of a campaign meeting of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell  that was leaked.

Two members of Progress Kentucky, Shawn Reilly and Curt Morrison, have been implicated by a Jefferson County Democratic official as being behind who secretly recorded the McConnell meeting.

Kentucky Democratic leaders have been largely silent on the situation since the news broke last week. But after being asked Wednesday about the recording, Beshear said he found the whole situation—both the secret taping and McConnell's remarks — to be awful.

"I think it's deplorable, just in general, about taping conversations and that kind of thing. I find it about as deplorable as I do Senator McConnell's political tactics that he was talking about," Beshear says.

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4:58 pm
Mon April 15, 2013

McConnell Fundraising Nears $13 Million for Re-Election

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has banked nearly $13 million for his re-election campaign, including more than $1.8 million since January, according to a financial report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday.

The FEC filing also shows he still has more than $8.6 million on hand.

"Mitch's popularity and deep, longstanding support make him the most prolific fundraiser in the game," said campaign manager Jesse Benton. "We are building the best statewide campaign America has ever seen, and will work hard to make Kentucky proud."

The latest report shows McConnell with an enormous head start over any potential rivals, although no serious challengers have stepped forward so far.

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8:20 am
Mon April 15, 2013

Being "A Witness" May Not Keep Progress Kentucky Leader from Being Charged with a Crime

One of two members of Progress Kentucky who allegedly recorded a campaign meeting between U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and his campaign staff is now saying he was "just a witness" through his attorneys. 

Progress Kentucky Executive Director Shawn Reilly denies any wrongdoing. As first reported by WHAS 11, Reilly says he was merely at McConnell's office when the recording happened.

His attorneys are putting the blame solely on Curtis Morrison, a volunteer with the liberal Super PAC.  Reilly's attorneys have not returned multiple calls to them since Friday.

Mother Jones magazine published the secret recording earlier this week, and legal experts say it could be considered eavesdropping.  But Louisville criminal defense lawyer Brendan McLeod says just being a witness to eavesdropping is murkier legal grounds.

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6:41 am
Fri April 12, 2013

Jefferson County Democratic Party Official Says Liberal Group Made McConnell Recording

Update at 6:48am:

An attorney for Shawn Reilly, one of the members of the liberal group Progress Kentucky who was implicated in the McConnell office recording, says his client did nothing wrong when he and another member of the group went to the Senator's Louisville campaign office in early February.

Attorney Ted Shouse is quoted in the Courier-Journal as saying neither Reilly or Curtis Morrison, another member of Progress Kentucky, broke any laws.

Jefferson County Democratic Party official Jacob Conway told Kentucky Public Radio earlier this week that he overheard Reilly and Morrison bragging about recording a McConnell campaign re-election strategy meeting Feb. 2. According to Conway,  the two men said they were in a hallway outside the office when they made the secret recording, which they later turned over to Mother Jones.

Mother Jones has since published audio excerpts from the meeting. McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton says the FBI spent an hour inside the Republican Senator's office Wednesday, investigating the possible source of the audio recording. Benton says the McConnell office wants those responsible prosecuted.

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2:00 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

FBI Investigates Source of Secret Audio Recording Made in Mitch McConnell's Office

The campaign manager for Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell says the FBI spent about an hour in the Senator’s Louisville office Wednesday, investigating a secret recording made of McConnell and staffers.

Audio from a re-election strategy meeting was published by the liberal news magazine Mother Jones.

The Herald-Leader reports campaign manager Jesse Benton says staffers have given pertinent information to the FBI, which has asked the campaign not to discuss details of its investigation. Benton told the paper that he thought the FBI had several leads in the case, and that he hoped whoever was responsible for making the recording would be prosecuted.

Kentucky allows individuals to record conversations to which they are a party without informing the other parties that they are doing so.

McConnell said the recording was an example of “Nixonian” tactics on the left, and that those behind the secret recording used “Watergate style tactics.”

Mother Jones says it received the recording from someone who requested anonymity. Mother Jones  published audio excerpts from the McConnell meeting, in which the Kentucky Republican is heard comparing the early stages of the Senate campaign to a game of “whac-a-mole”.

A staffer also discussed strategies the McConnell campaign would use against actress Ashley Judd, who was considering a challenge to McConnell, but who has since said she won’t run. In the recording, the staffer says the campaign would use Judd’s admissions of depression and suicidal thoughts against her, and would also make issue of Judd’s attitudes towards what the staffer called “traditional Christianity.”

8:48 am
Thu April 11, 2013

National Democratic Groups Increasing Attacks on McConnell

Two national Democratic groups are ramping up their fight against Senator Mitch McConnell's re-election efforts.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is targeting McConnell for his votes against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Violence against Women Act.

And the Senate Majority PAC, run by Majority Leader Harry Reid, has launched a website about   McConnell, who they call Beltway Mitch. It criticizes McConnell for his refusal to compromise on sequestration. The website notes sequestration is costing many public school districts in Kentucky.

The McConnell campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

2:34 pm
Tue April 9, 2013

McConnell Campaign Asks FBI to Investigate Recording of Meeting Where Political Attacks Were Planned

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Mitch McConnell’s campaign is asking the FBI to look into an audio recording of a staff meeting that was leaked to Mother Jones magazine. In the recording, Senator McConnell is heard saying that the campaign will aggressively attack any opponents and “do them out.”

The U.S. Senate Minority Leader also compared the early stages of the Senate campaign to a game of “Whac-A-Mole”, a game where participants strike an animated mole when it pops its head out of a hole.

Staffers also discuss at length the mental history of Ashley Judd, the Kentucky-born actress who was considering a Senate run against McConnell, but has since announced she will not run. A staffer is heard detailing Judd’s past admissions concerning episodes of depression and suicidal thoughts, calling Judd “emotionally unbalanced.”

McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton told the Courier-Journal that the recording amounted to “Watergate-style tactics” and that the campaign would allow the FBI to investigate the matter and not comment any further.