A liberal Super PAC being investigated for bugging Senator Mitch McConnell’s Louisville office is shutting down. The website Politico reports documents filed late last week with the Federal Election Commission show the agency approved a request by Progress Kentucky to close its operations.
The Super PAC was aiming to knock off Kentucky’s senior Senator, who is one of the top targets in the cross-hairs of Democrats in the 2014 election cycle.
Ultimately, the group raised just over $14,000, with only $1,000 in the bank at the end of June.
Curtis Morrison, who was serving as spokesman for Progress Kentucky, is accused of secretly recording a strategy session attended by Senator McConnell and re-election staffers. The FBI is reportedly investigating how the recording was made. The Kentucky Democratic Party has distanced itself from Progress Kentucky and Morrison, who has taken to the internet to solicit money for his defense fund.
The recorded McConnell strategy session contains audio of staffers discussing tactics they would use against actress Ashley Judd, had she challenged McConnell in the 2014 Senate race. At least one staffer talks about using Judd's history of depression against her.
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.
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.
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.”