Kentucky Democratic official claims liberal group behind McConnell tape

Friday, April 12, 2013 - 4:21am

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.

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."

Progress Kentucky did not return a call asking for comment.

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.

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