Democratic SuperPAC Behind McConnell Recording

A radio station in Kentucky is reporting that a Democratic SuperPAC that has been going after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was behind the recording of a meeting between the Senator and his political advisers that surfaced earlier this week:

A secret recording of a campaign strategy session between U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and his advisors was taped by leaders of the Progress Kentucky super PAC, says a longtime local Democratic operative.

Mother Jones Magazine released the tape this week. The meeting itself took place on Feb. 2.

Jacob Conway, who is on the executive committee of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, says that day, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, who founded and volunteered for Progress Kentucky, respectively, bragged to him about how they recorded the meeting.

Conway says neither the local nor the state Democratic party had any part in the incident.

(…)

On Feb. 2, McConnell opened his campaign headquarters in the Watterson Office Park in Louisville and invited trusted GOP activists and select media outlets to an open house. The event lasted roughly two hours. Afterward, McConnell and several campaign advisors held a strategy session in an office meeting room.

Morrison and Reilly did not attend the open house, but they told Conway they arrived later and were able to hear the meeting from the hallway.

“They were in the hallway after the, I guess after the celebration and hoopla ended, apparently these people broke for lunch and had a strategy meeting, which is, in every campaign I’ve been affiliated with, makes perfect sense,” says Conway. “One of them held the elevator, the other one did the recording and they left. That was what they told to me from them directly.”

The meeting room door is next to the elevators on that floor. McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton has told multiple media outlets the door was shut and locked on Feb. 2. But the door has a vent at the bottom and a large gap underneath.

“Apparently the gentlemen overheard the conversation and decided to record it with a phone or recording device they had in their pocket. Could’ve been an iPhone, could’ve been a Flip camera or something like that,” Conway say.

Had this meeting been recorded by one of the participants, there would have been no legal liability because both Kentucky and Federal law on the issue follow a “one person consent” rule that makes it legal to record a conversation as long as one of the participants consented to the recording. In this case, the men who made the recording, however, face the possibility of criminal liability:

It’s unclear why Reilly and Morrison held onto the tape for so long. Kentucky law says it is a felony ”to overhear, record amplify or transmit any part of a wire or oral communication of others without the consent of at least one party thereto by means of any electric, mechanical or other device.”

But if the conversation was audible from a hallway, it’s disputable whether recording qualifies as eavesdropping.

Without reviewing the Kentucky law, it strikes me that the fact that they recorded it via the vent at the bottom of the door seems to me to be an important fact. If they were merely standing outside the door and were able to record an audible conversation without that extra step, it would be a different story. If I were these men, I’d be talking to a lawyer right now.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Paul L. says:

    New Media Matters talking points.
    1) This has nothing to do with the Democrats or anyone who reported on smears against Judd caught on the tape. It should not reflect badly on them in the least and should not be used to question their motives.
    2) This proves that SuperPACs should be banned.
    3) This is a partisan witch-hunt against Progress Kentucky, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison that should be dropped by the FBI immediately.,

  2. grumpy realist says:

    Huh? So they were standing outside the door while this was going on?

  3. edmondo says:

    After the FBI spends boku manhours and dollars on this crime of the century, is there any chance they could spend a little time on Wall Street’s role in bringing down the global economy before the statute of limitations runs out?

    No need to answer. Just a rhetorical question.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    I dunno…if they were invited guests…and overheard something…then I don’t see the liability.
    I think the key is not the vent but the invitation.

  5. Anderson says:

    “Interesting if true,” as Mark Twain said of the Bible.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Hardly a Nixonian bugging scandal.
    But certainly a shiney object for the fourth estate to obsess over for a couple days until the next shiney object comes along.

  7. inhumans99 says:

    Doug…it sounds like it was easy to record the conversation by simply hanging outside the door, so unless it can be proven that they actually slipped a device into the room, this sounds like a nothingburger (as Kevin Drum likes to say on his blog).

    Senator McConnell should have heeded the advice workers in offices across America take heed of everyday, be careful what you say in the office because the walls may have ears. I bet there is no way to prove that the device was pressed up against the grate, or was recording the conversation 6-12+ inches from the door. I know I have an extremely LOUD voice, so I bet it would be easy to record my words without much effort if you were casually hanging out in front of a door and I was yakking away.

  8. Franklin says:

    It’s illegal, and they didn’t catch anything interesting.

  9. Septimius says:

    It’s unclear why Reilly and Morrison held onto the tape for so long.

    They had to wait until the controversy died down over the racist comments they made about McConnell’s wife.

    Kentucky law says it is a felony ”to overhear, record amplify or transmit any part of a wire or oral communication of others without the consent of at least one party thereto by means of any electric, mechanical or other device.”

    It seems to me that, regardless of whether or not the conversation was audible from the hallway, once they recorded and transmitted an oral communication that they were not a party to, they committed a felony.

  10. Paul L. says:

    @inhumans99: @C. Clavin:
    So it does not matter Progress Kentucky illegally recorded the meeting, This is a partisan witch-hunt

    Who remembers the progressive outrage when MSNBC accused James O’Keefe of attempting to wiretap of Senator Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans — which landed O’Keefe in jail and on probation(teabugging).

    Progressive still cling to that narrative even after it was debunked

    I remember progressives not finding it to be much ado about nothing / nothingburger.

  11. Scott says:

    McConnell now gets to run campaign ads portraying himself and his wife as victims of far left radicals, which probably will serve him well in Kentucky. Meanwhile, two idiots and possibly Corn himself may face criminal liability.

    I don’t think this thing turned out the way Corn planned.

  12. Jeremy R says:

    “A radio station in Kentucky is reporting that a Democratic SuperPAC …”

    Progress Kentucky is the equivalent of some small town’s tea party group that gets highlighted on wonkette for the racist images on their facebook page, but whom the general media completely ignores. In December they failed to file with the FEC and they have less than 1000$ to their name. The difference between the two, and what’s given these nobodies national stature, is that McConnell has multiple times now found it politically useful to promote these chuckleheads into his most dastardly foils, raising money off of them and painting himself as a perpetual victim.

    If they’ve engaged in some James O’Keefe-like stunt, they’ll have actually earned their negative national attention this time, but again unlike O’Keefe no one actually supports what they do, as is demonstrated by the fact that no one ever gives them any money.

  13. The Q says:

    Its funny how wingnuts get all upset when a murderer is set free because the cop didnt’ have a search warrant to look in the trunk of a suspect’s car prior to the murdered corpse being found,

    They harp about the liberal system setting free a murderer because of some stupid law passed by liberal judges which allows the case to be thrown out and a scumbag to walk free over a technicality.

    Weil, wingnuts, here’s your turn to be non hypocrites and bemoan the fact that the repugnant viewpoints expressed in that room are about to be trumped by esoteric rulings over how the event was taped “through the vent” or “overheard in the hall” instead of focusing on how much a fool McConnel and his henchmen are.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @ Paul L….

    I’m not sure what that looney website you linked to was saying. English must be the authors third language.

    O’Keefe pled guilty to what happened in Landrieus office.

    What happened here and what O’Keefe did are apples and orangutans.

    Based on 15 years experience as a broadcast journalist, I really don’t think this was illegal. Perhaps the courts will get a chance to decide.

    Certainly they should have consulted an attorney before admitting anything. If they didn’t…then they are dumb.

    Being dumb doesn’t automatically make you a Republican…it just greatly increases the odds.

  15. Septimius says:

    @The Q:

    I totally agree. How dare Mitch McConnell and his henchmen have a private meeting to talk politics in his campaign office! Discussing the prior mental illness of a potential political opponent is just like murder. The Kentucky law prohibiting someone from recording a communication that they are not a party to is so esoteric. Must have been passed by some liberal judge. (I hear that’s how laws get passed in Kentucky, by liberal judges.)

  16. legion says:

    @Septimius:

    It seems to me that, regardless of whether or not the conversation was audible from the hallway, once they recorded and transmitted an oral communication that they were not a party to, they committed a felony.

    Actually, no. If it was “plainly audible” it wouldn’t fall under that statute, but if they went to any abnormal effort to listen in – like holding the recorder up to the vent – then it would be a violation. That’s what any potential charges will revolve around, and unless the two PACsters were stupid enough to specifically state they went to efforts to get the recording, it’s unlikely charges will be filed. Unless there’s someone who can testify to how loud it was in the hall, there’s just no way to argue against a defendant’s statement otherwise.

  17. C. Clavin says:

    Looks like Turtle-Face is the one in trouble…for using Government resources (staffers) to dig up dirt on a political opponent.
    Karma is a bitch…

  18. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Here’s the underlying principle I’m seeing being argued here:

    The law should be interpreted in order to most harm — or least benefit — Republicans.

    If a conservative is accused of breaking a law in some technical way to damage a liberal, throw the book at him.

    If a liberal is accused of breaking a law in some technical way to damage a conservative, well, then the whiny conservative should be reminded that politics ain’t beanbag.

  19. Mikey says:

    @Jeremy R:

    The difference between the two, and what’s given these nobodies national stature, is that McConnell has multiple times now found it politically useful to promote these chuckleheads into his most dastardly foils, raising money off of them and painting himself as a perpetual victim.

    Well, Progress Kentucky did issue a racist statement regarding McConnell’s Asian wife, which was roundly denounced not just by Republicans, but by Democrats as well.

    It’s not OK to say stuff like that even if your PAC is small and full of chuckleheads.

  20. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: @Septimius: @Paul L.: Yeah, boys, let’s just ignore the fact that it was a Democratic Party official from KY that blew the whistle on these known chuckleheads.

  21. Mikey says:
  22. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Mikey: Indeed.

  23. Helena says:

    Hello, for all time i used to check blog posts here early in the dawn,
    because i like to find out more and more.

  24. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    It took a bit of dragging and shaming to get mainstream Democrats to distance themselves from Progress KY after the racist attack.

    And read above — I don’t see many people denouncing Progress KY in this thread.

    Finally, let’s not forget that the “smearing” of Ashley Judd being discussed was quoting the things she’s said in public, and put in her own book.

    That’s been an interesting development in the past few years — “quoting Democrats accurately” is now considered “smearing.”

    And why, oh why, am I being reminded of the infamous “macaca” incident?