Progress Kentucky official lawyers up, blames colleague

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

Catching up on the latest developments in the secret and possibly illegal taping of a private meeting of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s, R-Ky., campaign staff, Progress Kentucky official Shawn Reilly is now pinning the blame for the recording on  another official at the liberal superPAC, Curtis Morrison.

Louisville, Ky., station WHAS has the story:

“Mr. Reilly is completely innocent of any criminal wrongdoing,” countered Ted Shouse, Reilly’s attorney.  “He is, at most, a witness to potential criminal activity.”

Yet, Shouse acknowledged that Reilly was in the Watterson West office building which houses McConnell’s campaign headquarters when the recording was made.

“He was there,” Shouse said. “He was a witness to Mr. Morrison’s activities.”

Morrison, then a Progress Kentucky volunteer, has not publicly commented on the allegations.

After the recording surfaced on the Mother Jones website Tuesday morning, Reilly went directly to the U.S. Attorney’s office, cooperated fully with the FBI and made clear to federal authorities that if anyone should be implicated, it’s Morrison, Shouse said.

“We have in the last three days provided what we know to be material support and information to the FBI in their efforts to locate Curtis Morrison who is – if anyone – guilty of criminal activity in this case,” Shouse said.

FBI agents have visited the campaign headquarters at least twice, said Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager.  The FBI took photos,  examined the personal devices of McConnell’s staff and requested security camera video from the Watterson West building, Benton said.

Reilly’s attorneys spoke to reporters after [Jefferson County Democratic Party official Jacob] Conway told WFPL radio and later WHAS11 that Morrison and Reilly bragged about recording McConnell’s campaign meeting through a door vent at the headquarters.

“One of them was by the elevator and the other recorded it, was what was told to me,” Conway told WHAS11.

“We completely disavow that version of events that Mr. Conway has allegedly put forward,” Shouse said.

The secret recording has captivated Kentucky politics for two days.  It captured Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and senior staff discussing opposition research on actress Ashley Judd and other potential Democratic opponents.  Judd has since announced she is not running against McConnell.

Morrison is apparently in hiding, though Buzzfeed was able to get a “no comment”  from him via email:

Morrison, a Louisville blogger and activist, is actually a former top official with the organization who resigned in March after Progress Kentucky’s last major scandal. BuzzFeed tracked him down, and over email he said he’s “not making a statement at this time.” He did not respond to multiple follow-up calls.

The incident will likely go down in the annals of political incompetence as one of the greatest examples of attempted hit job backfiring on its perpetrators. Not only did the tapes’ revelations about the McConnell team’s private comments elicit a collective yawn in DC but they appear to have boosted McConnell by making him look like the victim of dirty tricks.

Meanwhile Kentucky Democrats are scrambling to distance themselves from Progress Kentucky, which embarrassed Bluegrass State liberals earlier this year with a series of paranoid, racial attacks against McConnell’s wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

As Buzzfeed reported:

“If it was them [behind the recording], this is an idiotic move and something that could jeopardize the larger push against McConnell in ’14,” one senior Democratic strategist in D.C. said of the tape. “If this is true, you ask yourself, why anybody would risk such a maneuver, especially on a tape [that] was damning but not a game changer?”

In fact, Progress Kentucky is so bad at its stated task that some Democrats whisper behind the scenes (a better word is “hope”) that it must to be a front set up by McConnell to make him look good and Democrats look terrible.

You wouldn’t know any of this from reading Mother Jones, the liberal website that    first published the recordings. It currently exists in a parallel universe where the tapes have caused major trouble for McConnell and the matter of who actually made the recordings is still a secret.


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