David Corn of Mother Jones gained fame and awards for obtaining the secretly recorded fundraising tape in which Mitt Romney made the infamous 47% comment. That tape was made by someone in the room and already was posted on the internet, but no one had realized how potent the contents were before Corn made it public.
Now Corn has another supposed bombshell, that Mitch McConnell told staffers in a private campaign meeting that Ashley Judd’s mental health problems and religious views could be a campaign issue.
Of course, this hardly was a bombshell, as Judd herself wrote about her mental health problems and her general wackiness was widely known. What would have been a bombshell was if McConnell’s team decided not to use it.
But there’s a bigger problem here. It appears that the recording may have been illegal because the room was bugged, McConnell campaign alleges it was bugged, seeks FBI investigation:
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign has asked federal authorities to help it identify the source of a recording of private strategy sessions earlier this year involving research into a potential opponent, actress Ashley Judd.
McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said Tuesday that the campaign is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Louisville to uncover who recorded a Feb. 2 meeting in Kentucky – attended by McConnell himself — which was published earlier today by the liberal magazine Mother Jones.
“Senator McConnell’s campaign is working with the FBI and has notified the local U.S. Attorney in Louisville, per FBI request, about these recordings,” said McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton. “Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Sen. McConnell’s campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished will presumably be the subject of a criminal investigation.”
If the offices were bugged, the bugging arguably violated Kentucky’s eavesdropping statute, and worse, persons divulging such information may have violated Kentucky law:
526.060 Divulging illegally obtained information.
(1) A person is guilty of divulging illegally obtained information when he knowingly uses or divulges information obtained through eavesdropping or tampering with private communications or learned in the course of employment with a communications common carrier engaged in transmitting the message.
(2) Divulging illegally obtained information is a Class A misdemeanor.
Federal wiretapping and eavesdropping statutes also are implicated.
There would be interesting First Amendment issues where the subsequent disclosure was by a journalist, and I’m not in a position to opine on that subject at the moment, certainly not before more facts are known.
I suspect that part of the issue may be what Corn and Mother Jones knew, and when they knew it.
If they merely were the recipient of unlawfully obtained information, or if they thought the recording was by a person in the room not a bugging, that might be viewed differently than if they had advance knowledge or knew the evidence was from eavesdropping. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they did not participate in, encourage, or in any way knowingly intend to benefit from an alleged bugging.
For now, Corn and Mother Jones aren’t talking (via NBC link above):
In a phone interview with NBC News, Mother Jones’ David Corn says he and his publication have “no comment” about any FBI investigation into how he obtained the recording of the McConnell campaign’s strategy session on actress Ashley Judd.
“This story speaks for itself,” Corn said.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and what David Corn and Mother Jones knew, and when they knew it.
Greg Sargent has this update:
UPDATE: Mother Jones sends over a statement asserting that it did not make the tape. From the statement:
As the story makes clear, we were recently provided the tape by a source who wished to remain anonymous. We were not involved in the making of the tape, but we published a story on the tape due to its obvious newsworthiness. It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation. We cannot comment beyond that.
That doesn’t answer all the questions. It was not “involved in the making of the tape” is not a completely denial of prior knowledge, and that it was not a “Watergate-style bugging operation” is a curious way of putting it — was it some other type of “bugging” whether or not an “operation”?
Update 4-11-2013 — I was right in my suspicions about Mother Jones’ denial, Wow, bombshell in McConnell bugging case.DONATE
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