McConnell campaign on Ashley Judd: Was secret recording legal?
Kentucky state law suggests the secret recording of a McConnell campaign strategy session – posted Tuesday on the Mother Jones website – could be illegal. The FBI is also getting involved.
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In McConnell’s case, campaign staffers – and the senator himself – could have a reasonable expectation of privacy when meeting behind closed doors. So the making of the recording could be illegal.Skip to next paragraph
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Kentucky law states that a person is guilty of eavesdropping – a felony – “when he intentionally uses any device to eavesdrop, whether or not he is present at the time.” Kentucky law defines the term "eavesdrop" as meaning “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 electronic, mechanical, or other device.”
“If there was no consent by anybody, it would seem as though whoever planted the tape could be charged with eavesdropping under Kentucky law,” says Joshua Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.
As a political story, the most salient point may not be the discussion of Ms. Judd’s potential vulnerabilities as a candidate – including her mental health history and her views on religion. After all, we now know Judd’s not running. It could be the fact that the recording shows that, as of Feb. 2, the McConnell campaign didn’t have much on another possible opponent, state Attorney General Alison Lundergan Grimes, notes Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza.
“The best hit we have on her is her blatantly endorsing the 2008 Democratic national platform,” says one attendee at the meeting.
“Translation: McConnell doesn’t have much on Grimes,” writes Mr. Cillizza. “Attacking her as a tool of President Obama might do some damage, but as we’ve seen in recent years – Jon Tester in Montana, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota – simply linking a Democrat in a conservative state to Obama isn’t a foolproof strategy for victory.”
Tuesday afternoon, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee jumped into the fray, calling on McConnell to apologize for using “taxpayer-funded legislative aides” to conduct campaign opposition research and for “insulting millions of Americans who suffer from depression.”
On the recording, campaign staffers were heard discussing Judd’s battles with depression, which she wrote about in her 2011 memoir, “All that is Bitter & Sweet.”
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