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Alleged 'WattersonGate' figure seeks donations

by Joe Arnold


Posted on April 15, 2013 at 10:26 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 15 at 11:09 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- The second of two Progress Kentucky SuperPAC members accused of secretly recording a Mitch McConnell campaign strategy meeting said on Monday that he too is cooperating with an FBI investigation of the incident.

In a statement, Curtis Morrison does not admit any role in creating the recording, yet he is asking for donations toward a legal defense fund.  Morrison has not accepted WHAS11's interview requests.

"I have been cooperating with the ongoing FBI investigation into how the recording was made," Morrison writes, "While my lawyer is charging a reasonable rate, I could use some help."

As of 11pm Monday night, the gofundme.com web page reported $825 had been contributed to the fund in its first day.

"I heard about it and I heard he's not doing that well," said Jesse Benton, McConnell's campaign manager.  "I certainly wish him the best."

Benton was one of about ten people he estimates was in the February 2 campaign meeting at Sen. McConnell's Watterson West campaign headquarters.

Despite a member of the Jefferson County Democratic Party's Executive Committee alleging that both Morrision and Shawn Reilly bragged about clandestinely recording the meeting, Reilly's attorney said Thursday that Reilly was merely in the building, but only as a witness to Morrison's potentially criminal activities.

Reilly is the founder and executive director of the Progress Kentucky SuperPAC.  At the time, Morrison was an active volunteer.

In the fund-raising statement, Morrison attempts to turn the focus to what is heard on the recording, that McConnell senate staffers were thanked for working on the campaign and that actress Ashley Judd's personal life was discussed as potential campaign fodder.  Judd has since announced she will not challenge McConnell in 2014.

Morrison writes that the campaign recording illustrates "McConnell's insensitivity to those of us who speak freely about our religious beliefs and/or who suffer from depression or mental illness."

"That's taking the focus off what happened here," Benton responded when asked if McConnell (R) or the campaign had reconsidered any of the discussion points from  the meeting.  "The FBI is currently investigating a serious crime, in the middle of a serious investigation for a serious lapse of ethics here and we've got Democrats here that clearly had some fore-knowledge of this.  We need to ask, What happened?  Who knew what and when?

Benton said a National Public Radio interview on Monday with Mother Jones reporter David Corn confirmed his belief that many Democrats in Kentucky were aware of the recording before it became public.

"I have to tell you that before the story came out," Corn told radio host Diane Rehm, "there was a person in Kentucky who was sympathetic to the Democrats, let me put it that way, I can't identify the person, who got wind that I was going to do the story and contacted me and asked me not to."

"This person wisely predicted that this story would come out and make himself the victim. It would help McConnell," Corn said, later clarifying that the caller was not a member of party leadership.

"I think it's very clear that many Democrats did know," Benton told WHAS11.  "The question is, who knew what and when did they know it?"

"(Corn) went ahead and outed Democrats here and this is very serious stuff," Benton continued.  "It really is time for Democrats, all levels both inside Washington and statewide here in Kentucky to talk about what they knew and when did they know it."

Both Corn and Morrison argue that a reference on the recording of McConnell senate staffers working on the campaign warrants further review.

"The recordings also contain evidence suggesting that McConnell used federal employees and a mysterious third party to gather his Whack-A-Mole research," Morrison wrote.

"If/when any investigations are started regarding those abuses of power, I will cooperate fully in them," Morrison added.

Benton dismissed the allegations, last week.

"The man on the tape very clearly says they did it on their own free time," Benton told WHAS11 on Thursday.  "Any legislative staff is free, their First Amendment rights, and they're free to volunteer for the campaign in any way they want to as long as they do it on their free time, using their own personal computers, cell phones, whatsover."

"McConnell's staff just loves him," Benton continued.  "They're super-loyal.  Once you get to know the boss you start to work for him, you're just so loyal, you just love him."

"And yes, we do have several legislative staff that do contribute their free time which is perfectly fine, perfectly legal and cleared ahead of time by the ethics committee."