Morrison defends recording McConnell, suggests campaign misdeeds


by Joe Arnold

Posted on June 3, 2013 at 7:50 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 3 at 11:41 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Under investigation by the FBI, liberal activist Curtis Morrison outlined a possible defense on Monday after he admitted secretly recording a private February 2 meeting at Sen. Mitch McConnell's Louisville campaign office.

"I did not feel like I was breaking the law when I did what I did," Morrison told WHAS11 News.  "From my understanding of both Kentucky statutes and federal law, I think the case can be made that I did not break the law."

It is illegal in Kentucky to record a private conversation unless the person recording it is a part of the conversation.

Morrison said he recorded the meeting by holding a Flip cam up to a door vent from a hallway accessible to the public after he heard McConnell's voice and others from the hallway.

"If your neighbors are playing really bad music and it's really loud, but you memorize the lyrics, have you broken the law?" Morrison said.

The former Progress Kentucky volunteer said though the SuperPac's executive director, Shawn Reilly, was with him in the hallway, Reilly did not directly participate in the recording.  Reilly has also been questioned by the FBI but only as a witness to Morrison's activities, according to Reilly's attorneys.

"We used the elevator, got off and I actually was not aware of Shawn's presence from the time I realized McConnell was talking," Morrison said.  "Shawn tried to whisper something to me once and I brushed him toward the elevator.  I don't remember whether or not I told him to go to the elevator.  The point is Shawn is irrelevant in this situation.

Jacob Conway, a former Jefferson County Democratic Party executive committee member, said in April that Morrison and Reilly had bragged to him about the recording, and that one of them had held the elevator door open while the other recorded McConnell's office.

"I made the recording," Morrison said.  "When I got to the elevator door, he was in the elevator and the door was open, so whether he was holding it I really don't know for sure because when I went around the corner, he was in the elevator and I got in it.  I don't know what he was doing in the time I was making the recording.  He's not mine to look after."

Rather than focus on the potential criminality of how the meeting was recorded, Morrison said attention should instead be paid to what transpired in the meeting, an opposition research briefing that included McConnell describing a "Whac-a-mole" period of the campaign, to knock out potential opponents as soon as they raise their heads.

Morrison said he was particularly disturbed that the recording also captured campaign operatives discussing actress Ashley Judd's mental health issues and religious views as potential political liabilities.

"You heard where he was going to take Ashley Judd's love of St Francis to Southeast Christian Church and cause them to get pitchforks and torches," Morrison said, his voice rising.  "That's pitting people of faith against each other.  That's unacceptable in political discourse."

"There's a lot of reasons I released this recording," Morrison said.  "But it really disgusted me that he is driving people out of wanting to participate in democracy by going after citizens that just want to participate in government.  'Whac-a-mole' has to stop."

Morrison also contends McConnell may have broken federal election law if any third party political groups were in the meeting.

McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, said Monday that neither representatives of third party groups or SuperPAC's were at the meeting, but declined to disclose who was present.

"We have to defer almost all of this to the U.S. Attorney so we don't interfere with the grand jury and the pending indictment," Benton said, "But I can answer that question.  No."

Morrison pointed to a web video released by Crossroads GPS, a conservative SuperPAC, shortly after the McConnell headquarters briefing.

"It was an anti-Ashley Judd commercial and everything in that commercial was discussed in that meeting that I recorded," Morrison said.  "So that's coordination.  That's an FEC (Federal Election Commission) violation.  I know McConnell doesn't like campaign finance laws, but that doesn't mean he can break them."

Morrison also took exception to criticism by fellow Democrats that the recording controversy has backfired on the progressive activists, allowing McConnell to cast himself as a victim, score political points and use the incident as a campaign fundraising pitch.

"The day (the recording) was released, there was polling showing that McConnell matched up against (Kentucky Secretary of State) Alison Lundergan Grimes, was 45-41," Morrison said.  "And a couple days ago, we discovered that Alison is now even with Mitch and it's 45 - 45."

"So, she gained four points in the polls," Morrison continued.  "If that's considered helping McConnell, I don't understand the system then.  Basically, McConnell has become weaker as people see him for who he is."

"Let's wait and see who was in that room, and then we'll see whether it will help McConnell or not," Morrison said.