Mother Jones magazine recently published a story about Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and his staff talking about candidates who might oppose McConnell in the next election. The story was based upon a recording obtained by the magazine. The McConnell campaign has reacted with outrage, claiming that someone must have bugged campaign offices and requesting an FBI investigation.
I’d venture a few predictions about how this story will play out. First, the McConnell campaign’s reaction has just focused attention on the story and will boost the sales of Mother Jones magazine far beyond what would otherwise have occurred. (Incidentally, the Mother Jones story and the quotes from the tape recording seem like pretty thin gruel. I don’t think anyone will be shocked that U.S. Senators and their staffs spend time researching opponents and discussing how to best portray them as idiots, demons, or out-of-touch plutocrats. If the McConnell campaign hadn’t gone ballistic, the story probably wouldn’t have made a blip on the nightly news.)
Second, I’m betting that there was no bugging. When leaks occur, the obvious reaction is to claim improper conduct by somebody else, but often the truth is that the leak was made by some disgruntled staffer trying to advance his own agenda. Don’t be surprised if the recording in this case was made by someone in the McConnell campaign for his own purposes and then shared with someone, either intentionally or inadvertently, and ultimately ended up in the hands of Mother Jones as a result.
Third, who does Mitch McConnell think he is? Does anyone really think that Mitch’s Kentucky campaign strategy sessions would be viewed as so likely to produce priceless nuggets of information that Democrats would risk criminal prosecution to find out what McConnell is discussing with his staffers? And, even if the Democrats had bugged his office for some reason, why would they blow their cover by leaking a bland story about opposition research to a magazine like Mother Jones, rather than keeping their recording devices a secret and continuing to listen in on Mitch’s ruminations?
The McConnell campaign’s reaction to this non-story makes no sense . . . but I guess that’s the core problem in Washington D.C. these days.