Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 11, 2013

Lunsford recalls another taping controversy

FRANKFORT — The flap over a secretly recorded discussion of how to attack potential opponents of Sen. Mitch McConnell isn’t the first such taping controversy.

But in 2008, it was McConnell’s campaign which surreptitiously taped his Democratic opponent, entrepreneur Bruce Lunsford.

At a forum in western Kentucky, Lunsford and McConnell stood behind podiums. As the debate concluded, Lunsford removed a legal pad and notes he was using to disclose a tape recorder. Assuming the recorder belonged to his own campaign staff, Lunsford placed it in his pocket and subsequently handed it to his press secretary.

“I handed it to Cary (Stemle) and that’s when he told me it wasn’t ours,” Lunsford said Thursday, recalling the event in 2008.

Richard St. Onge, a staffer for the McConnell campaign at the time, demanded the recording device be returned. At first the Lunsford campaign refused, but then relented.

But then the McConnell campaign claimed the tape had been erased and St. Onge went so far as to swear out a criminal complaint which was later dropped.

Five years later, Lunsford finds it ironic that McConnell has criticized someone for “Nixonian” tactics and McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, described the taping originally reported by Mother Jones Magazine as “Gestapo” like.

Earlier this week, Mother Jones Magazine released a tape and transcript of a McConnell campaign strategy meeting which occurred in Louisville on Feb. 2. On the tape, McConnell is heard talking about a “whack-a-mole” period of the campaign and a person identified as “presenter” talks about statements made by Ashley Judd which could be used against her in a possible campaign. Judd was at one time considered a possible opponent for McConnell but has since said she won’t run.

Speculation then shifted to Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes as a possible Democratic challenger. The presenter also discusses Grimes on the tape.

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