Curtis Morrison Admits He Recorded McConnell, Provides Details

I suppose we can stop using “allegedly” when we write about this story. Or we would if we wrote about it anymore.

In a piece published on Salon today, liberal activist Curtis Morrison admits that he was behind the secret recording of one of Senator Mitch McConnell’s campaign strategy sessions…the one in which the senator and his aides discuss how they can attack potential challengers, including then-rumored candidate Ashley Judd…the one that was leaked to Mother Jones Magazine…the one various sources told WFPL Morrison was behind…the one Morrison declined to discuss in interviews, even as he tweeted details to various reporters

Here’s how Morrison says it went down:

The front door to the office building was unlocked, and there was no one behind the reception desk. Walking down the hall of the second floor, I recognized McConnell’s voice. He was talking about Sen. Rand Paul’s strategic use of the Tea Party in procuring his 2010 election.
 
The voices were coming from the other side of a nearby door, which had a window. I pulled out my Flip phone and started to record.
 
I don’t need to tell you what a weapon the pocket video camera has become. Bartender Scott Prouty changed the trajectory of the entire 2012 election when he captured Mitt Romney in his now classic “47 percent” speech. You just never knew when a politician was going to open his mouth and accidentally reveal his true agenda. And as I held my Flip up to the window, that’s what I was hoping for, but I soon realized that the video I was capturing was the back of a projection screen, and only the audio was of value. So I held the Flip closer to the door vent instead of the window, and began recording the 11:45 minutes of footage later released by Mother Jones.

The description provides a more detailed account of what sources said Morrison told them before the recording was leaked. But the piece isn’t really about that. It’s about Morrison—why he made the recording, and what happened to him after everyone found out he did it.

Morrison seems to have expected to change the course of McConnell’s campaign with the video in much the same way bartender Scott Prouty changed the 2012 presidential race with his clandestine “47 Percent” recording of Mitt Romney at a private dinner. Rather, many observers say he did McConnell a favor by giving him fodder for campaign speeches and ads about dirty tricks and scheming liberals.

What I never expected was the pushback from my own political side. One day in April, I turned on MSNBC and saw U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville and one of my personal heroes, rip me a new one.
Morrison also calls Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and the “hacktivist” group Anonymous heroes. He describes his own desire to be a journalist, quotes Howard Zinn to defend his insistence of working as both an activist and a reporter and he describes the letdown of being publicly fired from Insider Louisville.

There were “heavy-drinking days” in which Morrison lived in his Jeep, having left a home he rented from the sister-in-law of his former friend and ally, Shawn Reilly.

About Reilly…Morrison’s piece describes him as a friend and as a neighbor, and as a not-quite accomplice who was present at the time of the recording. It doesn’t mention that Morrison volunteered for Progress Kentucky, a super PAC Reilly founded.

It also leaves out any details of Morrison’s talks with the FBI (though the author bio does mention he’s under investigation). Morrison mentions that he could be prosecuted (he’s raising money for his legal defense fundhe’s about $7,000 short of his goal), but he doesn’t give his defense for why he hasn’t committed a crime. He just says this:

As for whether my actions were illegal? I don’t believe so, and that position has been supported by some high-profile attorneys, including John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon. Not everyone agrees with Dean, of course. Erik Wemple, whose wife works for Mother Jones, cleared David Corn of wrongdoing in the Washington Post, but me not so much. Wemple wrote: “Yes, reporters, you may accept clandestine recordings from law-breaking scumbags. Just don’t help them do their work.”
 

Morrison’s piece defends his recording, but not in legal terms (an attorney told WFPL earlier that if the meeting was audible to the naked ear, the recording is likely legal) . He discusses his politics, justifies releasing the recording and says he identifies with Judd, who is attacked in the tape.

Morrison wrote the piece from California, where he says he now lives and is planning to study law. But I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear from Morrison in Kentucky. He writes that the charges against him are going before a grand jury. So we may hear his legal justification for his actions yet. 

Gabe Bullard

Gabe Bullard is the director of news and editorial strategy.

@gbullard

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