Sen. Mitch McConnell (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Mother Jones, increasingly a destination for clandy recordings of Republicans, today published an audio recording of a Feb. 2 strategy session among aides of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as they geared up for McConnell’s 2014 reelection campaign. The tape showcases an extensive and aggressive set of talking points against possible opponent Ashley Judd — including attacks on the actress’s mental and emotional history.

Publication of the tape set off all kinds of chatter about the FBI: “McConnell campaign calls in FBI over secret recordings,” reported CNN. Jesse Benton, a spokesman for the McConnell campaign, issued this classic statement: “We’ve always said the Left will stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters is above and beyond.”

Mother Jones just issued this statement, taking issue with Benton:

We are still waiting for Sen. Mitch McConnell to comment on the substance of the story. Before posting this article, we contacted his Senate office and his campaign office—in particular, his campaign manager, Jesse Benton—and no one responded. As the story makes clear, we were recently provided the tape by a source who wished to remain anonymous. We were not involved in the making of the tape, but we published a story on the tape due to its obvious newsworthiness. It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation. We cannot comment beyond that.

Bolded text added to highlight a critical legal distinction, one that the Erik Wemple Blog will tackle shortly. (Disclosure: My wife works for Mother Jones.)

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.