McConnell aide calls audio leak ‘Gestapo’ tactics

The campaign manager for Sen. Mitch McConnell's reelection bid insisted Wednesday that the Kentucky senator's office was bugged, comparing the recording of a high-level strategy meeting to the work of the Nazi secret police.

Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, published audio Tuesday of a McConnell campaign meeting in which actress Ashley Judd was discussed. The senator has said that the office must have been bugged by the "political left."

"This is Gestapo kind of scare tactics and we're not going to stand for it," Jesse Benton told radio host Mike Huckabee on Wednesday.

According to Benton, FBI investigators were at McConnell's campaign headquarters for about an hour on Wednesday and are working on leads. "This is an ongoing criminal investigation," he said.

The McConnell campaign has not yet provided any proof that the office was bugged. Benton argued that it was the only explanation.

"It was a small group, and I can say with the utmost certainty that this did not come from anyone inside our campaign," he told Huckabee. "That can only lead us to believe that this was illegally and illicitly recorded by an outside source."

Mother Jones has said that the publication received the tape from an anonymous source and that it is its "understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation." The law protects the magazine's right to publish the audio, so if they were not involved in any bugging there are no potential legal consequences.

The National Jewish Democratic Council objected to Benton's allusion to Nazi Germany and demanded an apology from McConnell.

“If McConnell chooses to remain silent on this matter and tolerate this offensive rhetoric, it will be disrespectful to those who were murdered and abused by the actual Gestapo," said NJDC Executive Director Aaron Keyak in a statement.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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Rachel Weiner · April 10, 2013