Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the FBI and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate whether Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) violated federal law and Senate rules by misusing Senate staff or resources to conduct opposition research on potential campaign opponents.
Read CREW's complaints to:
According to a report in Mother Jones, on February 2, 2013, Sen. McConnell met with aides to discuss research they had conducted about potential Democratic opponents, including actress Ashley Judd and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. The meeting was surreptitiously taped and a copy of the recording was later posted online.
The recording appears to reveal that Senate staff members conducted the campaign research, potentially violating federal law and Senate ethics rules.
“Using taxpayer-funded resources to pay staffers to dig up dirt on political opponents isn’t just an ethics violation, it’s a federal crime,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “As Sen. McConnell requested, the FBI is investigating the recording. A thorough and fair investigation necessitates the bureau also inquire into whether Sen. McConnell himself violated the law.”
In the recording, an unnamed presenter thanked the individuals who conducted the research, including “LAs,” an acronym for legislative assistant or legislative aide. The presenter specifically names Phil Maxson, who has been employed as a legislative aide in Sen. McConnell’s office since early 2011, and appears to refer to the senator’s chief of staff, Josh Holmes. Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show neither man has been paid by Sen. McConnell’s campaign committee or leadership PAC.
When first questioned by reporters about the misuse of official resources, Sen. McConnell’s office refused to comment. Days later, apparently recognizing the legal violations, Sen. McConnell’s campaign manager claimed the staffers were thanked for conducting the research on their free time. Sloan continued, “Luckily enough, the FBI has the technology to parse the tape and discern what was really said. Given the questions raised, Sen. McConnell should welcome both an FBI and ethics committee investigation into his conduct.”