* Sen. Mitch McConnell's aides discussed actress Ashley
Judd's mental health
* McConnell calls for FBI probe of campaign office "bugging"
* FBI says looking into the complaint
(Adds comment from Ashley Judd)
By Susan Heavey, Andy Sullivan and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON, April 9 A liberal magazine reported
on Tuesday that it had obtained a recording of U.S. Senate
Republican leader Mitch McConnell's discussion with campaign
aides on putting the mental health and religious views of a
potential opponent, actress Ashley Judd, "on the radar screen."
The campaign strategy session was held in February in
Louisville, Kentucky, according to Mother Jones magazine, which
published the audio and a transcript online but would not reveal
its source nor how the recording was obtained.
McConnell has asked the FBI to investigate what he called
the "bugging" of his campaign headquarters but has declined to
comment on the meeting itself. "This is what you get from the
political left in America," he told reporters.
Judd has since decided not to challenge McConnell, who
represents Kentucky in the U.S. Senate and is up for re-election
In a statement issued through a spokesperson, Judd called
the meeting "yet another example of the politics of personal
destruction....We expected nothing less from Mitch McConnell and
his camp than to take a personal struggle such as depression,
which many Americans cope with on a daily basis, and turn it
into a laughing matter."
Meetings to talk about "opposition research" are standard
fare in campaigns. But recordings of such discussions do not
often become public.
FBI Special Agent Mary Trotman confirmed that McConnell's
office had contacted the agency. "We are looking into the
McConnell also would not comment on another part of the
recording, which indicates that at least one of McConnell's
Senate staff members had spent time researching Judd's past
comments on everything from abortion to coal mining. Several
other staff members could have been involved in the effort - one
person in the meeting said the research reflected the work of "a
lot of LAs," a common abbreviation for legislative assistant.
Ethics rules bar members from using staff for campaign
purposes on government time. Staff members can work for
campaigns under Senate rules as long as they are not using
public resources - they can not use their office computers, for
example, or work on campaign efforts when they are getting paid
for legislative work.
"So long as those rules are adhered to, there's no problem
with this," said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign
Legal Center. "It's quite common for staff members to work on
campaigns; it's not an unusual arrangement at all."
In the recording, the presenter, referring to Judd, says,
"This sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean
it's been documented."
He mentions that Judd's autobiography discusses how "you
know, she's suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was
hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the
The presenter also says, "I know this is sort of a sensitive
subject but you know at least worth putting on your radar screen
is that she is critical ... sort of traditional
Christianity. She sort of views it as sort of a vestige of
One thing an investigation would focus on is whether any law
was in fact broken. Federal law and the law in many states
prohibit the intercept of oral communication, but that might not
apply depending on who made the recording and how.
"Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in
Senator McConnell's campaign office without consent,"
McConnell's campaign said in a statement. "By whom and how that
was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal
Mother Jones was the magazine that obtained a recording of
a fund-raising speech by Republican presidential candidate Mitt
Romney last year in which Romney said 47 percent of Americans
were dependent on the government and unlikely to vote for him.
When disclosed, the recording dealt Romney a damaging blow.
(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Fred Barbash,
Jackie Frank and Cynthia Osterman)