McConnell, ProgressKentucky, and Kentucky’s Weird Political Dynamics


As a former Louisvillian, I have been watching the McConnell-Progress Kentucky taping scandal unfold with some interest. It is quickly turning into a melodrama of epic proportions, little of which will make it into the national mainstream media because of the ideological bias of that institution. The scandal involves three key players on the left, all of whom have questionable criminal backgrounds, and the peculiar political dynamics inherent in incestuous small-to-medium sized towns.

Louisville is well known among its inhabitants as an incestuous town. From the major power players and the extreme wealth of the East End-Oldham County nexus to the so-called counter-culture of “The Scene” as its participants call it, to the extreme poverty of the West End, the players keep playing in their own backyards, fighting amongst the various factions, and protecting insiders in ways that Shakespeare himself could not resist writing about were he alive today. I like to call it Shakespeare for Hillbillies, though the participants would object that they are from “cosmopolitan” Louisville.

I lived in Louisville for some 20+ years before making the jump to Hoosierland here in Indiana, so I know a lot of which I speak. One of the best parts of moving across the bridge was the ability to leave Louisville’s political scene in the dust. I had no idea what ideological suffocation I felt until it was gone. People like to think of Kentucky these days as part of the Midwestern nexus of GOP power, but the truth is that the Democratic Party has long had a lock on the state. Ernie Fletcher, for example, was the first GOP governor in Kentucky since the year I was born (1971). Louisville in particular is a bastion of Democratic politics.

About a week ago, a non-scandal broke out when David Corn, Mother Jones’ Chief Washington Correspondent, who specializes in leaking opposition research for national Democrats, published the transcripts and audio of a secret recording of an oppo-research meeting of McConnell’s reelection staff. Less than a week later a member of the Executive Committee of Jefferson County Democrats announced to the press that two members of a Democratic superPAC called ProgressKentucky had bragged about recording the meeting from the hallway outside. The liberal national media initially jumped on the case, focusing on the fact that participants in the McConnell meeting had mentioned Ashley Judd’s mental health, a fact she herself mentioned in her own memoir published in 2011. Apparently it’s okay for she, not for thee.

Character assassination is nothing new in politics. Recall the relentless attacks last year on Mitt and Ann Romney, from Rosen’s comments that Ann Romney hadn’t “worked a day in her life,” to their tax returns, to Mitt Romney’s “binder full of women.” Just check out some of the more questionable attacks on Obama coming from places like Infowars (no link, sorry). The political landscape is riddled with what rational people call ad hominem attacks. What made this story so special was the status of Mitch McConnell as Minority Leader for the GOP, and the fact that he has been particularly effective at neutralizing some of Democrats’ most beloved agenda items, most notably McCain-Feingold. He is a shrewd and calculating player of the game, and that Democrats cannot abide. Hence the intense push to unseat him.

Much to Corn’s chagrin, I suspect, the case has done nothing but strengthen McConnell in Kentucky. That’s because he knows how to play the game, and got out in front of the story quickly with a narrative of “Nixonian-Watergate style” attacks by state Democrats. The story turned an endangered incumbent suffering from low approval ratings into a sympathetic figure to the less-than-interested voters across the state, voters who, it must be noted, were suspicious of a perceived radical outsider like Ashley Judd from the get-go.

gangam styleThe reason for this is the near-universal condemnation of ProgressKentucky’s legally questionable tactics, and the emerging character portraits of the three key players on the left. These players are: Shawn Reilly, co-founder and leader of ProgressKentucky; Curtis Morrison, a longtime Louisville activist, OccupyLouisville leader, and freelance reporter for the aptly named Insider Louisville who also served as ProgressKentucky’s communications point man until the Twitter feed of PK made racially insensitive remarks about McConnell’s Chinese wife; and Jacob Conway, the Democratic Party finger-pointer who outed the pair. As it turns out, all three have criminal histories that have emerged in the wake of the breaking story, and they are all turning on each other as the FBI continues to investigate.

Most of this has been unearthed via careful and tedious investigative reporting done by Jacob Payne of Page One Kentucky, a political independent who seems to delight in revealing the ridiculousness of Kentucky party politics on both sides of the aisle. In several posts he has uncovered Shawn Reilly’s involvement in the famous murder of a Bellermine University student a few years ago, Curtis Morrison’s trespassing charges, and Jacob Conway’s plea deal to what could have been a charge of embezzlement after $3,000 went missing from his former employer. Those are just the facts, but the details on Reilly’s and Conway’s background in particular are far more lurid, involving lying to the police, a civil law suit, and fleeing subpoenas in the case of Reilly, and  lying to the police and secret escort services in the case of Conway. I invite you to check out the juicy details for yourselves.

Notably the local mainstream press won’t touch these issues, as is their wont in the incestuous fishbowl of party politics that is the town of Louisville. For Louisville’s power players, members of one’s own faction must be protected at all cost, even the cost of one’s own credibility. The irony, as well as the dynamics of Louisville’s political landscape, are best exemplified by Insider Louisville editor Terry Boyd’s quote when asked about Morrison’s involvement in the wake of Conway’s allegations:

“I don’t know what the hell is going on with the Mitch McConnell thing, and I don’t want to know.”

The case has pitted national Democrats, desperate to distance themselves from what they call “amateurs”, against Louisville’s insider Democrats who instinctively operate out of a sense of self-preservation. Nevertheless, for those in the know, the irony of Kentucky’s Democratic operatives outing McConnell for private character assassination talk getting outed and character assassinated themselves publicly is not only juicy, it’s hilarious. Pass the popcorn, please.

About Woke Lola

Bitch, please.
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51 Responses to McConnell, ProgressKentucky, and Kentucky’s Weird Political Dynamics

  1. True story:

  2. I almost forgot the dueling press stories that are the result of Louisville’s protectionist impulses.

    From the paper of record in Louisville:

    The Democratic official who implicated two Progress Kentucky members in the surreptitious recording of a Mitch McConnell campaign strategy meeting backed away from a key portion of his story Friday, saying he may have never talked to one of the men he accused.

    In an interview with The Courier-Journal, Jacob Conway, a member of the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee, said he is certain he talked with Curtis Morrison about the recording — but he may not have spoken with Shawn Reilly as he told members of the media Thursday.

    “I had a lot of conversations with both of them during that time period, and maybe I was just confused, and maybe Shawn never said anything,” he said.

    From WFPL, the NPR affiliate that broke the Conway allegations:

    Jacob Conway, who says two Progress Kentucky members told him they recorded a strategy meeting between U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and his campaign advisors, stands by his original story despite a Courier-Journal report to the contrary.

    But, in a follow-up interview with WFPL after The C-J story was published online, Conway said he stood completely behind his original story—that he had spoken to Reilly about the incident.

    “I stand by the comments I made to you and every other media outlet on Thursday, including the Courier-Journal,” Conway said. “…The meat and potatoes of what I said is the truth.”

  3. nerdle says:

    Thanks for summing this up. I’ve been hearing about this for the past week and tried to read up on it, but was left wondering WTF it all means.

  4. myiq2xu says:

    Calling your political opponent a crazy twit isn’t unethical if your political opponent really is a crazy twit.

  5. myiq2xu says:

    I’ve been tweeting so much lately I worry about how many characters are in my comments here.

  6. DandyTiger says:

    Great post. KY sounds delicious from a gossip politics point of view, and horrible if you want actual government services to work. Everywhere you look closely at government function, you get high school cliques, petty behavior, and corruption. No wonder so many push for smaller government. The less of it you have, the less crime and incompetence you have.

  7. DandyTiger says:

    Sort of relates. Dorothy and Alice:

  8. DandyTiger says:

    A lot of Kentuckians I know are pretty independent. I wonder if that’s from how horrible and corrupt both parties are in that state. Hadn’t thought about why before. Or maybe that’s because I mostly know the ones that escaped.

  9. myiq2xu says:
  10. lyn5 says:

    Fascinating post. Great job!

  11. HELENK says:

    the weird thing is that Ashley Judd had already said she was not running before david corn published the story. The point was already moot.

  12. HELENK says:

    I finally figured out how we got stuck with Harry Reid

  13. myiq2xu says:


    If you had to generate all the electricity you needed by pedaling a stationary bike…
    … and your car was an electric car, how many stationary bike miles would you have to pedal to power the car for 1 mile?

    • yttik says:

      LOL, it’s a very unpopular thought these days, but I am in awe of how much energy a gallon of gas can generate.

      I watched a show about the guy who discovered how to refine it so it could really produce. The scary part was that he had to literally build a fire under this gas tank that was like a pressure cooker, and just kind of hope the whole thing didn’t explode. All’s well that ends well, but they were really holding their breath and hoping for the best.

  14. HELENK says:

    check it out MYIQ

    DoomClown ‏@DoomClown 8h

    On April 14, Lincoln was shot, the Titanic sank, and the “Black Sunday” Dust Bowl storm destroyed Oklahoma. Have a nice day!
    Retweeted by David Burge

  15. myiq2xu says:

    Watching America’s Funniest Videos. Little girl (4?) is being quizzed with math flash cards.

    They show her: 3 and she answers “Three”.

    They show her I I and she answers “Pause”.

    They tell her “That’s eleven” and she rolls her eyes and says “That’s a pause” like she knows they are lying to her.

  16. OT:

  17. yttik says:

    Kentucky is the only state to have a governor assassinated and all the people involved were either pardoned or acquitted.

    One of Wyoming’s governors had a pair of shoes made out of an outlaw’s skin. Creepy!

    I like political history. It makes makes realize that as crazy as things are, there was a time when they were even crazier.

  18. HELENK says:

    Venezuela’s electoral authority: interim president Maduro wins election; Maduro had 50.66% of votes, Capriles 49.07% – @Reuters, @AFP

    • DandyTiger says:

      Just as I suspected, there is no border security before amnesty in the bill. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. So they’ll pass this, and then there will be another 11+ million illegal immigrants in the years ahead. And so it goes, round and round. The best part is, the Repubs who will go along with this actually think it will help them with the latino vote. Now that’s funny.

  19. DeniseVB says:

    A gay gun rights group is upset with the new gun control bill, especially in states that don’t recognize gay marriage. Ooops.

    Love their name, The Pink Pistols 😀

  20. swanspirit says:

    I wasn’t feeling so good yesterday , but today I just have to get in here and say how much I enjoyed this post and the comments too . I hope to see more Dems libs and Vile Progs go after each other; MMA style 🙂

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