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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB and AP wire) -- U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell claims his campaign was "secretly bugged" and now wants the FBI to investigate the matter.
Neither the FBI nor the U.S. attorney's office here in Louisville would comment on the issue, but McConnell told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that he is the victim of dirty politics.
"As I indicated last week they were attacking my wife's ethnicity and apparently also bugging my headquarters much like Nixon and Watergate. That's what the political left in Kentucky does these days."
Left-leaning Mother Jones magazine released recordings of a McConnell campaign strategy meeting.
That's the same magazine that posted a secret recording of Mitt Romney's "47 percent" statement that damaged his presidential campaign.
These new, potentially embarrassing recordings of a private staff meeting reveal how the campaign planned to attack potential rivals.
On the recording, you can faintly hear Sen. McConnell talk about using hardball tactics to go after any potential challenger.
"I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole?" (Laughter.) This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out," McConnell is heard saying.
Later an unidentified aide is heard discussing Ashley Judd's mental health issues as potential political fodder.
" …she's suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the '90s," a male voice said.
And later the aide talks about Judd's views on family as a possible target.
"She described having children as selfish, and she thinks it's unconscionable to breed."
Mother Jones posted the audio as part of a report by Washington Bureau Chief David Corn. He's the same reporter who obtained the Romney recording during the presidential campaign.
"I haven't seen anything like this, personally, in American politics in my career. I don't think you can equate it to anything except the Nixonian bugging of Democratic campaign headquarters during the Watergate scandal back in the 1970s," said McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton.
The McConnell campaign is now calling for an FBI investigation into the secret recording.
"I'm not here to speculate right now (as to what happened). We'll let the FBI go ahead and sort that out. But like I said, I'm sure that's going to come out in what is now a criminal investigation," said Benton.
The entire recording was made on February 2nd and is almost 12 minutes long.
During a Washington news conference, McConnell blamed what he called a "left-wing group in Kentucky" for bugging his headquarters.
Mother Jones did not respond to a request to interview David Corn. Judd, of course, decided not to challenge McConnell.
John David Dyche, a WDRB columnist, attorney, and political biographer for McConnell, said he was not surprised that McConnell would come out swinging after being attacked, but was surprised that the campaign was certain it was "bugged" and not a dealing with a "leaked" recording.
"Was it a bugging or a leaking? I think is one of the threshold issues out there and the McConnell campaign has come out strongly saying it was bugging," said Dyche.
"But he's always responded when attacked and responds with superior force usually."
A publicist for Ashley Judd did not respond to a WDRB reporter's questions sent via email.
Dan Logsdon with the Kentucky Democratic Party, released a statement saying: "I certainly do not know anything about how this may have happened. However, it's clear that this is the McConnell we all know -- leading a negative, nasty campaign determined to lash out at his opponents since he doesn't have any accomplishments to point to."
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)