I guess you file this under the heading of Deep, Late Election Comic Relief. And not surprisingly it comes from a Senate Republican who should have been coasting but now finds himself with a real chance losing his seat.
Last week, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) squared off in a debate with Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford. But on Lunsford’s podium a GOP operative had placed a small voice recorder, presumably to pick up some off-mic comments Lunsford might make — apparently a violation of the debate rules.
(The recorder itself — sans recording — was eventually returned.)
Now, from here the accounts differ. According to the Lunsford campaign, Lunsford actually didn’t see the recorder. But since it was nestled in among his papers it was included when he handed his papers off to his staffers after the debate — staffers who say they later erased the recording since it violated debate rules to have a planted recorder on the opponents podium.
According to the McConnell staffers, however, Lunsford did see the recorder during the debate and essentially confiscated it. Richard St. Onge, II (who, in a separate story, may have absconded with his name from some neo-gothic southern novel) is the GOP operative who planted the recorder. And according to St. Onge, when he went up to Lunsford after the debate to demand his recorder back, Lunsford said, “No you won’t get it back.”
And now St. Onge and the chairman of McConnell’s campaign have filed a criminal complaint against Lunsford for petty larceny and destruction of property — because of the erasure.
Now, we’re digging into this to get a clearer sense of what happened. But I must say that even if you accept McConnell’s version of events, is there really an affirmative responsibility to return your opponent’s campaign bug after you discover it? Campaign ‘trackers’ with handcams have become a normal and I think generally benign part of modern campaigns. But this seems a bit different. Thoughts?