Progress Kentucky has close ties to Democratic Party

Matthew Vadum Senior Vice President, Capital Research Center
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The left-wing organization reported to be behind the alleged illegal wiretapping of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office is not, as some media coverage suggests, a an independent agent operating but a group with close ties to the Democratic Party.

In fact Shawn Reilly, the executive director of Progress Kentucky, the controversial super PAC allegedly involved in the recording, is a notable Democratic Party activist and veteran community organizer.

If Reilly has ceased to be a senior Democratic Party official, it is a very recent development.

Reilly attended the 2012 Democratic national convention in Charlotte, N.C, describing himself in a photo on his Twitter account as a delegate to the convention. He also describes himself as a delegate in another photo that shows him in a television screen grab from CNN coverage of the convention.

“Before starting Progress Kentucky, he was a member of the executive committee of the state Democratic Party,” according to a Huffington Post article from January that Progress Kentucky posted on its own website.

Although Reilly appears to be a member of the Democratic Party establishment, media outlets are now propagating a version of the illegal bugging story in which Democratic officials claim to have been blindsided by a scandal foisted on them by an unaccountable outside group.

Jacob Conway, a member of the executive committee of the state Democratic Party in Jefferson County, Kentucky, told Fox that two Progress Kentucky leaders admitted to him that they secretly recorded a February strategy meeting McConnell held with aides. The senator and campaign staffers discussed the approaching campaign and the political vulnerabilities of actress Ashley Judd, who at the time was considering running against McConnell next year.

Conway identified the two leaders as Reilly and a man named Curtis Morrison.

“I don’t know why they were at the grand opening of his campaign office. … They overheard the conversation going on,” Conway said. “To me it was an extremely tacky conversation … but it was a private conversation nonetheless.”

Conway added, “They told me they were there. They told me they were in the hallway. They have a recording. So you know, you can draw your own conclusions.”

Conway said he came forward because he didn’t want the unfolding scandal to hurt the Democratic Party.

Reilly previously worked as an organizer for a left-wing anti-war group.

In 2007 he was a “field organizer” for the Iraq Summer Campaign, a project of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq.

Daily Kos diarist “briansmith” brags that the group silenced McConnell when he tried to make a speech at a public event in 2007. “The din of opposition was so great that Mitch bailed from the podium in mid-sentence,” he writes.

According to his LinkedIn bio, Reilly became executive director of Progress Kentucky in January 2013. From August 2008 to January 2013 he was a financial advisor in the Louisville office of asset management firm Waddell & Reed.

Progress Kentucky has certainly been stirring the pot lately.

In February, the super PAC received a warning letter from the Federal Election Commission after failing to disclose donors and expenditures.

Progress Kentucky was also accused of racism after its tweets mocked the Chinese ethnicity of McConnell’s wife, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.