"We've always said the Left would stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters are above and beyond," said Jesse Benton, McConnell's campaign manager.
"Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell's campaign office without consent," he added. "By whom and how that was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation."
The DSCC, meanwhile, shot back at McConnell, saying the senator was simply trying to play the victim. McConnell and his staff, DSCC executive director Guy Cecil said, should apologize for mentioning Judd's history of depression during the private conversation.
"Mitch McConnell is desperate to play the victim," Cecil said. "The DSCC doesn't know if this tape came from a disgruntled Senate staffer who was forced to dig up dirt on their boss' potential opponents or another source, but its content is a clear example of how Mitch McConnell is the living, breathing embodiment of everything that is wrong with Washington. It is beneath the office of Minority Leader to engage in this kind of trivial politics. He should apologize to the millions of Americans who suffer from depression and don't believe it's a laughing matter."
This isn't the first time one of McConnell's races has been plagued by a secret recording. In 2008, when the senior senator was fending off a stiff challenge from Democrat Bruce Lunsford, a staffer with the National Republican Senatorial Committee planted a recording device at Lunsford's podium before a debate.
Thus far, the campaign hasn't provided evidence to support its claim that Democrats were behind the latest surreptitious act. In a statement provided to Politico, Mother Jones said the tape had been provided by a source.
But it also vehemently denies anyone present during the original meeting could have leaked the recording. It's unclear how many people were present — only a few voices can be heard during the recording. An official with McConnell's campaign said everyone present was a close ally of the senator.
"It was a very small meeting of senior staff and longtime loyalists — a "˜family meeting' if you will," the official said. "No one in that room would have "˜leaked' anything."
So far, Republicans have banked hard on their belief that the recording was done by an outside Democratic group. McConnell's campaign has begun raising money off the accusations, tweeting that the "liberal left is exposed for illegally wiretapping out campaign HQ" while providing a link to a sign-up with the campaign.
And Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., chairman for the NRSC, issued a statement calling on an array of Democratic groups — such as the DNC, DSCC, Think Progress, and Organizing for Action — to denounce using any such tactics.
"This "˜anything to win: laws and rules be damned' mentality has to stop," Moran said. "I hope that leaders [Harry] Reid and [Chuck] Schumer will join me in condemning these tactics."