Democratic Operative Caught on Tape in Anti-Semitic Rant

Jacob Conway claimed lack of payment kept him from enjoying Kentucky Derby

American Pharaoh, a past Kentucky Derby winner, at Churchill Downs / AP

A Democratic operative who was at the center of the 2013 "Progress Kentucky" scandal went on an anti-Jewish tirade against a political client he claimed owed him money, according to an audiotape published on Monday.

Jacob Conway, the former Jefferson County Democratic Party official who made national news after he outed two Progress Kentucky activists for secretly recording a Mitch McConnell campaign meeting in 2013, was caught on tape lashing out at one of his clients, Daniel Grossberg, a Democratic candidate for state treasurer.

The tape was first reported by Insider Louisville on Monday, and audio was published by PageOne Kentucky.

In the April 23 conversation, recorded by Grossberg, Conway claimed the candidate owed him $5,500 for consulting work and threatened to sabotage his campaign if he did not pay up.

"You are why people don’t like Jews," said Conway to Grossberg, who is Jewish. "You are exactly where the term ‘Jew you out of something’ came from. You’re exactly why my grandfather and everybody else I know has had a hard time doing business in this city, because you’re trying to stiff me out of fucking money that you contractually owe me."

Conway went on to slam Grossberg as a "cheap bastard son-of-a-bitch" who "couldn’t get a job as a fucking staffer on a goddamn [Louisville] Metro Council campaign."

The Democratic consultant complained that he needed the money from Grossberg to go to the Kentucky Derby.

"I can’t go to Derby this year," fumed Conway. "The one thing—I don’t believe in Jesus, I don’t believe in God, I don’t like Christmas, I don’t like Thanksgiving, I don’t like anything. The only holiday that I like is Derby. And because of you owing me money, I can’t go. And your refusal to pay. You have now ruined my Derby."

Conway also vowed to destroy Conway’s election chances unless he came through with the money.

"If you stiff us, my mother will go on Facebook and she will go on Twitter, and she will embarrass you two weeks before this primary," said Conway, adding that he might leak negative stories about Grossberg to the press and his State Treasurer opponent.

Reached by phone, Conway said he had no comment at the moment and was currently consulting with his lawyers. He declined to comment on the authenticity of the recording.

However, he told Insider Louisville on Monday that he might have made the comments "in the heat of the moment," adding that he had Jewish members of his family and was not anti-Semitic.

"I may have said something along those lines," Conway said. "But like I said, anything that he has me on recording saying, I may have said in the heat of the moment when I was extremely angry."

In 2013, Conway revealed the names of two Progress Kentucky activists who he said bragged to him that they surreptitiously taped a McConnell campaign strategy session. Audiotape of the meeting, which included a conversation about whether to use Ashley Judd’s history of mental illness as a campaign issue, had previously been leaked to Mother Jones by one of the activists.

Conway stepped down from the Jefferson County Democratic Party executive committee shortly after the controversy broke. He is still listed on the board of the Louisville Young Democrats and works with private political clients through his company, Splash Digital. One of his most recent clients was a Democratic congressional candidate, Ron Leach, who lost last November to Rep. Brett Guthrie (R., Ky).

Conway mentions his role in the Progress Kentucky controversy while railing at Grossberg in the April 23 recording.

"I will go to war with you, and I will do worse to you than I did to [Progress Kentucky activists] Shawn Reilly and Curt Morrison," said Conway.

Grossberg did not respond to an interview request. He told Insider Louisville on Monday that he did not owe Conway money and believed the consultant’s threats could be considered extortion. Grossberg said he decided to release the tape in order to stop continued harassment from Conway.