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Progress Kentucky Leader Once Met With Potential McConnell Opponent

In 2011, Shawn Reilly tweeted picture of his meeting with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Posted on April 22, 2013, at 11:41 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — If Kentucky Secretary Of State Alison Lundergan Grimes runs for Senate against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell, as many Democrats hope she will, she may find her campaign kickoff mired in questions about Progress Kentucky.

In Feb. 2011, while she was a Democratic candidate for Secretary Of State, Lundergan Grimes had a meeting with Shawn Reilly, who would later go on to be co-founder of Progress Kentucky. That group has become best known for racially-charged attacks on McConnell's wife, former Labor Sec. Elaine Chao, and alleged connection to the surreptitious recording of a McConnell strategy session that led to a federal investigation.

Reilly tweeted a picture of the meeting with Lundergan Grimes and endorsed her candidacy in the Democratic primary. "Great meeting w @alisonforsos in Louisville," he wrote. "I think she will win in may[.] vote alison."

The Kentucky Secretary Of State's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed, nor did two of Grimes's political consultants.

Lundergan Grimes won both the primary and the general election in Nov. 2011. After Ashley Judd bowed out of a Senate race against McConnell, focus returned to Lundergan Grimes, whom some national Democrats preferred to Judd all along. Lundergan Grimes has not made a decision about running against McConnell next year.

Democrats have sought to distance themselves from Progress Kentucky in the wake of its many scandals. The group raised almost no money and political observers in Kentucky say it has little influence in Democratic circles. But Democratic ignorance of the group and its leaders is a tougher sell as images like the one from the Reilly-Lundergan Grimes meeting and the picture Reilly snapped while visiting the White House in December emerge.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.