The Intended Consequences of Video Scams and Fraudulent “News”

Little Rock  I don’t want to seem like I have a chip on my shoulder about James O’Keefe and his wannabes and their unprincipled video scams, because it’s more a mission than a grudge, and it’s not just about ACORN. His project and the efforts of his imitators on the right is the systemic defunding and delegitimization of progressive institutions whether ACORN, Planned Parenthood, unions, NPR or whatever. A friend sent along this piece distributed by Think Progress which strikes close to home on many counts, since it involves Arkansas where I am working today on several projects. Here goes:

Arkansas is Proof that Discredited Sting Videos Have Severe Consequences

Now it has cost Planned Parenthood access to Medicaid funding – again!

E.A. Crunden Nov 29, 2017, 4:33 pm

Arkansas once again cut off access to Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood over discredited sting videos filmed in secret by an anti-abortion group.

The state terminated Planned Parenthood’s status as a medical provider last week after an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding Arkansas’ right to do so took effect, Arkansas Department of Human Services spokesperson Amy Webb said Monday. The court ruled in August that Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s 2015 termination of Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contract was legal, ending a preliminary injunction blocking Hutchinson’s move. In the fiscal year prior to the action, Planned Parenthood received $51,000 in Medicaid funds, none of which paid for abortions (under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding of abortion is illegal in virtually all cases.)

The organization decried the move as an effort to harm those in need of reproductive care across the state.

“Planned Parenthood Great Plains remains committed to serving our patients regardless of their ability to pay while we continue fighting to protect the right of Arkansas women and families to access critical health care services,” said Aaron Samulcek, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “Every individual ought to have the freedom to choose their health care provider and for many in Arkansas, that choice is Planned Parenthood Great Plains.”

Hutchinson’s initial action two years ago was prompted by a series of sting videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, or CMP. The anti-abortion group argued that the heavily-edited videos showed Planned Parenthood illegally selling fetal tissue for profit, something the organization strongly denied. A Texas jury found Planned Parenthood not guilty in 2016; CMP’s founder and another member were charged with multiple felonies in California, some of which were later thrown out.

While the sting videos have been discredited, Arkansas is only one example of their very real ramifications. Lawmakers across the country pushed for harsh legislation after the videos were released and the House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood for a year, allowing time for an investigation (that effort failed to gain traction with either the Senate or the Obama administration.) A number of 2016 Republican presidential candidates also condemned the organization despite no evidence of wrongdoing. A 57-year-old gunman, Robert Dear, later shot and killed three people at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Dear said he was a “warrior for the babies” angry about “the selling of baby parts.”

Sting videos more broadly have resurfaced in the news for reasons unrelated to Arkansas. CMP’s videos were inspired by conservative activist James O’Keefe, who has spent years attempting to damage progressive organizations with secret recordings. O’Keefe is the founder of Project Veritas, an organization that claims to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.”

Project Veritas targets progressive groups along with mainstream media. The organization made headlines earlier this week when the Washington Post published a story revealing that a woman had come forward accusing Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) of rape. Inconsistencies in her story aroused suspicion and the Post declined to publish her account. She was later seen entering the New York offices of Project Veritas, with whom she is believed to have a connection. Moore has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by nine women, one of whom says she was only 14 at the time of the incident. Project Veritas’ efforts were an attempt to use false allegations of sexual assault to undermine the mounting charges made by those who say they were hurt by Moore.

O’Keefe essentially admitted to the actions in a letter sent to his supporters.

“Following months of undercover work within The Washington Post, our investigative journalist embedded within the publication had their cover blown,” he wrote. “This is how undercover work goes. This isn’t the first time that has happened, and it won’t be the last time.”

Support for O’Keefe’s efforts run deep. A Think Progress investigation into O’Keefe’s backers found that the Trump Foundation donated $20,000 to Project Veritas in 2015. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump claimed rival Hillary Clinton had hired people to “be violent, cause fights, [and] do bad things” at his rallies, an allegation based on O’Keefe videos and made without evidence.

O’Keefe’s latest sting attempt may have failed, but his methodology is working. Arkansas is proof that discredited sting videos can be successful. After the August ruling, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) praised the decision as a victory against “a medical provider [that] has engaged in misconduct,” a sentiment echoed by Gov. Hutchinson.

“This is a substantial legal victory for the right of the state to determine whether Medicaid providers are acting in accordance with best practices and affirms the prerogative of the state to make reasoned judgments on the Medicaid program,” Hutchinson said.

The state had 906,417 Medicaid and CHIP enrollees as of September 2017, many of whom need access to reproductive resources like those provided by Planned Parenthood, which has only two locations in Arkansas — Fayetteville and Little Rock. The organization has not said if it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

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Once Again O’Keefe Amateur Hour Antics Busted, This Time by Washington Post

New Orleans  James O’Keefe is a bad penny that just keeps turning up every time there’s an election these days or some opportunity for him to insert himself into another ridiculous, if not illegal, scam. O’Keefe is a convicted criminal in 2010 for his role along with several confederates in trying to bug the local New Orleans office of former Senator Mary Landrieu on a fantasy claim that her staff was not answering the phone for calls about the Affordable Care Act. O’Keefe made his name for his falsely edited videos targeting ACORN’s housing operation, triggering widespread Congressional and other conservative attacks on the organization. Now reporters with the Washington Post have busted O’Keefe and his operatives trying to lure them into a “fake news” scam as he tries to help embattled senatorial candidate in Alabama, Judge Roy Moore.

This time he had a woman named Jamie Phillips contact Post reporters in the wake of reports of Moore’s molestation of a 14 year old when he was in his 30s. Phillips claimed to reporters that she had a secret sexual relationship with Moore in more recent decades, and he had impregnated her when she was 15 and took her to Mississippi for an abortion. She claimed she only wanted to come forward if the reporters could guarantee it would eliminate Moore from the race. They repeatedly told her that they could offer no such guarantees and insisted that they would have to fact check her story. She continually tried to get the reporters to offer their opinions on Moore and the Alabama election, which they also refused to do.

Over a two-week investigation, the Post became increasingly skeptical of her story. They found a GoFundMe site in her name where she indicated that, having lost her job working as a mortgage broker, she was joining a conservative outfit to expose media problems. They discounted the story she told about her cellphone and other inconsistencies, like her claim of a current employer who had no record of her work. They then realized that where she had moved in the New York New Jersey area was only 16 miles away from the O’Keefe’s Project Veritas headquarters. They also found a fairly recent job positing by Veritas to hire a dozen agents of sorts to do the kind of thing that Phillips might be doing. They began following her. They organized another meeting with her. The reporter was careful to block her purse on the table with her own purse so she could not be filmed. They confronted her with the information from the GoFundMe site. She claimed she had interviewed with the Daily Caller, but it had not worked out. The Post contacted numerous people at the Caller and no one with her name or the alias she gave had been interviewed by them. The Post reporter had their own videographers recording the meeting, and then told her the meeting was being filmed and recorded, ending the meeting.

In a final coup d’ grace, two other reporters ended up following her and she was observed going into the Veritas offices for over an hour with her car in the parking lot. Turning the tables, they also tried to interview O’Keefe as he left the building about his connections to this mess, where he refused to be interviewed and obfuscated.

Once again, O’Keefe and his methods have been exposed and thoroughly discredited. In the past, I’ve thought each time his absurd projects have been exposed that it had to be the end for him and his tactics, but instead he has raised millions for Veritas now that it has tax-exempt status (though barred from raising money in Mississippi and Utah because of O’Keefe’s criminal record). With Steve Bannon back at Breitbart, O’Keefe has a waiting outlet for his mischief, so no matter how embarrassing or inept, or how many times his stings backfire, I no longer predict his demise in these politically polarized times where people believe what they want to believe, no matter how preposterous, even when proven to be a total falsehood, and blame the messenger, if it’s not their own, no matter the ridiculousness of the message, or how ill gotten it was obtained.

In a politics without principles, O’Keefe can still aspire to be a prince.

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