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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Grandiosity and Self-Delusion Gone Wild, O’Keefe Has the Money to be Dangerous

Project Veritas 990

Project Veritas 990

New Orleans       Vigilance knows no holiday, nonetheless I don’t want to be a bore even while I write, Paul Revere style, from door to door crying out the alarm that James O’Keefe and his copycats are dangerous to democracy and chilling the efforts of mass organization and support. I beat this drum regularly, but found myself reading Jane Mayer’s article in The New Yorker called “Sting of Myself: Amateurish spies like James O’Keefe III attempt to sway the 2016 campaign” and forced to yell “Wolf!” everywhere I can be heard. I just sent the piece out to all corners where I work in the spirit of “be prepared!”

I’ve been arguing that O’Keefe’s credibility has been shot to smithereens, but I’m making the mistake of assuming that we are living and working in a rational political environment and that is clearly my bad. Most recently, he was caught amateurishly once again while trying to scam Open Society, the George Soros foundation, when he mistakenly kept babbling on his target’s voice mail. In a more normal world that might be the final straw, but, oh, no, not with this bad penny.

O’Keefe’s dark money funders have such deep pockets that putting some bets on him is the equivalent of picking up the bar tab on major league politics like a presidential campaign and therefore a trivial matter. His misnamed, Project Veritas, which gained an IRS tax exemption for charitable and educational activity, turns out to be raking in the dough. Mayer clearly looked at his IRS Form 990 filings and found that he took in $1.2 million in 2103 and then doubled down with $2.4 million in 2014. Likely when the 2015 filings become public, he will have added to that stash as well.

Justin Bieber has a new hit about a girl where he sings, “if you like the way you look that much, Oh, baby, you should go and love yourself.” He could have written that song about O’Keefe who is on a Trump-style ego trip of self-delusion, self-promotion and grandiosity, but like Trump and Bieber’s ex-girlfriend, that doesn’t mean he’s not very dangerous, especially now that he has a bank account to fuel his pomposity.

He claims he has the money to have buried his operatives in numerous campaigns, and that’s likely true though the notion that they are at the heart of anything rather than the periphery is unlikely, but that’s OK for O’Keefe, because that his modus operandi anyway. Taking trivia from low level, public-facing staff and volunteers and trying to make political scandal mountains from molehills is his shtick. I used to advise organizers to start with lower targets in a campaign to build momentum, saying metaphorically that they should “hit the meter reader” on their way to the top in utility campaign for example, but O’Keefe never gets above the meter reader because for all his big talk about upending politics, he’s really just trying to break back into the rightwing echo chamber that still listens to his line.

So, why not ignore him, as even Glenn Beck now does? Well, because the biggest problem with O’Keefe is that his presence on the scene is chilling to real work. He breeds caution in organizations that need to be aggressive. He and his imitators still leave many organizations afraid to engage in voter registration and engagement for fear of attack and infiltration by scurrilous means and reputational damage from public attack. He forces organizations and campaigns to spend time and money in internal training and self-protection rather than pursing their objectives and doing the work. For fear of seeing these sentences quoted in an O’Keefe fundraising pitch to some conservative, billionaire zealot, I should add that increasingly organizations have tightened up to the new reality of such scammers, caulked the holes, and stepped out again, and Jane Mayer’s effective outing of O’Keefe in such a prominent publication helps inoculate opinion makers, donors, politicians and others not to fall for this stuff in the future, which acts to effectively reinsert backbones where they were starting to sag under the constant assault of similar attacks.

His day might not be quite over, but hour by hour it’s coming closer to the end.

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