Oh, Please, Let this be the End for James O’Keefe

ACORN Corruption Politics

Marble Falls      Oh, momma, can this really be the end, we’re stuck in hoping, but worried the vampire might still mend.  Sad to say, that was the thought that crossed my mind and tempered my celebration at the news that James O’Keefe was forced to walk the plank and jump ship from Project Veritas.

Let’s recall that James O’Keefe has been the rightwing provocateur and faux journalist who specializes in duplicitous undercover stings and highly biased, selective video editing to smear and bring down conservative targets.  And, yes, I will never forgive him for his scurrilous and subsequently discredited attack on ACORN in 2009, which triggered its reorganization in the United States after I had left that wing of the organization.  Given the damage he did to the American organization and its hundreds of thousands of low-and-moderate income members then, there can be no justice now, although ACORN has largely been exonerated.

He has been the cat with nine lives, though.  After what should have been his Warholian fifteen minutes of fame with the ACORN attack, he went on to more misdeeds that often also blew up in his face, most spectacularly when he and his confederates tried to tap the phones in the New Orleans office of then US Senator Mary Landrieu.  Other forays targeted NPR, NEA, and various other organizations and individuals who were seen as part of this amorphous “left” by conservatives.  Arrest and probation in the Landrieu case, significant settlements in the ACORN, and constant legal and court appearances didn’t daunt his supporters among far-right donors and led to his founding of Project Veritas in 2010 for more mischief.  More recently, there has been plenty of current controversy.  They trained in spy craft on the Wyoming ranch of Blackwater’s Prince, brother of former Education Secretary DeVos. He and his crew are deeply being investigated for five-fingering a diary of a Biden relative in Florida.

All of that might ostensibly be linked to the radical politically motivated skullduggery of his organization, but more recently his narcissism seems to have spun out of control as he followed the career path of Donald Trump as an increasingly committed fanboy.  He spent the organization’s money on a musical where he stared and debuted with a book in Miami.  He was sued by key staff members for mismanagement, bullying, and general boorishness with his own staff.  His donor enablers, like the far right Bradley outfits of Wisconsin who contributed almost a quarter of the $20 million PV budget seemed not to care, but he also spent donor money like water on himself and his projects, making vague claims to enhancing the Veritas “brand” as justification, though it was clearly all about him.

His current demise came not from the outside, but the inside from his own staff and board technically, but more realistically by his own miscalculations and arrogance.  As staff conflict increased with more determined efforts to hold him more accountable to the organization, he attempted to fire the executive director and finance chief.  They went to the board, and though handpicked with mouth breathing right wingers, they suspended him with pay.  He then gave them an ultimatum, demanding they resign, or he would, and when they did not, he did so, going out in flames with another self-serving video message to the staff.  The board says he’s still under investigation for money messes, including a $14,000 trip he billed as a supposed meeting with a donor that was actually about overseeing a fix on his boat.  Oh, my goodness, this is so rich, yet, they also claim they are still trying to mend fences with him.

By all rights, this should be the end for O’Keefe, called out by his own staff in an 11-page memo, as a “power-drunk tyrant”.  Certainly, as one shoe after another has dropped on his head, or he has crashed and burned spectacularly, I have heralded his demise, but, tragically, the radical right seems almost addicted to his antics.  Trump tweeted an immediate defense of O’Keefe at his resignation.  Some far right donors are still leaping to his defense, and still shielding him as the sharp point of their spear.  O’Keefe is threatening to rise again and create a new organization to continue to specialize in the same mayhem and mess.

“Oh, momma, can this really be the end”?  Certainly, that would seem to be the case for Project Veritas, where we can almost count the weeks and months before they disappear.  But, is it the end for O’Keefe?  Given the whack of the right these days, I doubt it.  He certainly is going to have to trim his sails and do some walks of shame with his key donors.  His singing and dancing days might be over, but Project Veritas was only a tax-exempt shell corporation for him.  His brand is scandal.  I fear this is just the latest.  He will survive as long as the far right needs someone to specialize in the black political arts and dirty tricks, and that’s O’Keefe’s stock-in-trade.  He won’t leave the scene permanently, until the conservative market changes, and from what we see all around us, that won’t be any time soon.