Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

Big Oaks from Little ACORNs Grow: Karl Rove, White Supremacists and the Forging of a Non-Scandal

Com­ment: With the Bush admin­is­tra­tion hav­ing destroyed the econ­o­my, along with just about every­thing else, the GOP right has been beat­ing the rhetor­i­cal war drums about ACORN. Between the lines, they are imply­ing that the col­lapse of the hous­ing mar­ket and, thus, the finan­cial indus­try was pro­duced by poor blacks and Llati­nos buy­ing homes they could­n’t afford. (Of course, it WASN’T pro­duced by Gold­man  Sachs, Pim­co [stay tuned for upcom­ing pro­grams], Roland Arnall and the oth­er archi­tects of the sub­prime mess.)

As it hap­pens, scape­goat­ing ACORN–and by exten­sion non-white minori­ties and their “lib­er­al enablers”–had much of its gen­e­sis with Karl Rove’s role in fir­ing U.S. attor­ney David Igle­sias of New Mex­i­co. It seems that Igle­sias resist­ed GOP pres­sure to crack down on ACORN, which was reg­is­ter­ing vot­ers.

Much of the right-wing rhetor­i­cal firestorm about ACORN derived from activist James O’Keefe’s “sting,” in which he posed as  a pimp, seek­ing hous­ing for “ho’s.”

James O’Keefe turns out to be a fel­low-trav­el­er of the white suprema­cist move­ment.

“Rove: a Mov­ing Tar­get” by Michael Issikoff;Newsweek; 2007.
New dis­clo­sures in the U.S. attor­ney con­tro­ver­sy have increased the pres­sure on White House aide Karl Rove. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Alber­to Gon­za­les’s ex-chief of staff, D. Kyle Samp­son, tes­ti­fied last week that “dur­ing the run-up to the midterm elec­tions,” the A.G. told him Rove had “com­plained” that David Igle­sias, the U.S. attor­ney in New Mex­i­co, and two oth­er fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors, were not doing enough to pros­e­cute vot­er fraud—a top GOP pri­or­i­ty. It was short­ly after that, Samp­son said, that Igle­sias got added to the list of U.S. attor­neys to be fired. (Igle­sias told NEWSWEEK he had been repeat­ed­ly pushed by New Mex­i­co GOP offi­cials to pros­e­cute work­ers for ACORN, an activist group that was reg­is­ter­ing vot­ers in minor­i­ty neigh­bor­hoods, but he found no cas­es worth bring­ing.) Jus­tice was also forced to cor­rect its ear­li­er asser­tion that Rove did not play “any role” in replac­ing the U.S. attor­ney in Lit­tle Rock. Samp­son’s e‑mails showed he had described the replace­ment as “impor­tant to ... Karl.”

Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy warned the White House that even a Gon­za­les res­ig­na­tion would not “short-cir­cuit” his probe, vow­ing to block con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings for any suc­ces­sor unless he gets Rove under oath. (Bush has refused to allow Rove and oth­er White House offi­cials to tes­ti­fy in pub­lic.) White House spokes­woman Dana Peri­no reaf­firmed Bush’s “100 per­cent” back­ing of Gon­za­les, and the A.G. vowed to car­ry on.

The inquiries are only mul­ti­ply­ing. The Office of Spe­cial Coun­sel has begun its own inves­ti­ga­tion into whether Igle­si­as’s dis­missal was a vio­la­tion of both the Hatch Act (which pro­hibits fed­er­al employ­ees from being fired for “polit­i­cal” rea­sons) and a law that bars dis­crim­i­na­tion against mil­i­tary-ser­vice mem­bers, said an offi­cial, anony­mous when talk­ing about an inter­nal mat­ter. Jus­tice offi­cials have at times sug­gest­ed one rea­son Igle­sias was fired is that he spent too much time away from the office because he is in the naval reserves. The agen­cy’s direc­tor, Scott Bloch, recent­ly pledged “aggres­sive” enforce­ment of the law, which is increas­ing­ly impor­tant giv­en the grow­ing num­ber of Nation­al Guard and mil­i­tary reserves called up for ser­vice in Iraq. . . .

“James O’Keefe’s Race Prob­lem” by Max Blu­men­thal; Salon.com; 2/3/2010.

Many of the con­ser­v­a­tives who glee­ful­ly pro­mot­ed James O’Keefe’s past polit­i­cal stunts are feign­ing shock at his arrest on charges that he and three asso­ciates planned to tam­per with Louisiana Sen. Mary Lan­drieu’s phone lines. Once upon a time, right-wing pun­dits hailed the 25-year-old O’Keefe as a cre­ative genius and mod­el of jour­nal­is­tic ethics. Andrew Bre­it­bart, who has paid O’Keefe, called him one of the all-time “great jour­nal­ists” and said he deserved a Pulitzer for his under­cov­er ACORN video. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly declared he should have earned a “con­gres­sion­al medal.”

His right-wing admir­ers don’t seem to mind that O’Keefe’s short but sto­ried career has been defined by a series of polit­i­cal stunts shot through with racial resent­ment. Now an activist orga­ni­za­tion that mon­i­tors hate groups has pro­duced a pho­to of O’Keefe at a 2006 con­fer­ence on “Race and Con­ser­vatism” that fea­tured lead­ing white nation­al­ists. The pho­to, first pub­lished Jan. 30  on the Web site of the anti-racism group One Peo­ple’s Project, shows O’Keefe at the gath­er­ing, which was so con­tro­ver­sial even the ultra-right Lead­er­ship Insti­tute, which employed O’Keefe at the time, with­drew its back­ing. O’Keefe’s fel­low young con­ser­v­a­tive provo­ca­teur Mar­cus Epstein orga­nized the event, which gave anti-Semi­tes, pro­fes­sion­al racists and pro­po­nents of Aryanism an oppor­tu­ni­ty to share their griev­ances and plans to make inroads in the GOP. . .

One Peo­ple’s Project cov­ered the event at the time, send­ing a free­lance pho­tog­ra­ph­er to doc­u­ment the gath­er­ing. Project direc­tor Daryle Jenk­ins told O’Keefe manned a lit­er­a­ture table  filled with tracts from the white suprema­cist right, includ­ing two pseu­do-aca­d­e­m­ic pub­li­ca­tions that have called blacks and Lati­nos genet­i­cal­ly infe­ri­or to whites: Amer­i­can Renais­sance and the Occi­den­tal Quar­ter­ly.  The lead­ing speak­er was Jared Tay­lor, founder of the white nation­al­ist group Amer­i­can Renais­sance. “We can say for cer­tain that James O’Keefe was at the 2006 meet­ing with Jared Tay­lor. He has absolute­ly no way of deny­ing that,” Jenk­ins said. O’Keefe’s attor­ney did not respond to a request for com­ment on his clien­t’s role in the con­fer­ence.

Discussion

2 comments for “Big Oaks from Little ACORNs Grow: Karl Rove, White Supremacists and the Forging of a Non-Scandal”

  1. This again?

    Huff­in­g­ton Post
    ACORN, In New GOP Bud­get Bill, Would Be Defund­ed Again, Even Though It No Longer Exists

    Post­ed: 03/05/2013 8:20 am EST | Updat­ed: 03/05/2013 11:52 am EST
    Zach Carter

    WASHINGTON — A new short-term bud­get bill intro­duced on Mon­day by House Repub­li­cans includes a bizarre pro­vi­sion ban­ning fed­er­al fund­ing to anti-pover­ty group ACORN, despite the fact that the group has already been stripped of fed­er­al fund­ing — and has been defunct for near­ly three years.

    ACORN lead­ers announced that the group was dis­band­ing in March 2010, after Con­gress cut off all fed­er­al fund­ing to the orga­ni­za­tion. The pro­vi­sion in the cur­rent GOP bud­get bill [PDF], buried on page 221 of 269, would dupli­cate leg­is­la­tion that has already passed, to tar­get an orga­ni­za­tion that does not exist.

    ACORN, also known as the Alliance of Com­mu­ni­ty Orga­ni­za­tions for Reform Now, came under heavy fire in the fall of 2009 after con­ser­v­a­tive provo­ca­teur James O’Keefe released a set of selec­tive­ly edit­ed videos that appeared to show employ­ees of the orga­ni­za­tion offer­ing advice on tax avoid­ance relat­ed to pros­ti­tu­tion and child smug­gling. Inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tions by the Cal­i­for­nia attor­ney gen­er­al, the Mass­a­chu­setts attor­ney gen­er­al and the Brook­lyn, N.Y. dis­trict attor­ney would lat­er clear ACORN of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing, and an inves­ti­ga­tion by the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Office would clear ACORN of charges that it mis­han­dled fed­er­al funds.

    But the dam­age to ACORN’s rep­u­ta­tion had already been done. By Novem­ber of 2009, Con­gress had defund­ed the orga­ni­za­tion, using broad lan­guage that applied to “any orga­ni­za­tion” that had been charged with break­ing fed­er­al or state elec­tion laws, lob­by­ing dis­clo­sure laws, cam­paign finance laws or fil­ing fraud­u­lent paper­work with any fed­er­al or state agency. The fund­ing ban also extend­ed to any employ­ees, con­trac­tors or oth­ers affil­i­at­ed with any group charged with any of those things.

    ...

    Mis­sion Accom­plished!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 5, 2013, 12:46 pm
  2. You’d think this would be a big­ger deal: It turns out Erik Prince — broth­er of Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos and some­one who played a still-under­ex­plored role in the 2016 US elec­tion involv­ing Saudi/UAE inter­fer­ence on behalf of the Trump cam­paign — has been recruit­ing ex-spies to help train Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives to infil­trate left-wing groups and Demo­c­ra­t­ic cam­paigns in recent years. The spies who did this train­ing include an ex-MI6 offi­cer, Richard Sed­don. And the tar­get­ed groups include the con­gres­sion­al cam­paign of Demo­c­ra­t­ic Abi­gail Span­berg­er and the Michi­gan office of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers. A law­suit against Project Ver­i­tas by the union revealed a num­ber of inter­nal emails detail­ing the spy­ing oper­a­tion.

    Recall how Project Ver­i­tas is the cre­ation of James O’Keefe, the far right fake ‘inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist’ known for his ‘cre­ative­ly edit­ed’ sting videos and palling around with white suprema­cists. So any­one train­ing Project Ver­i­tas fig­ures with spy­ing tech­niques was basi­cal­ly train­ing a group of smear mer­chants with a long track record of amoral behav­ior. This is a group very friend­ly with the ‘Alt Right’ neo-Nazis that will say and do any­thing that oper­ates a GOP dirty-tricks oper­a­tion.

    One of the fig­ures involved with oper­a­tion to spy on the teach­ers union was Joe Hal­der­man. He hap­pens to be the for­mer CBS pro­duc­er who was con­vict­ed of attempt­ing to black­mail David Let­ter­man for $2 mil­lion. That’s the kind of peo­ple these are.

    It sounds like the spy train­ing start­ed dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign sea­son so it’s worth keep­ing mind that Project Ver­i­tas fig­ures may have been part of Erik Prince’s var­i­ous oper­a­tions dur­ing that cam­paign. It’s worth recall­ing how O’Keefe’s fel­low far right troll Charles John­son was coor­di­nat­ing with the Peter Smith’s oper­a­tion to find Hillary Clin­ton’s emails on the Dark Web (an oper­a­tion that could have been a cov­er to arrange for their own hack of the Democ­rats). Smith claims he reached out to John­son who made a ref­er­ence to a hid­den net­work of right-wing oppo­si­tion researchers. The Project Ver­i­tas fig­ures would be pre­cise­ly the kind of peo­ple we should expect John­son to have been refer­ring to, espe­cial­ly of they were get­ting spy train­ing by Erik Prince’s asso­ciates. The arti­cle also notes that Trump him­self donat­ed $20,000 to Project Ver­i­tas in 2015, the year his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign start­ed.

    It’s also worth recall­ing how Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca hired a num­ber of for­mer MI6 offi­cers and was char­ac­ter­ized as “MI6 for hire”. So this would be anoth­er exam­ple of for­mer British intel­li­gence offi­cers work­ing with the US far right.

    So the Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary’s mer­ce­nary broth­er hired ex-spies to train right-wing oper­a­tives to infil­trate groups includ­ing teach­ers union and those oper­a­tives hail from a dirty-tricks oper­a­tion with an estab­lished track record of cre­at­ing fake videos and inten­tion­al­ly deceiv­ing their audi­ences. Keep in mind that DeVos is a big crit­ic of teach­ers unions. Again, you would think this would be a big­ger deal. But, of course, this is the Trump era where right-wing dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions and dirty-tricks are an accept­ed norm so this report will pre­sum­ably be large­ly ignored as just a report on the New Nor­mal:

    The New York Times

    Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infil­trate Lib­er­al Groups

    Mr. Prince, a con­trac­tor close to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, con­tact­ed vet­er­an spies for oper­a­tions by Project Ver­i­tas, the con­ser­v­a­tive group known for con­duct­ing stings on news orga­ni­za­tions and oth­er groups.

    By Mark Mazzetti and Adam Gold­man

    Pub­lished March 7, 2020
    Updat­ed March 9, 2020, 1:35 p.m. ET

    WASHINGTON — Erik Prince, the secu­ri­ty con­trac­tor with close ties to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, has in recent years helped recruit for­mer Amer­i­can and British spies for secre­tive intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing oper­a­tions that includ­ed infil­trat­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­gres­sion­al cam­paigns, labor orga­ni­za­tions and oth­er groups con­sid­ered hos­tile to the Trump agen­da, accord­ing to inter­views and doc­u­ments.

    One of the for­mer spies, an ex-MI6 offi­cer named Richard Sed­don, helped run a 2017 oper­a­tion to copy files and record con­ver­sa­tions in a Michi­gan office of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers, one of the largest teach­ers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Sed­don direct­ed an under­cov­er oper­a­tive to secret­ly tape the union’s local lead­ers and try to gath­er infor­ma­tion that could be made pub­lic to dam­age the orga­ni­za­tion, doc­u­ments show.

    Using a dif­fer­ent alias the next year, the same under­cov­er oper­a­tive infil­trat­ed the con­gres­sion­al cam­paign of Abi­gail Span­berg­er, then a for­mer C.I.A. offi­cer who went on to win an an impor­tant House seat in Vir­ginia as a Demo­c­rat. The cam­paign dis­cov­ered the oper­a­tive and fired her.

    Both oper­a­tions were run by Project Ver­i­tas, a con­ser­v­a­tive group that has gained atten­tion using hid­den cam­eras and micro­phones for sting oper­a­tions on news orga­ni­za­tions, Demo­c­ra­t­ic politi­cians and lib­er­al advo­ca­cy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teach­ers’ union oper­a­tion — detailed in inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas emails that have emerged from the dis­cov­ery process of a court bat­tle between the group and the union — has not pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruit­ing Mr. Sed­don for the group’s activ­i­ties.

    Both Project Ver­i­tas and Mr. Prince have ties to Pres­i­dent Trump’s aides and fam­i­ly. Whether any Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials or advis­ers to the pres­i­dent were involved in the oper­a­tions, even tac­it­ly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vig­or­ous pri­vate cam­paign to try to under­mine polit­i­cal groups or indi­vid­u­als per­ceived to be in oppo­si­tion to Mr. Trump’s agen­da.

    Mr. Prince, the for­mer head of Black­wa­ter World­wide and the broth­er of Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos, has at times served as an infor­mal advis­er to Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials. He worked with the for­mer nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael T. Fly­nn dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion. In 2017, he met with White House and Pen­ta­gon offi­cials to pitch a plan to pri­va­tize the Afghan war using con­trac­tors in lieu of Amer­i­can troops. Jim Mat­tis, then the defense sec­re­tary, reject­ed the idea.

    Mr. Prince appears to have become inter­est­ed in using for­mer spies to train Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives in espi­onage tac­tics some­time dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Reach­ing out to sev­er­al intel­li­gence vet­er­ans — and occa­sion­al­ly using Mr. Sed­don to make the pitch — Mr. Prince said he want­ed the Project Ver­i­tas employ­ees to learn skills like how to recruit sources and how to con­duct clan­des­tine record­ings, among oth­er sur­veil­lance tech­niques.

    James O’Keefe, the head of Project Ver­i­tas, declined to answer detailed ques­tions about Mr. Prince, Mr. Sed­don and oth­er top­ics, but he called his group a “proud inde­pen­dent news orga­ni­za­tion” that is involved in dozens of inves­ti­ga­tions. He said that numer­ous sources were com­ing to the group “pro­vid­ing con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments, insights into inter­nal process­es and wear­ing hid­den cam­eras to expose cor­rup­tion and mis­con­duct.”

    “No one tells Project Ver­i­tas who or what to inves­ti­gate,” he said.

    ...

    Mr. Prince is under inves­ti­ga­tion by the Jus­tice Depart­ment over whether he lied to a con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee exam­in­ing Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion, and for pos­si­ble vio­la­tions of Amer­i­can export laws. Last year, the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee made a crim­i­nal refer­ral to the Jus­tice Depart­ment about Mr. Prince, say­ing he lied about the cir­cum­stances of his meet­ing with a Russ­ian banker in the Sey­chelles in Jan­u­ary 2017.

    Once a small oper­a­tion run­ning on a shoe­string bud­get, Project Ver­i­tas in recent years has had a surge in dona­tions from both pri­vate donors and con­ser­v­a­tive foun­da­tions. Accord­ing to its lat­est pub­licly avail­able tax fil­ing, Project Ver­i­tas received $8.6 mil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions and grants in 2018. Mr. O’Keefe earned about $387,000.

    Last year, the group received a $1 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion made through the law firm Alston & Bird, a finan­cial doc­u­ment obtained by The New York Times showed. A spokesman for the firm said that Alston & Bird “has nev­er con­tributed to Project Ver­i­tas on its own behalf, nor is it a client of ours.” The spokesman declined to say on whose behalf the con­tri­bu­tion was made.

    The finan­cial doc­u­ment also list­ed the names of oth­ers who gave much small­er amounts to Project Ver­i­tas last year. Sev­er­al of them con­firmed their dona­tions.

    The group has also become inter­twined with the polit­i­cal activ­i­ties of Mr. Trump and his fam­i­ly. The Trump Foun­da­tion gave $20,000 to Project Ver­i­tas in 2015, the year that Mr. Trump began his bid for the pres­i­den­cy. The next year, dur­ing a pres­i­den­tial debate with Hillary Clin­ton, Mr. Trump claimed with­out sub­stan­ti­a­tion that videos released by Mr. O’Keefe showed that Mrs. Clin­ton and Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma had paid peo­ple to incite vio­lence at ral­lies for Mr. Trump.

    In a book pub­lished in 2018, Mr. O’Keefe wrote that Mr. Trump years ear­li­er had encour­aged him to infil­trate Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty and obtain Mr. Obama’s records.

    Last month, Project Ver­i­tas made pub­lic secret­ly record­ed video of a long­time ABC News cor­re­spon­dent who was crit­i­cal of the network’s polit­i­cal cov­er­age and its empha­sis on busi­ness con­sid­er­a­tions over jour­nal­ism. Many con­ser­v­a­tives have glee­ful­ly pounced on Project Veritas’s dis­clo­sures, includ­ing one par­tic­u­lar­ly influ­en­tial voice: Don­ald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son.

    The web­site for Mr. O’Keefe’s com­ing wed­ding list­ed Don­ald Trump Jr. as an invit­ed guest.

    Mr. Prince invit­ed Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives — includ­ing Mr. O’Keefe — to his family’s Wyoming ranch for train­ing in 2017, The Inter­cept report­ed last year. Mr. O’Keefe and oth­ers shared social media pho­tos of tak­ing tar­get prac­tice with guns at the ranch, includ­ing one post from Mr. O’Keefe say­ing that with the train­ing, Project Ver­i­tas will be “the next great intel­li­gence agency.” Mr. Prince had hired a for­mer MI6 offi­cer to help train the Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives, The Inter­cept wrote, but it did not iden­ti­fy the offi­cer.

    Mr. Sed­don reg­u­lar­ly updat­ed Mr. O’Keefe about the oper­a­tion against the Michi­gan teach­ers’ union, accord­ing to inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas emails, where the lan­guage of the group’s lead­ers is mar­bled with spy jar­gon.

    They used a code name — Lib­er­tyU — for their oper­a­tive inside the orga­ni­za­tion, Marisa Jorge, who grad­u­at­ed from Lib­er­ty Uni­ver­si­ty in Vir­ginia, one of the nation’s largest Chris­t­ian col­leges. Mr. Sed­don wrote that Ms. Jorge “copied a great many doc­u­ments from the file room,” and Mr. O’Keefe bragged that the group would be able to get “a ton more access agents inside the edu­ca­tion­al estab­lish­ment.”

    The emails refer to oth­er oper­a­tions, includ­ing week­ly case updates, along with train­ing activ­i­ties that involved “oper­a­tional tar­get­ing.” Project Ver­i­tas redact­ed specifics about those oper­a­tions from the mes­sages.

    In August 2017, Ms. Jorge wrote to Mr. Sed­don that she had man­aged to record a local union leader talk­ing about Ms. DeVos and oth­er top­ics.

    “Good stuff,” Mr. Sed­don wrote back. “Did you receive the spare cam­era yet?”

    As edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary, Ms. DeVos has been a vocal crit­ic of teach­ers’ unions, say­ing in 2018 that they have a “stran­gle­hold” over politi­cians at the fed­er­al and state lev­els. She and Mr. Prince grew up in Michi­gan, where their father made a for­tune in the auto parts busi­ness.

    AFT Michi­gan sued Project Ver­i­tas in fed­er­al court, alleg­ing tres­pass­ing, eaves­drop­ping and oth­er offens­es. The teach­ers’ union is ask­ing for more than $3 mil­lion in dam­ages, accus­ing the group of being a “vig­i­lante orga­ni­za­tion which claims to be ded­i­cat­ed to expos­ing cor­rup­tion. It is, instead, an enti­ty ded­i­cat­ed to a spe­cif­ic polit­i­cal agen­da.”

    Project Ver­i­tas has said its activ­i­ties are legal and pro­tect­ed by the First Amend­ment, and the case is sched­uled to go to tri­al in the fall.

    Oth­er Project Ver­i­tas employ­ees on the emails include Joe Hal­der­man, an award-win­ning for­mer tele­vi­sion pro­duc­er who in 2010 plead­ed guilty to try­ing to extort $2 mil­lion from the come­di­an David Let­ter­man. Mr. Hal­der­man was copied on sev­er­al mes­sages pro­vid­ing updates about the Michi­gan oper­a­tion, and in one mes­sage, he gave instruc­tions to Ms. Jorge. Project Ver­i­tas tax fil­ings list Mr. Hal­der­man as a “project man­ag­er.”

    Two oth­er employ­ees, Gaz Thomas and Samuel Cham­ber­lain, were also iden­ti­fied in emails and appeared to play impor­tant roles in the Michi­gan oper­a­tion. Efforts to locate Mr. Thomas were unsuc­cess­ful. A man named Samuel Cham­ber­lain who matched the descrip­tion of the one employed by Mr. O’Keefe denied he worked for Project Ver­i­tas. He did not respond to fol­low-up phone mes­sages or an email.

    Last year, Project Ver­i­tas sub­mit­ted a pro­posed list of wit­ness­es for the tri­al over the law­suit. Mr. Cham­ber­lain and Mr. Thomas were on the list. Mr. Sed­don was not.

    Ms. Jorge, 25, did not respond to email address­es asso­ci­at­ed with her Lib­er­ty Uni­ver­si­ty account. In an archived ver­sion of her LinkedIn page, Ms. Jorge wrote she had a deep inter­est in the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment and hoped one day to serve on the Supreme Court after attend­ing law school.

    In a YouTube video, Mr. O’Keefe described the law­suit as “friv­o­lous” and point­ed to a por­tion of the depo­si­tion in which David Heck­er, the pres­i­dent of AFT Michi­gan, said that one of the goals of the law­suit was to “stop Project Ver­i­tas from doing the kind of work that it does.”

    Ran­di Wein­garten, the pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers, said in a state­ment: “Let’s be clear who the wrong­do­er is here: Project Ver­i­tas used a fake intern to lie her way into our Michi­gan office, to steal doc­u­ments and to spy — and they got caught. We’re just try­ing to hold them account­able for this indus­tri­al espi­onage.”

    In 2018, Ms. Jorge infil­trat­ed the con­gres­sion­al cam­paign of Ms. Span­berg­er, pos­ing as a cam­paign vol­un­teer. At the time, Ms. Span­berg­er was run­ning to unseat a sit­ting Repub­li­can con­gress­man in a race both par­ties con­sid­ered impor­tant for con­trol of the House. Ms. Jorge was even­tu­al­ly exposed and kicked out of the cam­paign office.

    It was unclear whether Mr. Sed­don was involved in plan­ning that oper­a­tion.

    Mr. Sed­don was a long­time British intel­li­gence offi­cer who served around the world, includ­ing in Wash­ing­ton in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He is mar­ried to an Amer­i­can diplo­mat, Alice Sed­don, who is serv­ing in the Amer­i­can con­sulate in Lagos, Nige­ria.

    Mr. O’Keefe and his group have tak­en aim at tar­gets over the years includ­ing Planned Par­ent­hood, The New York Times, The Wash­ing­ton Post and Democ­ra­cy Part­ners, a group that con­sults with lib­er­al and pro­gres­sive elec­toral caus­es. In 2016, a Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tive infil­trat­ed Democ­ra­cy Part­ners using a fake name and fab­ri­cat­ed résumé and made secret record­ings of the staff. The year after the sting, Democ­ra­cy Part­ners sued Project Ver­i­tas, and its lawyers have since deposed Mr. O’Keefe.

    In that depo­si­tion, Mr. O’Keefe defend­ed the group’s under­cov­er tac­tics, say­ing they were part of a long tra­di­tion of inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism going back to muck­rak­ing reporters like Upton Sin­clair. “I’m not ashamed of the meth­ods that we use or the record­ings that we use,” he said.

    He was asked whether he had pro­vid­ed any of the group’s secret record­ings of Democ­ra­cy Part­ners to the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee or any mem­ber of the Trump fam­i­ly. He said that he did not think so.

    In 2010, Mr. O’ Keefe and three oth­ers plead­ed guilty to a fed­er­al mis­de­meanor after admit­ting they entered a gov­ern­ment build­ing in New Orleans under false pre­tens­es as part of a sting.

    ———–

    “Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infil­trate Lib­er­al Groups” by Mark Mazzetti and Adam Gold­man; The New York Times; 03/07/2020

    “Both Project Ver­i­tas and Mr. Prince have ties to Pres­i­dent Trump’s aides and fam­i­ly. Whether any Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials or advis­ers to the pres­i­dent were involved in the oper­a­tions, even tac­it­ly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vig­or­ous pri­vate cam­paign to try to under­mine polit­i­cal groups or indi­vid­u­als per­ceived to be in oppo­si­tion to Mr. Trump’s agen­da.”

    Was this a Trump-involved pri­vate spy oper­a­tion? There’s no direct evi­dence of that yet, but the fact that the Trump fam­i­ly has deep ties to both Prince and Project Ver­i­tas and a loves dirty tricks itself would almost make it sur­pris­ing if the Trumps weren’t involved:

    ...
    The finan­cial doc­u­ment also list­ed the names of oth­ers who gave much small­er amounts to Project Ver­i­tas last year. Sev­er­al of them con­firmed their dona­tions.

    The group has also become inter­twined with the polit­i­cal activ­i­ties of Mr. Trump and his fam­i­ly. The Trump Foun­da­tion gave $20,000 to Project Ver­i­tas in 2015, the year that Mr. Trump began his bid for the pres­i­den­cy. The next year, dur­ing a pres­i­den­tial debate with Hillary Clin­ton, Mr. Trump claimed with­out sub­stan­ti­a­tion that videos released by Mr. O’Keefe showed that Mrs. Clin­ton and Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma had paid peo­ple to incite vio­lence at ral­lies for Mr. Trump.

    In a book pub­lished in 2018, Mr. O’Keefe wrote that Mr. Trump years ear­li­er had encour­aged him to infil­trate Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty and obtain Mr. Obama’s records.

    The web­site for Mr. O’Keefe’s com­ing wed­ding list­ed Don­ald Trump Jr. as an invit­ed guest.
    ...

    But whether or not the Trump team was direct­ly involved with this, it’s undoubt­ed­ly the case that the oper­a­tion worked in the inter­est of Trump’s edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos, a vocal crit­ic of teach­ers unions:

    ...
    As edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary, Ms. DeVos has been a vocal crit­ic of teach­ers’ unions, say­ing in 2018 that they have a “stran­gle­hold” over politi­cians at the fed­er­al and state lev­els. She and Mr. Prince grew up in Michi­gan, where their father made a for­tune in the auto parts busi­ness.
    ...

    It sounds like the spy train­ing start­ed in 2016 dur­ing the US pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. One of the ex-spies involved, Richard Sed­don, hap­pens to be a long­time British intel­li­gence offi­cer who is mar­ried to an Amer­i­can diplo­mat, Alice Sed­don:

    ...
    Mr. Prince appears to have become inter­est­ed in using for­mer spies to train Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives in espi­onage tac­tics some­time dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Reach­ing out to sev­er­al intel­li­gence vet­er­ans — and occa­sion­al­ly using Mr. Sed­don to make the pitch — Mr. Prince said he want­ed the Project Ver­i­tas employ­ees to learn skills like how to recruit sources and how to con­duct clan­des­tine record­ings, among oth­er sur­veil­lance tech­niques.

    ...

    Mr. Prince invit­ed Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives — includ­ing Mr. O’Keefe — to his family’s Wyoming ranch for train­ing in 2017, The Inter­cept report­ed last year. Mr. O’Keefe and oth­ers shared social media pho­tos of tak­ing tar­get prac­tice with guns at the ranch, includ­ing one post from Mr. O’Keefe say­ing that with the train­ing, Project Ver­i­tas will be “the next great intel­li­gence agency.” Mr. Prince had hired a for­mer MI6 offi­cer to help train the Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives, The Inter­cept wrote, but it did not iden­ti­fy the offi­cer.

    ...

    Mr. Sed­don was a long­time British intel­li­gence offi­cer who served around the world, includ­ing in Wash­ing­ton in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He is mar­ried to an Amer­i­can diplo­mat, Alice Sed­don, who is serv­ing in the Amer­i­can con­sulate in Lagos, Nige­ria.
    ...

    The oper­a­tions to infil­trate the teach­ers union was in 2017. The same oper­a­tive infil­trat­ed Abi­gail Span­berg­er’s 2018 cam­paign. Records show Project Ver­i­tas received $8.6 mil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions and grants in 2018 alone. It rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not those grants were made, in part, with these oper­a­tions in mind:

    ...
    One of the for­mer spies, an ex-MI6 offi­cer named Richard Sed­don, helped run a 2017 oper­a­tion to copy files and record con­ver­sa­tions in a Michi­gan office of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers, one of the largest teach­ers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Sed­don direct­ed an under­cov­er oper­a­tive to secret­ly tape the union’s local lead­ers and try to gath­er infor­ma­tion that could be made pub­lic to dam­age the orga­ni­za­tion, doc­u­ments show.

    Using a dif­fer­ent alias the next year, the same under­cov­er oper­a­tive infil­trat­ed the con­gres­sion­al cam­paign of Abi­gail Span­berg­er, then a for­mer C.I.A. offi­cer who went on to win an an impor­tant House seat in Vir­ginia as a Demo­c­rat. The cam­paign dis­cov­ered the oper­a­tive and fired her.

    Both oper­a­tions were run by Project Ver­i­tas, a con­ser­v­a­tive group that has gained atten­tion using hid­den cam­eras and micro­phones for sting oper­a­tions on news orga­ni­za­tions, Demo­c­ra­t­ic politi­cians and lib­er­al advo­ca­cy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teach­ers’ union oper­a­tion — detailed in inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas emails that have emerged from the dis­cov­ery process of a court bat­tle between the group and the union — has not pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruit­ing Mr. Sed­don for the group’s activ­i­ties.

    ...

    Once a small oper­a­tion run­ning on a shoe­string bud­get, Project Ver­i­tas in recent years has had a surge in dona­tions from both pri­vate donors and con­ser­v­a­tive foun­da­tions. Accord­ing to its lat­est pub­licly avail­able tax fil­ing, Project Ver­i­tas received $8.6 mil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions and grants in 2018. Mr. O’Keefe earned about $387,000.

    Last year, the group received a $1 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion made through the law firm Alston & Bird, a finan­cial doc­u­ment obtained by The New York Times showed. A spokesman for the firm said that Alston & Bird “has nev­er con­tributed to Project Ver­i­tas on its own behalf, nor is it a client of ours.” The spokesman declined to say on whose behalf the con­tri­bu­tion was made.
    ...

    Dis­turb­ing, it does­n’t sound like the oper­a­tive used in these oper­a­tions, Marisa Jorge, is the only per­son Project Ver­i­tas sent in to infil­trate the edu­ca­tion­al estab­lish­ment. In one email, O’Keefe brags about how the group would be able to get “a ton more access agents inside the edu­ca­tion­al estab­lish­ment”:

    ...
    Mr. Sed­don reg­u­lar­ly updat­ed Mr. O’Keefe about the oper­a­tion against the Michi­gan teach­ers’ union, accord­ing to inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas emails, where the lan­guage of the group’s lead­ers is mar­bled with spy jar­gon.

    They used a code name — Lib­er­tyU — for their oper­a­tive inside the orga­ni­za­tion, Marisa Jorge, who grad­u­at­ed from Lib­er­ty Uni­ver­si­ty in Vir­ginia, one of the nation’s largest Chris­t­ian col­leges. Mr. Sed­don wrote that Ms. Jorge “copied a great many doc­u­ments from the file room,” and Mr. O’Keefe bragged that the group would be able to get “a ton more access agents inside the edu­ca­tion­al estab­lish­ment.”

    ...

    Ms. Jorge, 25, did not respond to email address­es asso­ci­at­ed with her Lib­er­ty Uni­ver­si­ty account. In an archived ver­sion of her LinkedIn page, Ms. Jorge wrote she had a deep inter­est in the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment and hoped one day to serve on the Supreme Court after attend­ing law school.

    ...

    In 2018, Ms. Jorge infil­trat­ed the con­gres­sion­al cam­paign of Ms. Span­berg­er, pos­ing as a cam­paign vol­un­teer. At the time, Ms. Span­berg­er was run­ning to unseat a sit­ting Repub­li­can con­gress­man in a race both par­ties con­sid­ered impor­tant for con­trol of the House. Ms. Jorge was even­tu­al­ly exposed and kicked out of the cam­paign office.
    ...

    Oth­er fig­ures in the spy­ing of the teach­ers union include Joe Hal­der­man, a for­mer tele­vi­sion pro­duc­er who tried to black­mail David Let­ter­man for $2 mil­lion in 2010:

    ...
    Oth­er Project Ver­i­tas employ­ees on the emails include Joe Hal­der­man, an award-win­ning for­mer tele­vi­sion pro­duc­er who in 2010 plead­ed guilty to try­ing to extort $2 mil­lion from the come­di­an David Let­ter­man. Mr. Hal­der­man was copied on sev­er­al mes­sages pro­vid­ing updates about the Michi­gan oper­a­tion, and in one mes­sage, he gave instruc­tions to Ms. Jorge. Project Ver­i­tas tax fil­ings list Mr. Hal­der­man as a “project man­ag­er.”
    ...

    And these oper­a­tions to spy on a teach­ers union and Span­berg­er’s cam­paign are just the two oper­a­tions that we know about. Emails made avail­able to the court dur­ing the dis­cov­ery process of the law­suit over the spy­ing refer to oth­er oper­a­tions, although details of those oper­a­tions were redact­ed by Project Ver­i­tas:

    ...
    The emails refer to oth­er oper­a­tions, includ­ing week­ly case updates, along with train­ing activ­i­ties that involved “oper­a­tional tar­get­ing.” Project Ver­i­tas redact­ed specifics about those oper­a­tions from the mes­sages.

    In August 2017, Ms. Jorge wrote to Mr. Sed­don that she had man­aged to record a local union leader talk­ing about Ms. DeVos and oth­er top­ics.

    “Good stuff,” Mr. Sed­don wrote back. “Did you receive the spare cam­era yet?”
    ...

    So we know there are oth­er spy­ing oper­a­tions. We just don’t know what they involve.

    But con­sid­er­ing that the same under­cov­er oper­a­tive, Marisa Jorge, was used to both spy on the teach­ers union and lat­er infil­trate Span­berg­er’s cam­paign, you have to won­der of Jorge is involved in these oth­er oper­a­tions. And that points to some­thing that can and should be done to min­i­mize the dam­age Project Ver­i­tas is capa­ble of: make the faces of known Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives wide­ly known! It’s not like there aren’t names and faces for these peo­ple. There’s an entire web­site, projectveritas.exposed, that is ded­i­cat­ed to doc­u­ment­ing and build­ing pro­files on the peo­ple involved with Project Ver­i­tas and it turns out they have a pro­file on Jorge with lots of pho­tos. And in that pro­file they note that before Jorge infil­trat­ed the Michi­gan chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­al of Teach­ers in 2017 and Abi­gail Span­berg­er’s cam­paign in 2018, she infil­trat­ed the cam­paigns of Deb­o­rah Ross, Roy Coop­er, and Hillary Clin­ton’s cam­paign in 2016. Both Ross and Coop­er are in North Car­oli­na, which pre­sum­ably helped with the logis­tics of infil­trat­ing mul­ti­ple cam­paigns simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. Oh, and she infil­trat­ed the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Social­ists of Amer­i­ca in 2018, the same year she infil­trat­ed Span­berg­er’s cam­paign. So Jorge is some­one Democ­rats, unions, and any oth­er left-lean­ing group should be made aware of because she’s clear­ly some the group prefers to use. Plus, now she has that spy train­ing.

    So per­haps there should be a lot more done to spread the infor­ma­tion on Project Ver­i­tas Exposed. They have pho­tos and pro­files on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent under­cov­er oper­a­tives. Just look at the home page. Why not take those pho­tos and make online ads on left-wing sites like Dai­lyKos? Just like “Be on the look­out” ads. That’s prob­a­bly pret­ty cheap and you might be able to get some of these sites to allow the ads for free or at least for cheap. It would be a pub­lic ser­vice, after all.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 10, 2020, 1:52 pm

Post a comment