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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

5 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
  3. Pres­i­dent Trump just issued anoth­er pub­lic rebuke against one of his top offi­cials. This time it was FBI direc­to­ry Christo­pher Wray, who Trump described as “dis­ap­point­ing”. Why? Because Wray did­n’t do more to inves­ti­gate Trump’s fan­ta­sy claims about vast mail-in vot­er fraud. Keep in mind that Wray dis­missed mail-in vot­er fraud con­cerns dur­ing a con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny a cou­ple of weeks ago.

    And since prep­ping the Repub­li­can elec­torate to treat a Trump loss as the sign of mas­sive vot­er fraud (with the hopes of some­how forc­ing a vic­to­ry through non-demo­c­ra­t­ic means) has now become the core reelec­tion strat­e­gy of the Trump cam­paign, it’s worth not­ing one of the recent vot­er fraud rev­e­la­tions. They weren’t rev­e­la­tions about actu­al vot­er fraud. Instead, the rev­e­la­tions are about how a new ‘vot­er fraud’ sto­ry recent­ly pumped out by Project Ver­i­tas and pro­mot­ed by Don­ald Trump Jr. and the right-wing media ecosys­tem are hoax garbage. As both of the fol­low­ing arti­cles make clear, the alle­ga­tions in the Project Ver­i­tas video are either alle­ga­tions of wrong­do­ing about things that aren’t actu­al­ly ille­gal or selec­tive­ly edit­ed videos tak­en out of con­text. So this was a typ­i­cal Project Ver­i­tas release.

    The first excerpt below, we learn that Project Ver­i­tas and the right-wing media ecosys­tem had been hyp­ing the release of its vot­er fraud video for weeks, with an announced release date of Sep­tem­ber 28. But the video end­ed up being release a day ear­li­er, just hours after the sto­ry hit about Trump’s pay­ing almost noth­ing in income tax­es for years. The right-wing social media ecosys­tem rapid­ly pro­mot­ed the Project Ver­i­tas sto­ry and soon it was trend­ing on twit­ter and com­pet­ing with the tax returns sto­ry. It was a media move rem­i­nis­cent to the 2016 release of hacked emails in Octo­ber by Wik­ileaks just hours after the release of infa­mous Hol­ly­wood Access Trump tapes.

    The ear­ly release of the video ahead of the heav­i­ly pub­li­cized release date but just hours after the embar­rass­ing Trump tax return sto­ry was one of the data points that sug­gest­ed the video was released in a coor­di­nat­ed man­ner. But there was more direct evi­dence that Project Ver­i­tas was coor­di­nat­ing direct­ly with the White House. It turns out Don­ald Trump Jr. uploaded his own copy of the Project Ver­i­tas video sev­en min­utes after James O’Keefe uploaded the offi­cial video to Twit­ter. But Trump Jr’s ver­sion of the video did­n’t con­tain the “from James O’Keefe” label that O’Keefe’s had. In addi­tion, Trump Jr. uploaded the video to Face­book 10 min­utes before O’Keefe placed his own ver­sion there. The Trump White House is deny­ing there was any coor­di­na­tion.

    Now, in the sec­ond arti­cle excerpt below, we learn that one of the men fea­tured in the video is not only assert­ing that the footage of him was footage tak­en com­plete­ly out of con­text and decep­tive­ly edit­ed, but also that a man work­ing for Project Ver­i­tas offer him $10,000 to make of the vot­er fraud claims. Project Ver­i­tas videos have always been joke tripe but now that the Trump White House is going to be rely­ing on claims from groups like Project Ver­i­tas to spark a civ­il war if he los­es the elec­tion this joke tripe has tak­en on a dead­ly new lev­el of seri­ous­ness. Also recall how O’Keefe has been work­ing with Erik Prince to get mer­ce­nary spy train­ing for his oper­a­tives and that O’Keefe bragged that Project Ver­i­tas will be “the next great intel­li­gence agency”, so Project Ver­i­tas should real­ly be con­sid­ered a para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion at this point.

    Ok, first, here’s the NY Times piece on how researchers have iden­ti­fied the right-wing social media net­work that was hyp­ing the Project Ver­i­tas sto­ry well in advance of the video release and then all sud­den­ly pushed the sto­ry to the top of the social media trend­ing con­tent when the video was released a day in advance, hours after the Trump-tax­es sto­ry:

    The New York Times

    Project Ver­i­tas Video Was a ‘Coor­di­nat­ed Dis­in­for­ma­tion Cam­paign,’ Researchers Say

    The tim­ing of the decep­tive video, which accus­es Ilhan Omar of vot­er fraud, indi­cates that sev­er­al con­ser­v­a­tives, includ­ing Don­ald Trump Jr., may have known about it in advance.

    By Mag­gie Astor
    Sept. 29, 2020

    A decep­tive video released on Sun­day by the con­ser­v­a­tive activist James O’Keefe, which claimed through uniden­ti­fied sources and with no ver­i­fi­able evi­dence that Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ilhan Omar’s cam­paign had col­lect­ed bal­lots ille­gal­ly, was prob­a­bly part of a coor­di­nat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion effort, accord­ing to researchers at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton.

    Mr. O’Keefe and his group, Project Ver­i­tas, appear to have made an abrupt deci­sion to release the video soon­er than planned after The New York Times pub­lished a sweep­ing inves­ti­ga­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump’s tax­es, the researchers said. They also not­ed that the tim­ing and meta­da­ta of a Twit­ter post in which Mr. Trump’s son shared the video sug­gest­ed that he might have known about it in advance.

    Project Ver­i­tas had hyped the video on social media for sev­er­al days before pub­lish­ing it. In posts ampli­fied by oth­er promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tive accounts, Mr. O’Keefe teased what he said was evi­dence of vot­er fraud, and urged peo­ple to sign up at “ballot-harvesting.com” to receive the sup­posed evi­dence when it came out. (None of the mate­r­i­al in the video actu­al­ly proved vot­er fraud.)

    Mr. O’Keefe’s pro­mo­tion­al posts had said the video would be released on Mon­day, but Project Ver­i­tas released it on Sun­day instead, a few hours after the pub­li­ca­tion of The Times’s inves­ti­ga­tion. The researchers con­clud­ed that this tim­ing was unlike­ly to be a coin­ci­dence “giv­en the huge mar­ket­ing about a 9/28 release date,” they wrote in an analy­sis that Alex Sta­mos, who led the research team at the Stan­ford Inter­net Obser­va­to­ry, shared with The Times.

    “It’s a great exam­ple of what a coor­di­nat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign looks like: pre-seed­ing the ground and then simul­ta­ne­ous­ly hit­ting from a bunch of dif­fer­ent accounts at once,” Mr. Sta­mos said.

    Many of the same accounts that had shared pro­mo­tion­al tweets also shared the video as soon as it was released, mov­ing it quick­ly into Twitter’s trend­ing top­ics along­side The Times’s tax inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Rough­ly an hour after The Times pub­lished its arti­cle, Mike Lin­dell, chief exec­u­tive of MyP­il­low and hon­orary chair­man of Mr. Trump’s Min­neso­ta cam­paign, tweet­ed a video of him­self say­ing that Project Veritas’s sup­posed exposé would be released that night at 9 p.m. East­ern time.

    ...

    Mr. O’Keefe post­ed the video on Twit­ter at 9 p.m. on the dot, and the president’s son Don­ald Trump Jr. tweet­ed it just sev­en min­utes lat­er. Two min­utes after that, the president’s “war room” account retweet­ed him, and the pres­i­dent him­self soon began com­ment­ing.

    Notably, the video that the younger Mr. Trump post­ed did not have the “from James O’Keefe” label that appeared when oth­er Twit­ter users shared the video uploaded by Mr. O’Keefe.

    “This detail, along with video meta­da­ta demon­strat­ing that the Don­ald Trump Jr. ver­sion of the video was sep­a­rate­ly uploaded and re-encod­ed by Twit­ter, indi­cates that the Trump cam­paign pos­si­bly had access to the video before the gen­er­al pub­lic and rais­es ques­tions of coor­di­na­tion,” the Stan­ford and Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton researchers wrote, not­ing also that Mr. Trump post­ed the video on Face­book 10 min­utes before Mr. O’Keefe post­ed it there.

    Asked for com­ment, the Trump cam­paign said that Don­ald Trump Jr. had received a down­load­able link to the video after it was pub­licly released. It did not com­ment on Mr. Lindell’s post or on the tim­ing of the video’s release, and a spokesman for the younger Mr. Trump did not respond to a request for com­ment.

    The video con­tains footage of a man, iden­ti­fied as Liban Mohamed, show­ing off bal­lots he says he has col­lect­ed for a Min­neapo­lis City Coun­cil can­di­date — some­thing that, depend­ing on when the video was filmed, may not have been ille­gal, because a dis­trict court judge in July tem­porar­i­ly sus­pend­ed Minnesota’s ban on third par­ties col­lect­ing and return­ing large num­bers of com­plet­ed bal­lots. Mr. Mohamed was not work­ing for Ms. Omar.

    The video then claims that Demo­c­ra­t­ic oper­a­tives con­nect­ed to Ms. Omar’s cam­paign paid vot­ers to hand over blank mail-in bal­lots and filled them out. This would be ille­gal, but the alle­ga­tions come sole­ly from unnamed peo­ple who speak with Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives in the video and whose faces are not shown.

    On Mon­day, the Min­neapo­lis Police Depart­ment said it was “look­ing into the valid­i­ty” of the claims in the video, which a spokesman for Ms. Omar described as “a coor­di­nat­ed right wing effort to dele­git­imize a free and fair elec­tion.”

    Mr. O’Keefe and Project Ver­i­tas have a long his­to­ry of releas­ing manip­u­lat­ed or selec­tive­ly edit­ed footage pur­port­ing to show ille­gal con­duct by Democ­rats and lib­er­al groups.

    The researchers report­ed the video to mul­ti­ple social media plat­forms. Face­book added a link to its “vot­ing infor­ma­tion cen­ter” to one upload of the video but placed no notice on the orig­i­nal upload. Twit­ter, YouTube and Red­dit took no action. Tik­Tok was the only plat­form that removed all uploads of the video.

    ————

    “Project Ver­i­tas Video Was a ‘Coor­di­nat­ed Dis­in­for­ma­tion Cam­paign,’ Researchers Say” by Mag­gie Astor; The New York Times; 09/29/2020

    ““It’s a great exam­ple of what a coor­di­nat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign looks like: pre-seed­ing the ground and then simul­ta­ne­ous­ly hit­ting from a bunch of dif­fer­ent accounts at once,” Mr. Sta­mos said.”

    A coor­di­nat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign that includ­ed a coor­di­nat­ed hype-phase and then boost to ensure it’s tend­ing when it’s final­ly released. It’s the kind of cam­paign that obvi­ous­ly requires behind the scenes coor­di­na­tion with a num­ber of dif­fer­ent actors so it should come as no sur­prise that the Trump White House was one those behind the scenes actors. It should also come as no sur­prise that the Trump White House is implau­si­bly deny­ing these claims:

    ...
    Many of the same accounts that had shared pro­mo­tion­al tweets also shared the video as soon as it was released, mov­ing it quick­ly into Twitter’s trend­ing top­ics along­side The Times’s tax inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Rough­ly an hour after The Times pub­lished its arti­cle, Mike Lin­dell, chief exec­u­tive of MyP­il­low and hon­orary chair­man of Mr. Trump’s Min­neso­ta cam­paign, tweet­ed a video of him­self say­ing that Project Veritas’s sup­posed exposé would be released that night at 9 p.m. East­ern time.

    ...

    Mr. O’Keefe post­ed the video on Twit­ter at 9 p.m. on the dot, and the president’s son Don­ald Trump Jr. tweet­ed it just sev­en min­utes lat­er. Two min­utes after that, the president’s “war room” account retweet­ed him, and the pres­i­dent him­self soon began com­ment­ing.

    Notably, the video that the younger Mr. Trump post­ed did not have the “from James O’Keefe” label that appeared when oth­er Twit­ter users shared the video uploaded by Mr. O’Keefe.

    “This detail, along with video meta­da­ta demon­strat­ing that the Don­ald Trump Jr. ver­sion of the video was sep­a­rate­ly uploaded and re-encod­ed by Twit­ter, indi­cates that the Trump cam­paign pos­si­bly had access to the video before the gen­er­al pub­lic and rais­es ques­tions of coor­di­na­tion,” the Stan­ford and Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton researchers wrote, not­ing also that Mr. Trump post­ed the video on Face­book 10 min­utes before Mr. O’Keefe post­ed it there.
    ...

    And what alle­ga­tions there are in the video are either alle­ga­tions of some­thing not nec­es­sar­i­ly ille­gal or alle­ga­tions of things that are def­i­nite­ly ille­gal but are alleged only from unnamed peo­ple whose faces are not shown:

    ...
    The video con­tains footage of a man, iden­ti­fied as Liban Mohamed, show­ing off bal­lots he says he has col­lect­ed for a Min­neapo­lis City Coun­cil can­di­date — some­thing that, depend­ing on when the video was filmed, may not have been ille­gal, because a dis­trict court judge in July tem­porar­i­ly sus­pend­ed Minnesota’s ban on third par­ties col­lect­ing and return­ing large num­bers of com­plet­ed bal­lots. Mr. Mohamed was not work­ing for Ms. Omar.

    The video then claims that Demo­c­ra­t­ic oper­a­tives con­nect­ed to Ms. Omar’s cam­paign paid vot­ers to hand over blank mail-in bal­lots and filled them out. This would be ille­gal, but the alle­ga­tions come sole­ly from unnamed peo­ple who speak with Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives in the video and whose faces are not shown.
    ...

    And since videos of this nature — with anony­mous sources mak­ing claims — can obvi­ous­ly be hoaxed and since Project Ver­i­tas has a long track record of hoax­es and decep­tive­ly edit­ed videos, we have to ask if any of the anony­mous peo­ple mak­ing these claims were paid or just actors? And, sure enough, we got our answer: Liban Osman — one of the peo­ple fea­tured promi­nent­ly in the video alleged­ly engaged in ille­gal bal­lot har­vest­ing — is not only mak­ing claims about wild­ly decep­tive edit­ing of the videos he’s in but he’s also claim­ing he was offered $10,000 by a com­mu­ni­ty activist work­ing for Project Ver­i­tas to make the claims. That’s was we learned a few days ago in a local Twin Cities report on Fox 9.

    Osman­’s broth­er, Jamal Osman, also just ran for elec­tion this year and is the new­ly elect­ed Ward 6 Min­neapo­lis City Coun­cil­man. The com­mu­ni­ty activist who alleged­ly made the bribe, Omar Jamal, told Osman, “‘Why are you defend­ing Ilhan Omar?’...’They (Project Ver­i­tas) are not after you or your broth­er. Why are you defend­ing her?’’”

    Osman also asserts that the clip of video where he appears to be ille­gal­ly har­vest­ing bal­lots for Ilhan Omar is a decep­tive­ly edit­ed com­pi­la­tion of two videos. One video of Osman in a car pick­ing up bal­lots is from July. Osman believes it was late July, but the Project Ver­i­tas video claims it was from ear­ly July. This is an impor­tant dis­tinc­tion because court rul­ings allowed for more than three bal­lots to be picked up by vol­un­teers — known as “bal­lot har­vest­ing” — start­ing from July 28 to Sep­tem­ber 4 of this year. This is one rea­son it’s unclear if what the video is show­ing is ille­gal at all.

    But then the video goes on to sug­gest that Osman was being paid by Omar’s cam­paign to engage in ille­gal bal­lot har­vest­ing by play­ing video of Osman say­ing, “Mon­ey is every­thing. It’s the key to this world.” Osman says this video was actu­al­ly tak­en in August and was direct­ed at the oppo­nents of his broth­er in the Ward 6 spe­cial elec­tion.

    So how did Project Ver­i­tas get Osman­’s videos? He uploaded them to SnapChat. So it appears that Project Ver­i­tas took two sep­a­rate SnapChat videos that Osman uploaded while he was engaged in legal bal­lot har­vest­ing, one from late July and one from August, then spliced them togeth­er and claimed it was from ear­ly July and indi­cat­ing he was paid to bal­lot har­vest. Or we could take Project Ver­i­tas at its word and assume that Osman just inten­tion­al­ly uploaded to SnapChat incrim­i­nat­ing videos of him­self ille­gal­ly bal­lot har­vest­ing for fun. Which side should we believe? Hmmm...

    Note that Fox 9 got to view the raw videos that Osman is refer­ring to and it is clear that the video post­ed by Project Ver­i­tas is a con­struct of these two videos.

    And that’s not the only inci­dent of fraud in the video. There’s also a scene that appears to show­ing some­one receive $200 for bal­lots. But two sources told FOX 9 Inves­ti­ga­tors that the man receiv­ing the mon­ey is actu­al­ly a rel­a­tive of Omar Jamal and the mon­ey was intend­ed for the fam­i­ly of a sick rel­a­tive in Soma­lia. So as we should have expect­ed, we have anoth­er Project Ver­i­tas video that is a com­bi­na­tion of exag­ger­a­tion, decep­tion, and out­right fraud:

    FOX 9

    Sub­ject of Project Ver­i­tas vot­er fraud sto­ry says he was offered bribe

    By Tom Lyden
    Pub­lished 10/07/2020
    Updat­ed 10/08/2020

    (FOX 9) — Liban Osman is still try­ing to fig­ure out how he became a sym­bol of vot­er fraud in Amer­i­ca.

    “It’s insane,” said the broth­er of new­ly elect­ed Ward 6 Min­neapo­lis City Coun­cil­man Jamal Osman.

    Liban Osman is fea­tured promi­nent­ly in a video released last week by the con­ser­v­a­tive media oper­a­tion Project Ver­i­tas claim­ing there is “mas­sive vot­er fraud” in Min­neso­ta orches­trat­ed by Con­gress­woman Ilhan Omar.

    In his first inter­view, Liban Osman tells the FOX 9 Inves­ti­ga­tors he was offered $10,000 by com­mu­ni­ty activist Omar Jamal to say he was col­lect­ing bal­lots for Con­gress­woman Ilhan Omar.

    “He was set­ting me up,” said Liban Osman.

    Tale of Two Videos

    It is clear from the raw video, obtained by FOX 9, that Liban Osman was work­ing for his brother’s cam­paign.

    Liban Osman admits the Project Ver­i­tas video footage looks incrim­i­nat­ing, but he said the group delib­er­ate­ly left the full con­text on the cut­ting room floor. Project Ver­i­tas used two sep­a­rate videos he post­ed on Snapchat while dri­ving in his car to make it appear as if he was ille­gal­ly pick­ing up bal­lots and offer­ing mon­ey for votes, he said.

    In a video from July, Liban Osman said he was col­lect­ing mail in bal­lots from sick and elder­ly vot­ers who had request­ed them through the cam­paign.

    Liban Osman denies that he filled out the bal­lots or altered them in any way. He said what appears to be open bal­lots lay­ing on the dash of his car are actu­al­ly the envelopes the bal­lots came in. He said vot­ers con­cerned about iden­ti­ty theft asked him to shred the envelopes.

    Despite his boast that he had 300 bal­lots in the car, he said the actu­al num­ber was clos­er to 20.

    ‘Mon­ey Is Every­thing’

    Because of var­i­ous court deci­sions, so-called ‘bal­lot har­vest­ing’ — col­lect­ing more than the statu­to­ry lim­it of three bal­lots — was per­mit­ted dur­ing a five-week peri­od this sum­mer, from July 28 to Sep­tem­ber 4.

    An attor­ney for Project Ver­i­tas claims Liban Osman’s Snapchat video col­lect­ing mail-in bal­lots was record­ed in ear­ly July, mak­ing it ille­gal at the time to har­vest more than three bal­lots.

    Liban Osman could not recall the exact date he record­ed the video, but said he believed it was in late July.

    That video from July is edit­ed with anoth­er video from August, when Liban Osman is heard boast­ing about mon­ey in pol­i­tics. “Mon­ey is every­thing. It’s the key to this world,” he says.

    The unedit­ed video reveals the com­ments were clear­ly direct­ed at his brother’s 11 oppo­nents in the Ward 6 spe­cial elec­tion, many of whom were oper­at­ing shoe-string cam­paigns.

    ‘Why are you defend­ing Ilhan Omar?’

    Liban Osman said he was approached by com­mu­ni­ty activist Omar Jamal, who is a so-called ‘insid­er’ for Project Ver­i­tas and appears to be their pri­ma­ry source.

    Omar Jamal, who he had not met pre­vi­ous­ly, told him Project Ver­i­tas would pay him $10,000 to say he was har­vest­ing bal­lots for Con­gress­woman Ilhan Omar.

    “He said, ‘Why are you defend­ing Ilhan Omar?’” Liban recounts. “’They (Project Ver­i­tas) are not after you or your broth­er. Why are you defend­ing her?’’”

    “I told him he was insane and walked away,” Liban Osman said.

    Project Ver­i­tas denies manip­u­lat­ing or mis­rep­re­sent­ing its under­cov­er video and claims it nev­er offered Liban Osman $10,000.

    Project Ver­i­tas Responds

    “These are wild, and crazy, and base­less accu­sa­tions,” said Jered Ede, chief legal offi­cer for Project Ver­i­tas.

    “This, to me, is a man who is drown­ing in the con­se­quences of his own actions, who is try­ing to grasp at every pos­si­ble straw to keep him­self from going under,” Ede said.

    In a sec­ond report from Project Ver­i­tas, sur­rep­ti­tious­ly record­ed video shows a man receiv­ing $200 in “pock­et mon­ey” in exchange for his agree­ment to vote for Ilhan Omar.

    James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Ver­i­tas, calls it “an explo­sive piece of tape.”

    But two sources tell the FOX 9 Inves­ti­ga­tors the man is a rel­a­tive of Omar Jamal, and that dur­ing the encounter out­side Cedar River­side Apart­ments, it is Jamal who is hand­ing the man $200 which was intend­ed for the fam­i­ly of a sick rel­a­tive in Soma­lia.

    The Project Ver­i­tas reports also con­tend, with­out evi­dence, that the cash for bal­lots scheme is being bank rolled by Lake Street busi­ness­man Basim Sabri.

    In the sec­ond video, an anony­mous woman said, “He’s Pales­tin­ian. He’s fund­ing the whole thing.”

    “It’s so un-Amer­i­can, it’s so ille­gal,” said Sabri, reached at his home in Mia­mi.

    Sabri pro­vid­ed the FOX 9 Inves­ti­ga­tors with a let­ter from his attor­ney threat­en­ing to sue Project Ver­i­tas for defama­tion if they do not remove the video.

    Sabri acknowl­edged that he is a long-time sup­port­er of Con­gress­woman Ilhan Omar, and said he has also com­plained to the DFL about pri­or vot­ing fraud in Ward 6. “I would nev­er do that. Ever. Nev­er. Because I would be a hyp­ocrite,” said Sabri.

    For his part, Omar Jamal has used his appear­ance in the Project Ver­i­tas reports to raise near­ly $30,000. In an inter­view with Soma­li Amer­i­can TV, he report­ed­ly back­tracked on claims he wit­nessed cash being exchanged for bal­lots.

    Omar Jamal declined an inter­view request, refer­ring ques­tions instead to Project Ver­i­tas.

    Pres­i­dent Trump has repeat­ed­ly tweet­ed about the Min­neso­ta vot­er fraud claims and men­tioned it at his cam­paign stop in Duluth last week.

    “What about Omar that she gets caught har­vest­ing,” Trump bel­lowed at the cam­paign event short­ly before he became sick with COVID-19. “What the hell is going on?”

    Con­gress­woman Ilhan Omar’s cam­paign has cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly and repeat­ed­ly denied any involve­ment in vot­ing fraud, har­vest­ing bal­lots, or pay­ing for votes.

    A Pat­tern of Dis­in­for­ma­tion

    The lack of ver­i­fi­able evi­dence, alle­ga­tions of mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion and entrap­ment, and coor­di­na­tion with con­ser­v­a­tive caus­es, has been part of Project Ver­i­tas’ method of oper­a­tion.

    ...

    A week lat­er the first Project Ver­i­tas video on alleged vot­er fraud in Min­neso­ta had been viewed more than one mil­lion times on YouTube. The sec­ond report had been viewed more than a half-mil­lion times.

    ————

    “Sub­ject of Project Ver­i­tas vot­er fraud sto­ry says he was offered bribe” by Tom Lyden; FOX 9; 10/07/2020

    “In his first inter­view, Liban Osman tells the FOX 9 Inves­ti­ga­tors he was offered $10,000 by com­mu­ni­ty activist Omar Jamal to say he was col­lect­ing bal­lots for Con­gress­woman Ilhan Omar.”

    Is that the going rate for fake wit­ness­es? $10,000? You have to won­der how many peo­ple have been giv­en these kinds of offers. It’s almost amaz­ing there haven’t been more peo­ple com­ing out with fake claims of all sorts of right-wing fan­tasies. You also have to won­der if Omar Jamal is being paid too or is he a gen­uine far right fel­low trav­el­er:

    ...
    Liban Osman said he was approached by com­mu­ni­ty activist Omar Jamal, who is a so-called ‘insid­er’ for Project Ver­i­tas and appears to be their pri­ma­ry source.

    Omar Jamal, who he had not met pre­vi­ous­ly, told him Project Ver­i­tas would pay him $10,000 to say he was har­vest­ing bal­lots for Con­gress­woman Ilhan Omar.

    “He said, ‘Why are you defend­ing Ilhan Omar?’” Liban recounts. “’They (Project Ver­i­tas) are not after you or your broth­er. Why are you defend­ing her?’’”

    “I told him he was insane and walked away,” Liban Osman said.
    ...

    And note how, at this point, we are faced with a deci­sion of whose word to believe? The word of Liban Osman or the word of the ser­i­al liars at Project Ver­i­tas? The ser­i­al liars at Project Ver­i­tas who are already demon­stra­bly lying in this case. The Fox 9 inves­ti­ga­tors got to see the full clip of the videos pro­vid­ed by Osman. It’s unam­bigu­ous that Project Ver­i­tas took clips from two dif­fer­ent days and spliced them togeth­er. This isn’t in ques­tion. Project Ver­i­tas has already been caught lying about this video:

    ...
    It is clear from the raw video, obtained by FOX 9, that Liban Osman was work­ing for his brother’s cam­paign.

    Liban Osman admits the Project Ver­i­tas video footage looks incrim­i­nat­ing, but he said the group delib­er­ate­ly left the full con­text on the cut­ting room floor. Project Ver­i­tas used two sep­a­rate videos he post­ed on Snapchat while dri­ving in his car to make it appear as if he was ille­gal­ly pick­ing up bal­lots and offer­ing mon­ey for votes, he said.

    In a video from July, Liban Osman said he was col­lect­ing mail in bal­lots from sick and elder­ly vot­ers who had request­ed them through the cam­paign.

    Liban Osman denies that he filled out the bal­lots or altered them in any way. He said what appears to be open bal­lots lay­ing on the dash of his car are actu­al­ly the envelopes the bal­lots came in. He said vot­ers con­cerned about iden­ti­ty theft asked him to shred the envelopes.

    ...

    Because of var­i­ous court deci­sions, so-called ‘bal­lot har­vest­ing’ — col­lect­ing more than the statu­to­ry lim­it of three bal­lots — was per­mit­ted dur­ing a five-week peri­od this sum­mer, from July 28 to Sep­tem­ber 4.

    An attor­ney for Project Ver­i­tas claims Liban Osman’s Snapchat video col­lect­ing mail-in bal­lots was record­ed in ear­ly July, mak­ing it ille­gal at the time to har­vest more than three bal­lots.

    Liban Osman could not recall the exact date he record­ed the video, but said he believed it was in late July.

    That video from July is edit­ed with anoth­er video from August, when Liban Osman is heard boast­ing about mon­ey in pol­i­tics. “Mon­ey is every­thing. It’s the key to this world,” he says.

    The unedit­ed video reveals the com­ments were clear­ly direct­ed at his brother’s 11 oppo­nents in the Ward 6 spe­cial elec­tion, many of whom were oper­at­ing shoe-string cam­paigns.
    ...

    Then there’s the footage of the man receiv­ing $200 for bal­lots that was real­ly just Omar Jamal giv­ing mon­ey to his rel­a­tive. And Jamal even admit­ted this lat­er in an inter­view with Soma­li Amer­i­can TV:

    ...
    In a sec­ond report from Project Ver­i­tas, sur­rep­ti­tious­ly record­ed video shows a man receiv­ing $200 in “pock­et mon­ey” in exchange for his agree­ment to vote for Ilhan Omar.

    James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Ver­i­tas, calls it “an explo­sive piece of tape.”

    But two sources tell the FOX 9 Inves­ti­ga­tors the man is a rel­a­tive of Omar Jamal, and that dur­ing the encounter out­side Cedar River­side Apart­ments, it is Jamal who is hand­ing the man $200 which was intend­ed for the fam­i­ly of a sick rel­a­tive in Soma­lia.

    ...

    For his part, Omar Jamal has used his appear­ance in the Project Ver­i­tas reports to raise near­ly $30,000. In an inter­view with Soma­li Amer­i­can TV, he report­ed­ly back­tracked on claims he wit­nessed cash being exchanged for bal­lots.

    Omar Jamal declined an inter­view request, refer­ring ques­tions instead to Project Ver­i­tas.
    ...

    Note in the inter­view for Soma­li Amer­i­can TV, Jamal claims the footage of the exchange of mon­ey was intend­ed to be a demon­stra­tion of how such trans­ac­tions are done. Which, of course, it not at all how it was por­trayed by Project Ver­i­tas.

    And as the arti­cle notes, despite this video being dis­cred­it­ed almost imme­di­ate­ly, Pres­i­dent Trump was tout­ing this sto­ry at one of his COVID super-spread cam­paign in Min­neso­ta just short­ly before he was offi­cial­ly announced as being infect­ed:

    ...
    Pres­i­dent Trump has repeat­ed­ly tweet­ed about the Min­neso­ta vot­er fraud claims and men­tioned it at his cam­paign stop in Duluth last week.

    “What about Omar that she gets caught har­vest­ing,” Trump bel­lowed at the cam­paign event short­ly before he became sick with COVID-19. “What the hell is going on?”

    ...

    A week lat­er the first Project Ver­i­tas video on alleged vot­er fraud in Min­neso­ta had been viewed more than one mil­lion times on YouTube. The sec­ond report had been viewed more than a half-mil­lion times.
    ...

    It’s in keep­ing with the theme that’s emerged around Project Ver­i­tas: no mat­ter how many times they’ve been dis­cred­it­ed as ser­i­al liars they con­tin­ue to be treat­ed as a cred­i­ble source by the con­ser­v­a­tive media and the GOP. Because of course. The con­ser­v­a­tive media and GOP are just as dis­cred­it­ed. And that’s why, as of today, this dis­cred­it­ed Project Ver­i­tas video is prob­a­bly going to be one of the key pieces of ‘evi­dence’ the Trump admin­is­tra­tion trots out when it attempts to spark a civ­il war argu­ing the elec­tion was stolen. Which is pret­ty fit­ting if you think about it. If the US is going to fight a civ­il war over an avalanche of right-wing lies and dis­in­for­ma­tion as the pri­ma­ry ’cause’, it’s hard to think of a more fit­ting group to pro­vide the nec­es­sary lies and dis­in­for­ma­tion than Project Ver­i­tas.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 9, 2020, 4:03 pm
  4. One of more dis­turbing­ly preva­lent tech­niques of the far right that is increas­ing­ly being embraced by the Trumpian Right in the US is the propen­si­ty to ramp of the griev­ances and claims of oppres­sion as a kind of rhetor­i­cal shield for offen­sive far right vio­lence. It’s a reminder that, when the “Day X” white suprema­cist vio­lent insur­rec­tion does even­tu­al­ly occur in Amer­i­ca, it will be frame by the per­pe­tra­tors as a last ditch defen­sive actions because they just had no choice, or some­thing along those lines. It was a tech­nique ful­ly on dis­play over the week­end in DC when hun­dreds of fas­cist Proud Boys — there for the ‘Stop the Steal’ ral­lybegan rov­ing the the streets of Wash­ing­ton DC, seek­ing out counter-pro­tes­tors to brawl with, with the full knowl­edge that any street brawls they did cre­ate would be por­trayed in the con­ser­v­a­tive media as some sort fight insti­gat­ed by antifa and BLM ter­ror­ists. Groups of Proud Boys even tore BLM signs down from at least two his­to­ry Black church and burned one of the signs, again, know­ing full well that con­ser­v­a­tive media would like­ly either ignore the event entire or twist it as a sign a resis­tance as the rad­i­cal com­mu­nist ter­ror­ist BLM move­ment.

    So giv­en that the Proud Boys appear to be tak­ing a lead role in cre­at­ing street brawls, in part for the pur­pose of fuel the under­ly­ing far right’s per­se­cu­tion nar­ra­tive and por­tray­ing ‘the Left’ as some sort of vio­lent oppres­sive force in Amer­i­ca, here’s a reminder that the Proud Boys hap­pen to have a great deal of over­lap with anoth­er promi­nent far right group that spe­cial­izes in fab­ri­cat­ing and fuel­ing right-wing griev­ance nar­ra­tives: Project Ver­i­tas. As the fol­low­ing New Repub­lic piece points out, not only is Project Ver­i­tas’s founder, James O’Keefe, a long­time asso­ciate of Proud Boys founder Gavin McIn­nis, but Project Ver­i­tas itself has a his­to­ry of high­er Proud Boy mem­bers as their under­cov­er oper­a­tives. In fact, when Project Ver­i­tas send four under­cov­er oper­a­tives into Demo­c­ra­t­ic cam­paigns in 2020 as part of “Project Gold Mine”, two of those four oper­a­tives were self-describe Proud Boys affil­i­ates (one called her­self a “Proud Boys’ Girl”). Those are just some of the exam­ples of the over­lap between these two groups Which is why we have to ask: how many of those hun­dreds of Proud Boys won­der­ing the streets of DC look­ing for street fights were also mem­bers of Project Ver­i­tas:

    The New Repub­lic
    The Soap­box

    The Cozy Rela­tion­ship Between Project Ver­i­tas and the Proud Boys
    The con­ser­v­a­tive movement’s go-to media grifters have a dark his­to­ry of col­lab­o­rat­ing with Trump’s new favorite far-right gang.

    Matthew Phe­lan, Jesse Hicks, Eliz­a­beth Farkas
    Sep­tem­ber 30, 2020

    For Project Ver­i­tas, the 2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­maries offered an embar­rass­ment of rich­es. A his­tor­i­cal­ly large field meant plen­ty of tar­gets against which James O’Keefe’s jour­nal­ism-cos­play orga­ni­za­tion could deploy its sig­na­ture tac­tic of get­ting low-lev­el polit­i­cal oper­a­tives to say some­thing embar­rass­ing into a hid­den cam­era, then hype a selec­tive­ly edit­ed video for max­i­mum echo-cham­ber out­rage. As we’ve already report­ed, based on inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas doc­u­ments, the group ran a sting, code-named “Gold Mine,” with oper­a­tives attempt­ing to infil­trate the cam­paigns of Bernie Sanders, Eliz­a­beth War­ren, Joe Biden, and oth­ers, hop­ing to catch can­di­dates or their staff mem­bers in a gaffe.

    So far, so familiar—this is what Ver­i­tas does. Yet it’s worth look­ing at just who O’Keefe recruits to do it. To infil­trate the Biden cam­paign in Iowa, Ver­i­tas tapped an avowed Proud Boy, while a sec­ond oper­a­tive aligned with the Proud Boys tried to infil­trate the Sanders and War­ren cam­paigns. Project Ver­i­tas employs a Proud Boy who plead­ed guilty to dis­or­der­ly con­duct for his part in a brawl fol­low­ing a speech by Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. O’Keefe him­self has palled around with McInnes for years, and Ver­i­tas devot­ed an entire sting to defend­ing the cur­rent leader of the Proud Boys.

    The Proud Boys, for those not yet in the know, is an amor­phous group of far-right men who claim not to be racists but pro­mote the idea that white men are under siege; Proud Boys are fre­quent­ly found in the com­pa­ny of avowed racists, and the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter calls them a hate group. McInnes has repeat­ed­ly called for vio­lence against left-wing activists, and the Proud Boys have been caught plan­ning vio­lent “ral­lies,” most recent­ly in Port­land, Ore­gon.

    O’Keefe has always implau­si­bly claimed that his orga­ni­za­tion is non­par­ti­san, but the proof is in the out­put: reli­ably right-wing, and more than a lit­tle bit fraught with dis­turb­ing racial ten­sions. This is to be expect­ed. Project Ver­i­tas has always had a trou­bling his­to­ry when it comes to race, and the spe­cif­ic over­lap between it and the Proud Boys is increas­ing­ly out in the open. When Pres­i­dent Trump says, as he did in Tues­day night’s debate, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” he may as well be speak­ing to Ver­i­tas as well.

    *******

    The Gold Mine doc­u­ment out­lines how four Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives were sent to Iowa to infil­trate Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry cam­paigns. One of them, code-named “Sun­dance,” tar­get­ed the Buttigieg and Biden cam­paigns. The doc­u­ment sug­gests he made con­tact with peo­ple named Joe and Ken in the Buttigieg camp and some­one named Cas among Biden’s peo­ple. The Biden cam­paign did not recall hav­ing any inter­ac­tions with Sun­dance, and his oper­a­tion was appar­ent­ly a bust—Project Ver­i­tas has released noth­ing on Biden from the pri­maries. At least, so far.

    A source close to Project Ver­i­tas reveals that Sun­dance is actu­al­ly Jack­son Voyn­ick, a 21-year-old from New Jer­sey who has declared him­self a third-degree Proud Boy, accord­ing to the group’s arcane rules. In ear­ly 2017, he con­tributed his first arti­cle to Proud Boy mag­a­zine, after which he briefly con­tributed to Milo.net, the web­site of dis­graced right-wing provo­ca­teur Milo Yiannopou­los. By the 2018 midterm elec­tions, Voyn­ick was work­ing with Ver­i­tas, pop­ping up in Geor­gia to cajole a pair of small-town poll work­ers into advis­ing him on how to vote, a mis­de­meanor in that state. (Project Ver­i­tas hyped this as “Geor­gia elec­tion­eer­ing.”)

    In 2018, Voyn­ick was also in Indi­ana, pos­ing as “Jack McCarthy,” where he shot under­cov­er video of Jill Don­nel­ly, wife of then-Sen­a­tor Joe Don­nel­ly, and mem­bers of Donnelly’s cam­paign, in which they admit­ted that Don­nel­ly down­plays his sup­port for unions to appeal to con­ser­v­a­tive Indi­ana vot­ers. Donnelly’s defeat that year became anoth­er sad slide in Project Veritas’s pitch deck to its wealthy bene­fac­tors. As pri­ma­ry sea­son began, Voyn­ick made his way to Iowa for the Gold Mine oper­a­tion. Cas­san­dra Spencer, the Gold Mine oper­a­tive who tar­get­ed the War­ren and Sanders campaigns—and, based on an inter­nal review of Biden staffers and vol­un­teers, shad­owed one of their cam­paign events just before the Iowa caucuses—called her­self a “Proud Boys’ Girl” and retweet­ed Michelle Malkin say­ing say­ing “God Bless the #Proud­Boys.” That means that, of Project Veritas’s four infil­tra­tors, at least two declared sup­port for the group.

    **********

    The con­nec­tions between the Proud Boys and Project Ver­i­tas are not always so covert. In Octo­ber 2018, Jake Frei­jo worked the door at a Gavin McInnes event host­ed by the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Repub­li­can Club in New York City. After­ward, he was involved in a Proud Boys attack on anti-fas­cist pro­test­ers; police even­tu­al­ly arrest­ed 10 Proud Boys. Charged with four counts of mis­de­meanor assault and one count of mis­de­meanor sec­ond-degree riot­ing, Frei­jo even­tu­al­ly plead­ed down a sin­gle charge of dis­or­der­ly con­duct and was sen­tenced to five days of com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice.

    Just about a year lat­er, accord­ing to his LinkedIn pro­file, Frei­jo began work­ing as Project Veritas’s devel­op­ment offi­cer, where he over­sees char­i­ta­ble gifts of stocks, bonds, and oth­er securities—an increas­ing­ly com­mon anonymiz­ing tech­nique for the group’s wealthy donors. One of its most gen­er­ous sup­port­ers, Robert “Dr. Bob” Shill­man, appears to use this tech­nique to avoid messy pub­lic dis­clo­sures of his patron­age, eschew­ing more trans­par­ent­ly par­ti­san inter­me­di­aries like Donor’s Trust. Shillman’s $50,000 pledge to Ver­i­tas last year coin­cid­ed with an equiv­a­lent and anony­mous Fideli­ty Char­i­ta­ble deposit of $50,000 on its third-quar­ter deposit report. And tax records show that, in advance of the last pres­i­den­tial cycle, Shill­man had moved over $4.97 mil­lion from his ample Fideli­ty Port­fo­lio to his Fideli­ty Char­i­ta­ble Gift Fund des­tined for char­i­ties unknown.

    It’s not clear whether Freijo’s bachelor’s degree in eco­nom­ics and years of expe­ri­ence as an NYC real­tor qual­i­fy him to be a devel­op­ment offi­cer, but there he is, promi­nent­ly men­tioned on the Ver­i­tas dona­tion page.

    It’s hard to imag­ine that O’Keefe’s orga­ni­za­tion has been unaware of Freijo’s well-pub­li­cized arrest and plea deal; in fact, just after Freijo’s case con­clud­ed in April 2019, the group unveiled a video defend­ing the cur­rent leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tar­rio, coy­ly described on Veritas’s web­page as “a man whose Chase bank account was shut down with­out [his] being giv­en a rea­son” and “whose web­site sells provoca­tive con­ser­v­a­tive mer­chan­dise.”

    That web­site was 1776.shop, which, accord­ing to Slate, sold far-right mer­chan­dise (think shirts read­ing “Pinochet did noth­ing wrong,” for exam­ple) and char­i­ty bracelets said to help sup­port the Proud Boys arrest­ed in NYC. Numer­ous pay­ment providers had stopped ser­vic­ing Tarrio’s web­site, lead­ing O’Keefe to pro­file him as a con­ser­v­a­tive provo­ca­teur who’d been “debanked.” O’Keefe homed in on Chase, claim­ing the com­pa­ny had nev­er sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly explained why it cut ties with Tar­rio, who, the full video acknowl­edges, is “chair­man of the Proud Boys and entre­pre­neur.” (Chase lat­er dis­put­ed the report, say­ing it doesn’t close accounts based on polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tion and that one of Veritas’s covert­ly record­ed “sources” was not who the orga­ni­za­tion claimed.)

    Gavin McInnes also appears in the video, part of a long-stand­ing professional—and appar­ent­ly personal—relationship between the Proud Boys founder and O’Keefe. The two have been on cam­era togeth­er as far back as 2013, pre­dat­ing the offi­cial found­ing of the Proud Boys in 2016. O’Keefe was hon­ored as a “Proud Boy of the Month” in 2017 in the group’s offi­cial mag­a­zine; the two tried to crash the Tribeca Film Fes­ti­val in the same year. McInnes showed up to O’Keefe’s Amer­i­can Prav­da book par­ties in 2018. O’Keefe has appeared on McInnes’s show, as well as that of white suprema­cist Ste­fan Molyneux. In June 2020, both McInnes and O’Keefe appeared on The Alex Jones Show—there­by com­plet­ing some sort of unholy right-wing con­spir­a­cy-mon­ger­ing tri­fec­ta.

    Behind the scenes, McInnes lives a short dis­tance from the Mamaro­neck, NY, head­quar­ters of Project Ver­i­tas and, accord­ing to sources, fre­quent­ly drops by to bask in the adu­la­tion of O’Keefe’s mot­ley coterie of eager young con­ser­v­a­tives. “I remem­ber fel­low employ­ees being like, ‘I can’t believe I just met Gavin McInnes!’” one for­mer Ver­i­tas mem­ber recalled, using a mock-gid­dy octave.

    ...

    ************

    On a per­son­al lev­el, James O’Keefe’s cozi­ness with white nation­al­ists dates back to well before his found­ing of Project Ver­i­tas. In 2006, O’Keefe was pho­tographed at the Robert Taft Club’s “Race and Con­ser­vatism” con­fer­ence, an event head­lined by Jared Tay­lor, the self-styled aca­d­e­m­ic white suprema­cist and pub­lish­er of Amer­i­can Renais­sance, a jour­nal devot­ed to, well, white suprema­cy. Report­ed­ly, just about 40 peo­ple attend­ed the event, so it’s not as if O’Keefe had acci­den­tal­ly wan­dered into the wrong ball­room. Around the same time, he added white nation­al­ist Kyle Bris­tow to his Face­book friends, accord­ing to an archive of O’Keefe’s ear­ly online life—but he was already among his own. The event’s orga­niz­er, Mar­cus Epstein, was at that time O’Keefe’s friend and his co-work­er at the con­ser­v­a­tive Lead­er­ship Insti­tute.

    Pho­to­jour­nal­ist Lau­ra Sen­nett, who doc­u­ment­ed the event with anti-racist/an­ti-fas­cist researcher Daryle Lam­ont Jenk­ins of the One People’s Project, remem­bers see­ing O’Keefe hang­ing with a “clique” before­hand that includ­ed Epstein and oth­er future fig­ures on the alt-right. O’Keefe appeared to be par­tic­u­lar­ly chum­my with Kevin DeAn­na, future con­trib­u­tor to name-brand white nation­al­ist Richard Spencer’s Radix Jour­nal and founder of the short-lived, far-right cam­pus group Youth for West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion. “Mar­cus was set­ting up his lit­er­a­ture table, and all his lit­tle bud­dies were kind of hang­ing out around him talk­ing,” Sen­nett recalls. “DeAn­na and O’Keefe were obvi­ous­ly chat­ting as friends. They were sit­ting right next to each oth­er, chat­ting.”

    Ascen­dant a decade lat­er, Epstein and O’Keefe had a reunion of sorts when they both attend­ed the pro-Trump art show “#Dad­dy­Will­SaveUs” put on by Milo Yiannopou­los in Man­hat­tan (after a Brook­lyn gallery punt­ed the event, which had evi­dent­ly been billed to the own­er as “a satir­i­cal, Andy Kaufman–esque project”). “The Proud Boys had just got start­ed,” accord­ing to Jenk­ins, who cov­ered the show, “so this was, more or less, their first appear­ance: They chased some­body out; Gavin McInnes smash­es his phone; that kind of nonsense—and O’Keefe was there. That was the last time I saw him.”

    In Jenkins’s own footage of the inci­dent, just after McInnes slams the protester’s phone onto the pave­ment, the Proud Boys founder can be seen deliv­er­ing a fist bump to the late com­mu­ni­ca­tions strate­gist for Project Ver­i­tas, Stephen Gor­don. He then shakes hands with a cheer­ing spec­ta­tor named Matthew Tyr­mand, a Pol­ish nation­al­ist who has served for many years as a con­duit between the Euro­pean and Amer­i­can far right, as well as a direc­tor on the Project Ver­i­tas board.

    Through the years, O’Keefe and Project Veritas’s oper­a­tions have fea­tured, to put it char­i­ta­bly, a racial ele­ment. As Salon recount­ed in 2010, at Rut­gers, he and his con­ser­v­a­tive friends held an “affir­ma­tive action bake sale,” charg­ing whites more than their Black and Lati­no peers. In 2008, O’Keefe called Planned Par­ent­hood and posed as a donor ask­ing whether his mon­ey could go specif­i­cal­ly to abort­ing Black babies. In “James O’Keefe Ambush­es Repub­li­can Con­gress­man Over Racist Bill” (2014), he claims a Congressman’s vot­ing rights leg­is­la­tion “is racist because it excludes white vot­ers.”

    These are, of course, only the ideas that O’Keefe actu­al­ly car­ried out. Per­haps just as reveal­ing is an idea Project Ver­i­tas brain­stormed but nev­er exe­cut­ed. As revealed by CNN in 2010, the group once dis­cussed whether it should cre­ate an altered video of civ­il rights icon John Lewis. After he and his col­leagues walked through a crowd of Tea Par­ty pro­test­ers, Lewis claimed he’d heard the n-word hurled in his direc­tion; sev­er­al col­leagues backed him up. Andrew Bre­it­bart didn’t believe it and offered up a $100,000 dona­tion to the Unit­ed Negro Col­lege Fund for proof that the epi­thet had been used. “This is 2010,” said media-savvy Bre­it­bart. “Even a racist is media-savvy enough not to yell the n-word.”

    Ver­i­tas, the CNN doc­u­ments revealed, con­sid­ered pro­duc­ing a fake video prov­ing Lewis right. “The video evi­dence just needs to be sim­ple, just Lewis walk­ing by with a faint ‘n*****’ said in the back­ground, yelled by some­one there,” the doc­u­ment reads, spelling out the word entire­ly. “The video evi­dence would need to be suf­fi­cient to get by the poten­tial fact-check­ers at CNN who might ana­lyze the video and audio.” Get­ting its tape on air, the Project Ver­i­tas crew argued, would under­cut CNN’s cred­i­bil­i­ty, sug­gest­ing the net­work would do anything—even accept as real an unvet­ted video­tape secret­ly doc­tored by right-wing activists—to paint con­ser­v­a­tives as racist.

    Project Ver­i­tas has moved on to oth­er things. The group’s recent releas­es have focused most­ly on Covid-19 denial and under­min­ing con­fi­dence in the elec­toral process, includ­ing tar­get­ing an old­er trans­gen­der man who vot­ed twice, once under each of his two gen­der “per­sonas.” From that rather sad exam­ple, Ver­i­tas sought to spin a whole tale of New Hampshire’s alleged fail­ures to pro­tect the bal­lot this Novem­ber. What remains con­stant is that Project Ver­i­tas is not unique amid the flo­ra and fau­na of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment. the right is becom­ing, increas­ing­ly up at its high­est lev­els. Work­ing with Proud Boys both open­ly and covert­ly, mak­ing appear­ances on racist pod­casts, casu­al­ly plan­ning videos deploy­ing the n-word—in its com­fort­able and long-last­ing prox­im­i­ty to white suprema­cists, Project Ver­i­tas sim­ply reflects the present and future of the Repub­li­can Par­ty.

    ———–

    “The Cozy Rela­tion­ship Between Project Ver­i­tas and the Proud Boys” by Matthew Phe­lan, Jesse Hicks, Eliz­a­beth Farkas; The New Repub­lic; 09/30/2020

    “In 2018, Voyn­ick was also in Indi­ana, pos­ing as “Jack McCarthy,” where he shot under­cov­er video of Jill Don­nel­ly, wife of then-Sen­a­tor Joe Don­nel­ly, and mem­bers of Donnelly’s cam­paign, in which they admit­ted that Don­nel­ly down­plays his sup­port for unions to appeal to con­ser­v­a­tive Indi­ana vot­ers. Donnelly’s defeat that year became anoth­er sad slide in Project Veritas’s pitch deck to its wealthy bene­fac­tors. As pri­ma­ry sea­son began, Voyn­ick made his way to Iowa for the Gold Mine oper­a­tion. Cas­san­dra Spencer, the Gold Mine oper­a­tive who tar­get­ed the War­ren and Sanders campaigns—and, based on an inter­nal review of Biden staffers and vol­un­teers, shad­owed one of their cam­paign events just before the Iowa caucuses—called her­self a “Proud Boys’ Girl” and retweet­ed Michelle Malkin say­ing say­ing “God Bless the #Proud­Boys.” That means that, of Project Veritas’s four infil­tra­tors, at least two declared sup­port for the group.

    That’s at least two Proud Boy oper­a­tives that were uncov­ered just this year. How many more are there work­ing for O’Keefe? It’s a sad­ly impor­tant ques­tion. A ques­tion that will undoubt­ed reveal more Proud Boy mem­bers giv­en the fact that Project Ver­i­tas and the Proud Boys more or less inhab­it the same polit­i­cal space: that of far right actors and provo­ca­teurs focused on pub­lic stunts intend­ed to re-main­stream and legit­imize white nation­al­ism in the minds of the pub­lic. It’s a space James O’Keefe has been mov­ing in for years as he was net­work­ing with white nation­al­ist in col­lege:

    ...
    On a per­son­al lev­el, James O’Keefe’s cozi­ness with white nation­al­ists dates back to well before his found­ing of Project Ver­i­tas. In 2006, O’Keefe was pho­tographed at the Robert Taft Club’s “Race and Con­ser­vatism” con­fer­ence, an event head­lined by Jared Tay­lor, the self-styled aca­d­e­m­ic white suprema­cist and pub­lish­er of Amer­i­can Renais­sance, a jour­nal devot­ed to, well, white suprema­cy. Report­ed­ly, just about 40 peo­ple attend­ed the event, so it’s not as if O’Keefe had acci­den­tal­ly wan­dered into the wrong ball­room. Around the same time, he added white nation­al­ist Kyle Bris­tow to his Face­book friends, accord­ing to an archive of O’Keefe’s ear­ly online life—but he was already among his own. The event’s orga­niz­er, Mar­cus Epstein, was at that time O’Keefe’s friend and his co-work­er at the con­ser­v­a­tive Lead­er­ship Insti­tute.

    Pho­to­jour­nal­ist Lau­ra Sen­nett, who doc­u­ment­ed the event with anti-racist/an­ti-fas­cist researcher Daryle Lam­ont Jenk­ins of the One People’s Project, remem­bers see­ing O’Keefe hang­ing with a “clique” before­hand that includ­ed Epstein and oth­er future fig­ures on the alt-right. O’Keefe appeared to be par­tic­u­lar­ly chum­my with Kevin DeAn­na, future con­trib­u­tor to name-brand white nation­al­ist Richard Spencer’s Radix Jour­nal and founder of the short-lived, far-right cam­pus group Youth for West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion. “Mar­cus was set­ting up his lit­er­a­ture table, and all his lit­tle bud­dies were kind of hang­ing out around him talk­ing,” Sen­nett recalls. “DeAn­na and O’Keefe were obvi­ous­ly chat­ting as friends. They were sit­ting right next to each oth­er, chat­ting.”
    ...

    It’s worth recall­ing that O’Keefe’s friend, Kevin DeAn­na, went on to play a major role in the rise of the Alt Right at the same time DeAn­na was nav­i­gat­ing supoos­ed­ly respectable con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles like the Inter­na­tion­al Lead­er­ship Insti­tute that osten­si­bly gen­er­ates the next gen­er­a­tion of con­ser­v­a­tive lead­ers. DeAn­na also report­ed­ly played a role in solicit­ed resumes for the White House in 2016 after Pres­i­dent Trump’s vic­to­ry. The resumes were from mem­bers of the Alt Right.

    They’re all part of the same polit­i­cal space. The polit­i­cal space ded­i­cat­ed to con­vinc­ing white con­ser­v­a­tives that ‘the Left’ presents some sort of dia­bol­i­cal mor­tal threat and only the white suprema­cists and neo-Nazis can save them. And while the Proud Boys spe­cial­ize in cre­at­ing and pro­ject­ing vio­lence, it’s Project Ver­i­tas that spe­cial­izes in warp­ing real­i­ty into ‘up-is-down’ nar­ra­tives for con­ser­v­a­tive audi­ences. It’s two sides of the same fas­cist Psy­Op. And that’s why we have to ask just how many of the fas­cist Proud Boys also hap­pen to fas­cist Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tives.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 16, 2020, 6:15 pm
  5. Giv­en that Repub­li­can Par­ty’s decades-long war on democ­ra­cy has cul­mi­nat­ed in a par­ty-wide push to dele­git­imize Pres­i­dent Trump’s 2020 loss — and there­fore dele­git­imize the incom­ing Biden admin­is­tra­tion — based on loud­ly trum­pet­ed alle­ga­tions of mas­sive wide­spread mail-in vot­er fraud appear, here’s an arti­cle from back in August of this year that reveals a very inter­est­ing fun fact about this strat­e­gy: Project Ver­i­tas already had a large-scale oper­a­tion focus­ing on dele­git­imiz­ing mail-in vot­ing up and run­ning by the end of the sum­mer of 2019. That’s what we learned thanks to some leaked inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas doc­u­ments about an oper­a­tion dubbed Oper­a­tion Dia­mond Dog.

    And Project Ver­i­tas isn’t work­ing on Dia­mond Dog on its own. The oper­a­tion appears to be have been con­duct­ed in coor­di­na­tion with none oth­er than Tex­as­’s Repub­li­can Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Pax­ton. Recall how it was Pax­ton who recent­ly brought the law­suit bonkers law­suit against four oth­er states try­ing to force them to turn the elec­tion results over to Trump over charges that they ille­gal­ly expand­ed mail-in vot­ing. A law­suit joined by 17 oth­er Repub­li­can attor­neys gen­er­al and 126 House Repub­li­cans.

    We’re also going to see that Donors Trust — the ‘char­i­ty’ used by the Koch mega-donor net­work for mak­ing anony­mous con­tri­bu­tions to enti­ties, like when it gave VDARE $1.5 mil­lion to buy a real cas­tle ear­li­er this year — appears to have played a sig­nif­i­cant role in financ­ing Project Ver­i­tas in 2019. Project Ver­i­tas raised more than $13 mil­lion in 2019, its largest report­ed rev­enue fig­ure to date.

    So vir­tu­al­ly the GOP’s entire post-elec­tion strat­e­gy of pro­claim­ing mas­sive mail-in vot­er fraud — a strat­e­gy that seem­ing­ly relied on the pan­dem­ic to cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion where mail-in vot­ing was wide­ly used in an emer­gency man­ner — was a strat­e­gy Project Ver­i­tas, Ken Pax­ton, and the right-wing mega-donors were all invest­ing heav­i­ly in long before the pan­dem­ic ever start­ed. The pan­dem­ic was sim­ply the per­fect ampli­fi­ca­tion of that strat­e­gy:

    The New Repub­lic

    Inside the Project Ver­i­tas Plan to Steal the Elec­tion
    James O’Keefe’s group is part of a sprawl­ing cam­paign to dele­git­imize mail-in bal­lot­ing in the fall—a cam­paign being led by the White House.

    Matthew Phe­lan, Jesse Hicks
    August 3, 2020

    James O’Keefe had big plans for 2020. The founder of Project Ver­i­tas, the con­spir­a­to­r­i­al right-wing group that spe­cial­izes in Fox News–friendly “stings” intend­ed to expose sup­posed lib­er­al bias and cor­rup­tion in Amer­i­can soci­ety, was plan­ning on get­ting mar­ried this past May. The wed­ding, to a pub­lic school teacher, was to be at an exclu­sive coun­try club in upstate New York. The guest list was packed with Make Amer­i­ca Great Again world cognoscen­ti: Don­ald Trump Jr., Sean Han­ni­ty, Michelle Malkin, Supreme Court Jus­tice Clarence Thomas, and his activist wife Gin­ni were all invit­ed, as were sev­er­al of O’Keefe’s most gen­er­ous con­ser­v­a­tive donors, includ­ing Texas shale oil bil­lion­aire George Bish­op and Bullpen Cap­i­tal founder Paul Mar­ti­no.

    The wed­ding was, per an email blast, “post­poned indef­i­nite­ly” over the coro­n­avirus, as the pan­dem­ic swept across the state this spring and ear­ly sum­mer. Although O’Keefe him­self declined to com­ment on this and many oth­er details for this sto­ry, a well-placed fren­e­my is “90 per­cent sure they broke up.” In any event, while the pan­dem­ic may have derailed his per­son­al life, it has only height­ened the urgency of some of O’Keefe’s most lucra­tive­ly fund­ed dirty tricks.

    For well over a year, Project Ver­i­tas has been secret­ly pro­duc­ing under­cov­er stings designed to under­mine the integri­ty of absen­tee and mail-in bal­lot counts—an endeav­or code­named “Dia­mond Dog,” accord­ing to doc­u­ments we have obtained. Dia­mond Dog began as only one facet of Project Veritas’s 2020 rat-fu cking strat­e­gy, but with the onset of the pan­dem­ic, which has made in-per­son vot­ing a dicey propo­si­tion, it has since become one of the group’s top-line action items.

    The shift reflects the Repub­li­can Party’s near-exis­ten­tial con­cerns about mail-in vot­ing in Novem­ber. Don­ald Trump has disin­gen­u­ous­ly railed against the prac­tice numer­ous times over the past few months, betray­ing a deep anx­i­ety. “Mail in bal­lots sub­stan­tial­ly increas­es the risk of crime and VOTER FRAUD!” he has tweet­ed. At oth­er times he has claimed: “It will be the great­est Rigged Elec­tion in his­to­ry”; “IT WILL ALSO LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY”; and “SCAM!” Last week, he went so far as to sug­gest that the elec­tion should be delayed, say­ing that because of “Uni­ver­sal Mail-in Vot­ing,” the vote would be “INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT.”

    The pur­pose of Dia­mond Dog, as one source close to the orga­ni­za­tion put it, is “lit­er­al­ly to get Trump reelect­ed.” This source, like oth­er past and present Project Ver­i­tas employ­ees who have talked to us for this arti­cle, expressed fear of reprisals from the group and would only speak under the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty.

    Last year, Project Veritas’s donor devel­op­ment team solicit­ed big-tick­et fun­ders with a pitch deck—frequently tai­lored to a giv­en patron’s pet ide­o­log­i­cal griev­ances and per­son­al hang-ups—offering tan­ta­liz­ing details about the group’s under­cov­er oper­a­tions for the 2020 cam­paign cycle. One iter­a­tion of this Apple Keynote file was pre­pared for an ask meet­ing with a per­son who appears to be Cognex Cor­po­ra­tion founder Robert Shill­man, a devot­ed fun­der of Islam­o­pho­bic caus­es who was also one of O’Keefe’s would-be wed­ding guests. (Shill­man end­ed up pledg­ing to donate $50,000 to the group.) The slate of inves­ti­ga­tions in the “Dr. Bob” pitch includ­ed schemes to pro­cure evi­dence of “ille­gal aliens vot­ing,” mail-in bal­lot tam­per­ing at “nurs­ing homes,” and “the sale of absen­tee bal­lots and vot­er pro­files on the ‘Dark Web.’”

    By the end of sum­mer 2019, Dia­mond Dog had already grown to be a cross-coun­try effort, based on inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas mem­os, research notes, and oth­er doc­u­ments that we have obtained. In Cal­i­for­nia and Texas, Project Ver­i­tas has tasked its oper­a­tives with unearthing sup­posed evi­dence of wide­spread mail-in bal­lot forgery. In both states, Project Ver­i­tas has worked to infil­trate the groups of vol­un­teers and paid can­vassers who col­lect absen­tee and mail-in vot­er appli­ca­tions from low-income, elder­ly, and minor­i­ty groups—a per­fect­ly legal prac­tice in most states that con­ser­v­a­tives have tried to label as nefar­i­ous “bal­lot har­vest­ing.”

    In Texas, Project Ver­i­tas has also coor­di­nat­ed in secret with a local Repub­li­can oper­a­tive named Aaron Har­ris, code­named “Drag­on,” cur­rent­ly chief of staff to Repub­li­can con­gress­man Lance Good­en. In turn, through the activist group he found­ed, Direct Action Texas, Har­ris has helped Project Ver­i­tas covert­ly strate­gize with a staffer work­ing for the office of the state’s Repub­li­can Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Pax­ton. Pax­ton is lead­ing the state’s “elec­tion integri­ty ini­tia­tive,” one of many Repub­li­can efforts nation­wide to sup­press the vote under the guise of root­ing out the near­ly non-exis­tent threat of vot­er fraud.

    Grant­ed, Project Ver­i­tas, whose fer­vor to own the libs is matched only by its com­i­cal incom­pe­tence, is hard­ly like­ly to tip the elec­tion in Don­ald Trump’s favor all by itself. But it is at the van­guard of a larg­er under­hand­ed approach that Repub­li­cans, start­ing at the very top, are tak­ing to the 2020 cycle. If they want to win, they real­ly have no oth­er choice but to under­mine the vote: Trump’s poll num­bers are in the base­ment, and he appears con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly inca­pable of mak­ing appeals beyond his hard­core sup­port­ers on the right.

    Repub­li­cans have all but admit­ted that this is their strat­e­gy. In coor­di­na­tion with the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and a raft of inde­pen­dent con­ser­v­a­tive groups, Trump has staked the suc­cess of his entire reelec­tion cam­paign to a wide­spread vot­er sup­pres­sion effort built on the pre­text of pre­serv­ing elec­tion integri­ty. The project, led by his campaign’s senior coun­sel Justin Clark, has worked to place oper­a­tives in at least 10 bat­tle­ground states to chal­lenge vot­er rolls and pro­ce­dures. Between law­suits and local adver­tis­ing blitzes—all reg­u­lar­ly relayed to Trump in the Oval Office—the effort could cost “well over $20 mil­lion,” as the RNC told The Wash­ing­ton Post.

    Project Ver­i­tas has been among the on-the-ground orga­ni­za­tions at the fore­front of these efforts and has ben­e­fit­ed sub­stan­tial­ly as a result. Accord­ing to inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas doc­u­ments, the group’s fundrais­ing total for 2019 leaped up to more than $13.44 mil­lion, $4.58 mil­lion more than their 2018 returns and the group’s largest report­ed annu­al rev­enue fig­ure to date. The group may be com­i­cal­ly incom­pe­tent, but in these cursed times, we all know how dan­ger­ous com­i­cal incom­pe­tence can be once enough mon­ey and clout line up behind it.

    ***********

    For an oper­a­tion premised on con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and fueled by rag­ing para­noia, it will come as no sur­prise that the agents help­ing to spear­head Project Veritas’s elec­tion mis­chief are odd­balls on the fringes of Amer­i­can polit­i­cal life. In one slide pre­pared for Dr. Bob, a 69-year-old Flori­da res­i­dent, a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can named Joseph Vancheri noti­fies O’Keefe of his soon-to-be sta­tus as a poll work­er in Broward Coun­ty, like­ly for under­cov­er Elec­tion Day snoop­ing on Project Veritas’s behalf. Vancheri, an ex-cop and die-hard Trump sup­port­er, has rou­tine­ly tak­en to Face­book to lash out against “all the Trump haters” and “SHEEP,” includ­ing “SHIFTY SCHIFF” and “the Idiot War­ren,” using Trump’s pre­ferred epi­thet “Poco­hon­tas [sic].” A first-gen­er­a­tion immi­grant him­self, Vancheri has nev­er­the­less long har­bored hard­line views on immi­gra­tion that echo his anx­i­eties over the poten­tial for illic­it enfran­chise­ment of for­eign­ers.

    In anoth­er slide, Project Ver­i­tas boasts of receiv­ing a tip from a for­mer broad­cast mete­o­rol­o­gist named Arch Kennedy, who found it sus­pi­cious that 300 peo­ple were all reg­is­tered to vote at the address for Emory University’s Emory Mus­lim Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion in Atlanta. (In all like­li­hood these vot­ers, who con­sti­tute 2 per­cent of Emory’s total stu­dent pop­u­la­tion and .0028 per­cent of Georgia’s pop­u­la­tion, have their mail for­ward­ed there.) In 2017, Arch orga­nized one of the anti-Mus­lim group ACT! For Amer­i­ca’s 28 nation­wide “March Against Sharia” ral­lies. Held in Atlanta’s Pied­mont Park, it was a sparse­ly attend­ed affair but still man­aged to include Repub­li­can Geor­gia State Sen­a­tor Michael Williams, then mount­ing a doomed pri­ma­ry cam­paign for gov­er­nor.

    It’s unclear if either Vancheri or Kennedy’s offer­ings matured into full-fledged stings banked for the 2020 elec­tion. Nei­ther they nor Project Ver­i­tas respond­ed for com­ment, while the Project Ver­i­tas source who sup­plied the “Dr. Bob” pitch deck admit­ted that “a lot of it was kin­da BS,” anoth­er exam­ple of the group “hyp­ing them­selves up to make them­selves look bet­ter” and squeeze more mon­ey out of donors. Project Ver­i­tas went back to the well this week­end, solic­it­ing donors in a mass email Sat­ur­day after­noon that promised a major bal­lot har­vest­ing inves­ti­ga­tion that needs to be “com­plet­ed as soon as pos­si­ble.”

    But oth­er stings out­lined in the Keynote file did mate­ri­al­ize. The pre­sen­ta­tion, for exam­ple, teased an inside man at Pin­ter­est who was “increas­ing­ly wor­ried” about the platform’s “expand­ing com­mu­ni­ty safe­ty restric­tions.” Sure enough, two months lat­er, an ex-Pin­ter­est Android app devel­op­er named Eric Cochran came for­ward with (lat­er debunked) alle­ga­tions in a Project Ver­i­tas videos and a Newsweek op-ed claim­ing that the plat­form was cen­sor­ing anti-abor­tion Chris­t­ian adver­tis­ers. The pitch deck also promised an exposé from a “CNN Insid­er” named Cary Poarch, a bomb­shell that fiz­zled in Octo­ber 2019 when Poarch’s hid­den record­ings, tak­en while work­ing as a free­lance satel­lite truck oper­a­tor for the news net­work, failed to expose more than the per­son­al opin­ions of a few ran­dom employ­ees.

    Well before the pan­dem­ic drew nation­al atten­tion to mail-in vot­ing, these doc­u­ments show a dis­cernible focus on “bal­lot har­vest­ing” as part of the larg­er Repub­li­can effort to paint vot­ing by mail as a threat to democ­ra­cy. The con­cern stems from the party’s entrenched belief that, as Trump has tweet­ed, vote-by-mail “doesn’t work out well for Repub­li­cans,” since it often helps low-income peo­ple and minori­ties.

    By late August 2019, the “Sto­ry Objec­tive” for Dia­mond Dog had expand­ed, per one inter­nal meet­ing doc­u­ment, to expos­ing “cor­rup­tion with­in CA bal­lot har­vest­ing com­pa­nies and oth­er states (TX) based on intel gains.” A Project Ver­i­tas under­cov­er oper­a­tive code­named “Mag­num” had been busy “attend­ing local Demo­c­ra­t­ic events in CA to find dis­cus­sions of har­vest­ing.” Anoth­er oper­a­tive code­named “GDog” was cre­at­ing an entrap­ment scheme by post­ing “ads online look­ing for peo­ple to join his bal­lot har­vest­ing.”

    Texas has been a major the­ater for Project Veritas’s Dia­mond Dog oper­a­tions, in no small mea­sure because raw demo­graph­ics have been threat­en­ing to turn the state blue for years. The sense of cri­sis comes from the state GOP’s fail­ure to bring Lati­nos into their vot­ing bloc. The lega­cy of such botched strate­giz­ing has been an assault on the state’s Lati­no elec­torate itself, with right-wing offi­cials and polit­i­cal oper­a­tives rais­ing sus­pi­cions about their very legit­i­ma­cy as legal par­tic­i­pants in the vot­ing process.

    Aaron Har­ris, a son of white evan­gel­i­cal mis­sion­ar­ies who picked up Por­tuguese while grow­ing up in Brazil and went on to become flu­ent in Span­ish, has been relent­less­ly stok­ing para­noia over mail-in bal­lots since his first failed for­ay as a paid polit­i­cal con­sul­tant in 2014. Despite a siz­able war chest from Dal­las hotel mag­nate and Tea Par­ty financier Mon­ty Ben­nett, Harris’s can­di­dates in the 2015 local elec­tion for the Tar­rant Region­al Water Dis­trict lost. He quick­ly became fix­at­ed on the idea that thou­sands of forged mail-in bal­lot appli­ca­tions had been respon­si­ble for their defeat.

    Unlike some Project Ver­i­tas asso­ciates, Har­ris has already man­aged to stir up some pub­lic alarm about alleged bal­lot­ing fraud in coop­er­a­tion with elect­ed offi­cials from the Repub­li­can Par­ty. He has made repeat­ed open records requests for “appli­ca­tions for bal­lot by mail” and copies of signed “bal­lot car­ri­er envelopes” in Tar­rant Coun­ty and else­where in Texas, eye­balling the sig­na­tures on each for signs of fraud. (Emi­ly J. Will, the board-cer­ti­fied foren­sic doc­u­ment exam­in­er who tried to warn 60 Min­utes about the dubi­ous prove­nance of Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s sup­pos­ed­ly doc­tored Air Nation­al Guard records in 2004, told us that a non-expert like Har­ris couldn’t be relied upon to dis­cern a forged sig­na­ture.)

    In 2016, Har­ris sent the fruits of that labor to Texas Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Pax­ton, lead­ing to four con­spic­u­ous­ly timed indict­ments two years lat­er on the eve of the 2018 midterm elec­tions. Pax­ton described the four His­pan­ic women, paid can­vassers solic­it­ing mail-in bal­lot appli­ca­tions door-to-door, as an “orga­nized vot­er fraud ring.” He named (but did not charge) a for­mer local Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty leader, Stu­art Clegg, as the ring­leader in the court fil­ings.

    That case, which is still ongo­ing, reveals the ways in which the offi­cial GOP sub­tly coor­di­nates with its army of right-wing irreg­u­lars in the field. Pax­ton stri­dent­ly enforces one of the strictest vot­er I.D. laws in the nation, while Har­ris and his polit­i­cal allies at Direct Action Texas and Empow­er Tex­ans work to inde­pen­dent­ly legit­imize the attor­ney general’s par­ti­san vendet­tas. Har­ris and local Repub­li­can lawyer Alex Kim, for exam­ple, insert­ed them­selves into the prosecution’s case by inde­pen­dent­ly vis­it­ing one of the charged can­vassers in prison, seem­ing­ly on their own ini­tia­tive, in an effort to coerce the woman into flip­ping on Clegg. (A month after help­ing Har­ris sneak into the Tar­rant Coun­ty Jail to harass the can­vass­er, Kim won a local race to pre­side over the entire coun­ty as a judge for Texas’s 323rd Dis­trict Court.)

    Paxton’s office has often pur­sued these vot­er fraud cas­es through a pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al diver­sion pro­gram, allow­ing them to juke their stats with “de min­imis” cas­es with­out ever hav­ing to prove their argu­ments in open court or sub­ject their meth­ods to inde­pen­dent review. Their biggest con­firmed con­vic­tion to date: send­ing a 37-year-old Mex­i­can cit­i­zen and moth­er of four, Rosa Maria Orte­ga, to to prison for eight years for the high crime of being con­fused that her sta­tus as a legal res­i­dent in Texas did not actu­al­ly con­fer unto her the vot­ing priv­i­leges of full Unit­ed States cit­i­zen­ship. Orte­ga vot­ed in five elec­tions between 2004 and her 2017 sen­tenc­ing, cast­ing bal­lots for Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney in 2012—and, trag­i­cal­ly, for Ken Pax­ton him­self in the 2014 Texas attor­ney gen­er­al’ s race.

    All signs point toward Pax­ton get­ting even more aggres­sive in 2020, thanks to a wrecked-up and par­a­lyzed response to the pan­dem­ic by both Trump and Texas Gov­er­nor Greg Abbott. Repub­li­cans are ner­vous that even blood-red Texas might be in play come Novem­ber. Last April, Pax­ton threat­ened felony charges for any­one who requests or advo­cates for mail-in bal­lots “based sole­ly on fear of con­tract­ing Covid-19”—a move that was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court in May, then by the Trump-stacked U.S. Supreme Court in June. It’s now sure to set the stage for many of the alleged mail-in schemes that Project Ver­i­tas will pur­port to expose lat­er this year.

    ***********

    One local Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tive assigned to coor­di­nate with Aaron Har­ris in Texas is also a for­mer under­cov­er vol­un­teer: Cas­san­dra Spencer, code­named “Fox­trot” and some­times “Fox­trot Smith” inter­nal­ly. In 2017, Spencer became O’Keefe’s “Face­book Insid­er” after leav­ing a pub­lic infor­ma­tion offi­cer post with the Pflugerville, Texas, police depart­ment to join Facebook’s con­tin­gent work­force oper­a­tions at BCFor­ward in Austin as a social media con­tent mod­er­a­tor.

    Spencer has posi­tioned her­self at the extreme­ly online inter­sec­tion of gam­ing cul­ture and the alt-right. She has described her­self as a “Proud Boy’s Girl” on Medi­um and attend­ed “Austin’s pre­mier ani­me con­ven­tion” IKKi­CON in Final Fan­ta­sy X cos­play. She trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., for the inau­gur­al Deplora­Ball and oper­ates her own Twitch stream, which she dubbed “a First Amend­ment zone” for her con­ser­v­a­tive fol­low­ers, “not like many oth­ers.” For the 2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry in Iowa, Spencer posed as a vol­un­teer for pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls Eliz­a­beth War­ren and Bernie Sanders as part of a Project Ver­i­tas sting then-code­named “Gold Mine.”

    Already staked out on the Texas bal­lot-har­vest­ing van­guard, Aaron Har­ris “met with Fox­trot” in per­son and “gave her a lead with some­one to fol­low,” per inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas research notes. As Dia­mond Dog pro­gressed, Harris’s ties to Project Ver­i­tas deep­ened to include long­time employ­ee and recruit­ing direc­tor Spencer Meads, code­named “Brady,” and pos­si­bly an under­cov­er jour­nal­ist (UCJ) code­named “Peter Pan.” Project Veritas’s expand­ing pool of Texas sources was meant to be a state secret, but the doc­u­ment offered a huge clue about who might be involved in an all-caps and high­light­ed por­tion that read: “CANNOT MENTION ATTORNEY GENERAL.” In the same doc­u­ment, after list­ing a series of major met­ro­pol­i­tan areas in Texas as poten­tial sites for their “bal­lot har­vest­ing” inves­ti­ga­tion, a ques­tion is pro­posed: “Where does the AG’s guy sug­gest they go?”

    When pressed for com­ment on his appar­ent role in facil­i­tat­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions between the Texas attor­ney general’s office and Project Ver­i­tas, Har­ris respond­ed via his con­gres­sion­al email, “Do not con­tact me about my pre­vi­ous employ­ment on offi­cial chan­nels. Learn to be com­pe­tent at your job.” After it was point­ed out to Har­ris that the inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas doc­u­ments were sourced in the ear­ly fall of 2019, approx­i­mate­ly 10 months after he became Con­gress­man Gooden’s chief of staff, Har­ris became bel­liger­ent. To ques­tions reit­er­at­ed via per­son­al text mes­sage, he respond­ed, “I’ve asked you to stop harass­ing me and you want to argue about it? You are an idiot. You just keep prov­ing it.”

    Spencer did not respond to requests for com­ment for this sto­ry.

    Only two prin­ci­pal tar­gets, old Har­ris foes, were men­tioned by name in the Project Ver­i­tas strat­e­gy doc­u­ment: Texas-based per­son­al injury attor­ney Domin­go Gar­cia, a for­mer state rep­re­sen­ta­tive and the pres­i­dent of the League of Unit­ed Latin Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens, or LULAC; and the Har­vest Project Food Res­cue of Dal­las, a com­mu­ni­ty group that Har­ris seems to believe is an insid­i­ous front through which the state’s left-wing oper­a­tives entice immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, with the lure of unsold fresh pro­duce donat­ed by local dis­trib­u­tors, into fill­ing out their own mail-in bal­lots and thus enfran­chis­ing them­selves. (“I wake up usu­al­ly at 4:30 in the morn­ing, I have to go pick up the food by six,” Har­vest Project co-founder Danaë Gutiér­rez-Martínez said when asked about Harris’s alle­ga­tions. “I don’t get home ’til eight at night, nine at night, some­times, to get up the next day and do it again, espe­cial­ly right now with every­thing that’s hap­pen­ing. You know, I must be Super­woman if I have time to do any­thing else.”)

    A long-since-oust­ed co-founder of the Har­vest Project, Jose Bar­ri­en­tos was very pub­licly impli­cat­ed in a mail-in bal­lot forgery scheme in 2017. But Pax­ton and the local dis­trict attor­ney ulti­mate­ly indict­ed some­one else entire­ly, 27-year-old Miguel Her­nan­dez, for the felony offense. After 180 days stew­ing in jail, Her­nan­dez was allowed to plead guilty to a mis­de­meanor with the under­stand­ing that his sen­tence would be lim­it­ed to time served.

    The beef between Harris’s groups and LULAC has been con­sid­er­ably more fraught. In the fall of 2016, Gar­cia pub­licly offered a $25,000 reward, fund­ed through LULAC, for any infor­ma­tion lead­ing to the con­vic­tion of indi­vid­u­als “try­ing to intim­i­date a senior in Fort Worth or any­where in Texas.” The tar­get of their boun­ty was pret­ty clear, teed-up as it was by a Texas state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Ramón Romero, who had called out Har­ris by name for his door-to-door inqui­si­tion of seniors in Fort Worth’s pre­dom­i­nant­ly His­pan­ic north side. Lat­er at that same press con­fer­ence, a relat­ed com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice non­prof­it, the Unit­ed His­pan­ic Coun­cil of Tar­rant Coun­ty, announced that it had filed a com­plaint with the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice against Harris’s Direct Action Texas for cre­at­ing “an atmos­phere of fear and intim­i­da­tion” in local His­pan­ic neigh­bor­hoods.

    In Jan­u­ary 2019, LULAC filed a law­suit against Attor­ney Gen­er­al Pax­ton and the sec­re­tary of state in Texas, David Whit­ley, accus­ing them both of vio­lat­ing the Vot­ing Rights Act in their hap­haz­ard attempt to purge the state’s vot­er rolls of non-cit­i­zens.

    Whitley’s offices would qui­et­ly walk back their ini­tial list of 95,000 sus­pi­cious vot­ers, many of whom were dis­cov­ered to be, in fact, nat­u­ral­ized cit­i­zens. Short­ly there­after, San Anto­nio fed­er­al dis­trict court Judge Fred Biery put a stop to the purge, declar­ing that state Repub­li­cans were try­ing “to fer­ret the infin­i­tes­i­mal nee­dles out of the haystack of 15 mil­lion Texas vot­ers.” Har­ris, for his part, was unre­pen­tant, telling the Texas Observ­er, “We are chang­ing the entire dis­cus­sion on vot­er fraud in Texas.” He was not wrong. While Har­ris is now plan­ning to run for a House seat him­self, his tire­less efforts there have laid the ground­work for Project Ver­i­tas and its GOP part­ners this elec­tion sea­son.

    *********

    When main­stream Amer­i­cans think about James O’Keefe, if they think about James O’Keefe at all, it’s usu­al­ly in ref­er­ence to his most hilar­i­ous fail­ures: ruin­ing his own sting on George Soros’s Open Soci­ety Foun­da­tion by leav­ing a self-incrim­i­nat­ing voice­mail; fail­ing to lure a CNN reporter onto his yacht for a detailed “faux seduc­ing” prank; reveal­ing his unseem­ly ties to the bil­lion­aire mer­ce­nary Erik Prince by post­ing his own van­i­ty spy train­ing pho­tos on social media. If Dia­mond Dog fol­lows the Project Ver­i­tas play­book, it will like­ly focus on goos­ing a few unguard­ed com­ments out of can­vassers and oth­er vol­un­teers in the hope of net­ting an inflam­ma­to­ry sound bite or two.

    A mod­est, prac­ti­cal­ly harm­less Octo­ber Sur­prise. But it’s typ­i­cal­ly down bal­lot where the aver­age Project Ver­i­tas video tends to have its most per­ni­cious effects. Less well known than O’Keefe’s blun­ders on the nation­al stage are the numer­ous doc­u­ment­ed instances in which his stings have been cit­ed to jus­ti­fy new and more oner­ous vot­er I.D. laws or oth­er elec­tion integri­ty leg­is­la­tion in state leg­is­la­tures across the coun­try.

    ...

    O’Keefe’s wealthy donors sure­ly remem­ber these and oth­er vic­to­ries in vivid detail, in no small mea­sure because they are reit­er­at­ed tire­less­ly dur­ing O’Keefe’s paid speak­ing engage­ments and fundrais­ing con­claves. Among Project Veritas’s 2019 con­trib­u­tors were sev­er­al wealthy polit­i­cal groups, char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tions, and con­ser­v­a­tive bil­lion­aires with appar­ent inter­ests in the out­come of Dia­mond Dog.

    From Cal­i­for­nia, a dona­tion of at least $10,000 from a pledged $100,000 came to Ver­i­tas from Susan Groff, pres­i­dent of the Los Ange­les-area con­struc­tion equip­ment rental com­pa­ny North­west Exca­vat­ing. A pro­lif­ic Repub­li­can donor along with her hus­band Howard, both Groffs were praised as “good friends, entre­pre­neurs and patri­ots” in a lov­ing trib­ute entered into the Con­gres­sion­al Record by their long­time ben­e­fi­cia­ry, for­mer GOP House Rep. Elton Gal­leg­ly. (Anoth­er $50,000 came into Project Ver­i­tas from a donor list­ed only as “Arnott”; the Orange Coun­ty-based invest­ment guru Robert D. Arnott, a Koch net­work ally and pro­lif­ic Repub­li­can donor, denied respon­si­bil­i­ty when reached via email.)

    In Texas, anoth­er $50,000 was passed on to Project Ver­i­tas from the Texas Free Mar­ket Fund through the group Donors Trust, the dark mon­ey “donor-advised fund” that has helped make con­tri­bu­tions from the Kochs, the DeVos fam­i­ly, and oth­ers untrace­able in future IRS fil­ings. The char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion of late Texas oil­man Ken W. “Stinky” Davis, based like Project Ver­i­tas ally Aaron Har­ris in Tar­rant Coun­ty, also kicked in $5,000 to the group, the lat­est in the foundation’s influ­en­tial spend­ing spree on Repub­li­can pol­i­tics in the Lone Star State and across the coun­try.

    In Flori­da, anoth­er dona­tion of $50,000 came to the group through Donors Trust, this time from the free mar­ket defend­ers at the Thomas W. Smith Foun­da­tion.

    There was also a whop­ping $261,000 dona­tion from the “Smith Fam­i­ly.” Could it be the Smith fam­i­ly that has monop­o­lized local net­work TV affil­i­ates through Sin­clair Broad­cast­ing? Or is it Ran­dall and Bar­bara Smith, Palm Beach res­i­dents whose vul­ture fund Alden Glob­al Cap­i­tal was once described by Joshua Ben­ton, the founder of Harvard’s Nie­man Jour­nal­ism Lab, as “the gelati­nous cube scour­ing the news industry’s dun­geon”? Nei­ther Smith fam­i­lies respond­ed to requests for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on this issue.

    Many addi­tion­al hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars worth of con­tri­bu­tions to Project Ver­i­tas were attrib­uted sole­ly to “DT” on the group’s quar­ter­ly finan­cial meet­ing doc­u­ments. The ini­tials may refer to Donors Trust or to the con­stel­la­tion of cor­po­rate and (osten­si­bly) phil­an­thropic orga­ni­za­tions tied to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump him­self. While Trump is a well-known past donor to Project Veritas—a framed pho­to of him and O’Keefe rests promi­nent­ly on a book­shelf at Project Ver­i­tas head­quar­ters in Mamaro­neck, New York—many oth­er donors were evi­dent­ly so secret that they were list­ed sim­ply as “anony­mous” even on the group’s own inter­nal doc­u­ments.

    ***********

    Cash mat­ters, but O’Keefe’s per­son­al con­nec­tions are where the depth and seam­less­ness of this coor­di­na­tion with the Repub­li­can Par­ty become tru­ly appar­ent. They also offer a glimpse into the vast net­work that has formed to sup­press the vote this fall—a net­work years in the mak­ing, of which Project Ver­i­tas is but a hum­ble node.

    Take lit­i­ga­tor William Consovoy, the legal point man on many of the con­ser­v­a­tive-fund­ed elec­tion integri­ty cas­es pur­sued dur­ing the Trump era. He is, like O’Keefe, a New Jer­sey native with a long his­to­ry in local Repub­li­can pol­i­tics. A for­mer law clerk for Clarence Thomas, Consovoy is also report­ed­ly a friend of Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Leonard Leo, whose nephew David Max­ham has been a friend of O’Keefe’s since their under­grad­u­ate years at Rut­gers. (Max­ham, nat­u­ral­ly, was also invit­ed to O’Keefe’s wed­ding.)

    This year, Leonard Leo has stepped aside from day-to-day man­age­ment of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety to run a new con­ser­v­a­tive donor group, CRC Advi­sors, that is pour­ing mon­ey into Consovoy’s legal chal­lenges in key bat­tle­ground states across the coun­try. CRC has been steer­ing mon­ey into some­thing called the “Hon­est Elec­tions Project,” a fic­ti­tious name filed in Vir­ginia for Leo’s old group the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project, now offi­cial­ly called the 85 Fund. As The Guardian report­ed, 99 per­cent of the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project’s fund­ing in 2018 was a sin­gle $7.8 mil­lion dona­tion fun­neled through Donors Trust.

    With gen­er­ous assis­tance from the Hon­est Elec­tions Project and the RNC, Consovoy’s firm Consovoy McCarthy PLLC has recent­ly brought cas­es against the re-enfran­chis­ing of felons in Flori­da and sued to block California’s plans to deliv­er absen­tee bal­lots to all of the state’s reg­is­tered vot­ers. Consovoy has con­tributed to relat­ed motions filed in Penn­syl­va­nia, Wis­con­sin, Neva­da, Michi­gan, and Texas, where Ken Paxton’s vic­to­ry against mail-in vot­ing in May earned praise from Pres­i­dent Trump on Twit­ter.

    If you strain to look beyond the lone­ly par­ti­san kitsch of James O’Keefe’s bun­gled scams and hare­brained hoax­es, it’s plain to see the march of a whole bat­tal­ion of Dia­mond Dog oper­a­tives and lawyers turned loose on the integri­ty of the bal­lot in key bat­tle­ground states.

    —————

    “Inside the Project Ver­i­tas Plan to Steal the Elec­tion” by Matthew Phe­lan, Jesse Hicks; The New Repub­lic; 08/03/2020

    For well over a year, Project Ver­i­tas has been secret­ly pro­duc­ing under­cov­er stings designed to under­mine the integri­ty of absen­tee and mail-in bal­lot counts—an endeav­or code­named “Dia­mond Dog,” accord­ing to doc­u­ments we have obtained. Dia­mond Dog began as only one facet of Project Veritas’s 2020 rat-fu cking strat­e­gy, but with the onset of the pan­dem­ic, which has made in-per­son vot­ing a dicey propo­si­tion, it has since become one of the group’s top-line action items.”

    As of August of 2020, Oper­a­tion Dia­mond Dog had been up and run­ning for well over a year with the expressed pur­pose of demo­niz­ing mail-in and absen­tee vot­ing. We don’t know when exact­ly it start­ed. We just know is start­ed much ear­li­er than the pan­dem­ic that sud­den­ly made mail-in vot­ing a major fac­tor in the elec­tion. And by the end of the sum­mer, Dia­mond Dog expand­ed with a par­tic­u­lar focus on Cal­i­for­nia and Texas:

    ...
    The pur­pose of Dia­mond Dog, as one source close to the orga­ni­za­tion put it, is “lit­er­al­ly to get Trump reelect­ed.” This source, like oth­er past and present Project Ver­i­tas employ­ees who have talked to us for this arti­cle, expressed fear of reprisals from the group and would only speak under the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty.

    ...

    By the end of sum­mer 2019, Dia­mond Dog had already grown to be a cross-coun­try effort, based on inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas mem­os, research notes, and oth­er doc­u­ments that we have obtained. In Cal­i­for­nia and Texas, Project Ver­i­tas has tasked its oper­a­tives with unearthing sup­posed evi­dence of wide­spread mail-in bal­lot forgery. In both states, Project Ver­i­tas has worked to infil­trate the groups of vol­un­teers and paid can­vassers who col­lect absen­tee and mail-in vot­er appli­ca­tions from low-income, elder­ly, and minor­i­ty groups—a per­fect­ly legal prac­tice in most states that con­ser­v­a­tives have tried to label as nefar­i­ous “bal­lot har­vest­ing.”

    ...

    Well before the pan­dem­ic drew nation­al atten­tion to mail-in vot­ing, these doc­u­ments show a dis­cernible focus on “bal­lot har­vest­ing” as part of the larg­er Repub­li­can effort to paint vot­ing by mail as a threat to democ­ra­cy. The con­cern stems from the party’s entrenched belief that, as Trump has tweet­ed, vote-by-mail “doesn’t work out well for Repub­li­cans,” since it often helps low-income peo­ple and minori­ties.

    By late August 2019, the “Sto­ry Objec­tive” for Dia­mond Dog had expand­ed, per one inter­nal meet­ing doc­u­ment, to expos­ing “cor­rup­tion with­in CA bal­lot har­vest­ing com­pa­nies and oth­er states (TX) based on intel gains.” A Project Ver­i­tas under­cov­er oper­a­tive code­named “Mag­num” had been busy “attend­ing local Demo­c­ra­t­ic events in CA to find dis­cus­sions of har­vest­ing.” Anoth­er oper­a­tive code­named “GDog” was cre­at­ing an entrap­ment scheme by post­ing “ads online look­ing for peo­ple to join his bal­lot har­vest­ing.”
    ...

    And it’s in Texas where we find evi­dence of Project Ver­i­tas work­ing direct­ly with Texas Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Pax­ton, along with local Repub­li­can oper­a­tive Aaron Har­ris, the cur­rent chief of staff to GOP con­gress­man Lance Good­en. Har­ris appears to be the medi­a­tor between Pax­ton and Project Ver­i­tas:

    ...
    In Texas, Project Ver­i­tas has also coor­di­nat­ed in secret with a local Repub­li­can oper­a­tive named Aaron Har­ris, code­named “Drag­on,” cur­rent­ly chief of staff to Repub­li­can con­gress­man Lance Good­en. In turn, through the activist group he found­ed, Direct Action Texas, Har­ris has helped Project Ver­i­tas covert­ly strate­gize with a staffer work­ing for the office of the state’s Repub­li­can Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Pax­ton. Pax­ton is lead­ing the state’s “elec­tion integri­ty ini­tia­tive,” one of many Repub­li­can efforts nation­wide to sup­press the vote under the guise of root­ing out the near­ly non-exis­tent threat of vot­er fraud.

    ...

    Unlike some Project Ver­i­tas asso­ciates, Har­ris has already man­aged to stir up some pub­lic alarm about alleged bal­lot­ing fraud in coop­er­a­tion with elect­ed offi­cials from the Repub­li­can Par­ty. He has made repeat­ed open records requests for “appli­ca­tions for bal­lot by mail” and copies of signed “bal­lot car­ri­er envelopes” in Tar­rant Coun­ty and else­where in Texas, eye­balling the sig­na­tures on each for signs of fraud. (Emi­ly J. Will, the board-cer­ti­fied foren­sic doc­u­ment exam­in­er who tried to warn 60 Min­utes about the dubi­ous prove­nance of Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s sup­pos­ed­ly doc­tored Air Nation­al Guard records in 2004, told us that a non-expert like Har­ris couldn’t be relied upon to dis­cern a forged sig­na­ture.)

    In 2016, Har­ris sent the fruits of that labor to Texas Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Pax­ton, lead­ing to four con­spic­u­ous­ly timed indict­ments two years lat­er on the eve of the 2018 midterm elec­tions. Pax­ton described the four His­pan­ic women, paid can­vassers solic­it­ing mail-in bal­lot appli­ca­tions door-to-door, as an “orga­nized vot­er fraud ring.” He named (but did not charge) a for­mer local Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty leader, Stu­art Clegg, as the ring­leader in the court fil­ings.

    That case, which is still ongo­ing, reveals the ways in which the offi­cial GOP sub­tly coor­di­nates with its army of right-wing irreg­u­lars in the field. Pax­ton stri­dent­ly enforces one of the strictest vot­er I.D. laws in the nation, while Har­ris and his polit­i­cal allies at Direct Action Texas and Empow­er Tex­ans work to inde­pen­dent­ly legit­imize the attor­ney general’s par­ti­san vendet­tas. Har­ris and local Repub­li­can lawyer Alex Kim, for exam­ple, insert­ed them­selves into the prosecution’s case by inde­pen­dent­ly vis­it­ing one of the charged can­vassers in prison, seem­ing­ly on their own ini­tia­tive, in an effort to coerce the woman into flip­ping on Clegg. (A month after help­ing Har­ris sneak into the Tar­rant Coun­ty Jail to harass the can­vass­er, Kim won a local race to pre­side over the entire coun­ty as a judge for Texas’s 323rd Dis­trict Court.)

    ...

    Already staked out on the Texas bal­lot-har­vest­ing van­guard, Aaron Har­ris “met with Fox­trot” in per­son and “gave her a lead with some­one to fol­low,” per inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas research notes. As Dia­mond Dog pro­gressed, Harris’s ties to Project Ver­i­tas deep­ened to include long­time employ­ee and recruit­ing direc­tor Spencer Meads, code­named “Brady,” and pos­si­bly an under­cov­er jour­nal­ist (UCJ) code­named “Peter Pan.” Project Veritas’s expand­ing pool of Texas sources was meant to be a state secret, but the doc­u­ment offered a huge clue about who might be involved in an all-caps and high­light­ed por­tion that read: “CANNOT MENTION ATTORNEY GENERAL.” In the same doc­u­ment, after list­ing a series of major met­ro­pol­i­tan areas in Texas as poten­tial sites for their “bal­lot har­vest­ing” inves­ti­ga­tion, a ques­tion is pro­posed: “Where does the AG’s guy sug­gest they go?”
    ...

    Also note how one of the under­cov­er oper­a­tives who worked on the oper­a­tions in Texas, Cas­san­dra Spencer, hap­pens to be one of the self-described “Proud Boy” affil­i­ates work­ing for Project Ver­i­tas. Spencer went on to pose as a vol­un­teer for the Bernie Sanders and Eliz­a­beth War­ren cam­paigns dur­ing the 2020 pri­maries as part of “Oper­a­tion Gold Mine”:

    ...
    One local Project Ver­i­tas oper­a­tive assigned to coor­di­nate with Aaron Har­ris in Texas is also a for­mer under­cov­er vol­un­teer: Cas­san­dra Spencer, code­named “Fox­trot” and some­times “Fox­trot Smith” inter­nal­ly. In 2017, Spencer became O’Keefe’s “Face­book Insid­er” after leav­ing a pub­lic infor­ma­tion offi­cer post with the Pflugerville, Texas, police depart­ment to join Facebook’s con­tin­gent work­force oper­a­tions at BCFor­ward in Austin as a social media con­tent mod­er­a­tor.

    Spencer has posi­tioned her­self at the extreme­ly online inter­sec­tion of gam­ing cul­ture and the alt-right. She has described her­self as a “Proud Boy’s Girl” on Medi­um and attend­ed “Austin’s pre­mier ani­me con­ven­tion” IKKi­CON in Final Fan­ta­sy X cos­play. She trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., for the inau­gur­al Deplora­Ball and oper­ates her own Twitch stream, which she dubbed “a First Amend­ment zone” for her con­ser­v­a­tive fol­low­ers, “not like many oth­ers.” For the 2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry in Iowa, Spencer posed as a vol­un­teer for pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls Eliz­a­beth War­ren and Bernie Sanders as part of a Project Ver­i­tas sting then-code­named “Gold Mine.”
    ...

    Final­ly, note the role Donors Trust plays in act­ing as an anony­mous fun­nel from wealthy donors affil­i­at­ed with the Koch donor net­work. As we’ve seen, Donors Trust was lit­er­al­ly used to help an anony­mous donor grant the white nation­al­ist VDARE Foun­da­tion $1.5 mil­lion so it could buy its own real cas­tle in West Vir­ginia in 2019. It’s an exam­ple of how much Donors Trust mon­ey goes to tru­ly odi­ous oper­a­tions like Project Ver­i­tas or white nation­al­ist cas­tles:

    ...
    Project Ver­i­tas has been among the on-the-ground orga­ni­za­tions at the fore­front of these efforts and has ben­e­fit­ed sub­stan­tial­ly as a result. Accord­ing to inter­nal Project Ver­i­tas doc­u­ments, the group’s fundrais­ing total for 2019 leaped up to more than $13.44 mil­lion, $4.58 mil­lion more than their 2018 returns and the group’s largest report­ed annu­al rev­enue fig­ure to date. The group may be com­i­cal­ly incom­pe­tent, but in these cursed times, we all know how dan­ger­ous com­i­cal incom­pe­tence can be once enough mon­ey and clout line up behind it.

    ...

    O’Keefe’s wealthy donors sure­ly remem­ber these and oth­er vic­to­ries in vivid detail, in no small mea­sure because they are reit­er­at­ed tire­less­ly dur­ing O’Keefe’s paid speak­ing engage­ments and fundrais­ing con­claves. Among Project Veritas’s 2019 con­trib­u­tors were sev­er­al wealthy polit­i­cal groups, char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tions, and con­ser­v­a­tive bil­lion­aires with appar­ent inter­ests in the out­come of Dia­mond Dog.

    ...

    In Texas, anoth­er $50,000 was passed on to Project Ver­i­tas from the Texas Free Mar­ket Fund through the group Donors Trust, the dark mon­ey “donor-advised fund” that has helped make con­tri­bu­tions from the Kochs, the DeVos fam­i­ly, and oth­ers untrace­able in future IRS fil­ings. The char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion of late Texas oil­man Ken W. “Stinky” Davis, based like Project Ver­i­tas ally Aaron Har­ris in Tar­rant Coun­ty, also kicked in $5,000 to the group, the lat­est in the foundation’s influ­en­tial spend­ing spree on Repub­li­can pol­i­tics in the Lone Star State and across the coun­try.

    In Flori­da, anoth­er dona­tion of $50,000 came to the group through Donors Trust, this time from the free mar­ket defend­ers at the Thomas W. Smith Foun­da­tion.

    ...

    Many addi­tion­al hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars worth of con­tri­bu­tions to Project Ver­i­tas were attrib­uted sole­ly to “DT” on the group’s quar­ter­ly finan­cial meet­ing doc­u­ments. The ini­tials may refer to Donors Trust or to the con­stel­la­tion of cor­po­rate and (osten­si­bly) phil­an­thropic orga­ni­za­tions tied to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump him­self. While Trump is a well-known past donor to Project Veritas—a framed pho­to of him and O’Keefe rests promi­nent­ly on a book­shelf at Project Ver­i­tas head­quar­ters in Mamaro­neck, New York—many oth­er donors were evi­dent­ly so secret that they were list­ed sim­ply as “anony­mous” even on the group’s own inter­nal doc­u­ments.
    ...

    You have to won­der how much more Project Ver­i­tas received in 2020, espe­cial­ly in this post-elec­tion peri­od.

    Sim­i­lar­ly, we have to won­der how many more schemes Project Ver­i­tas is hatch­ing right now in rela­tion to Oper­a­tion Dia­mond Dog. We can be pret­ty con­fi­dent at least some new schemes are on the way. Just as we can be con­fi­dent those schemes are prob­a­bly very well financed and like­ly involves exten­sive secret the coor­di­na­tion with Repub­li­can offi­cials.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 17, 2020, 6:06 pm

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