is a group affiliated withJames OKeefe, a right-wing provocateur known for a series of deceptive videos attacking targets likePlanned ParenthoodandACORN, a community organizing group.As of 2017, Porject Veritass main targets were the mainstream news media and left-leaning groups via undercover stings that involve using false cover stories and covert video recordings meant to expose what the group says is media bias.
In fall 2014, the group launched a political offshoot with its sights set on high-profile campaigns and organizations calledProject Veritas Action, according toMother Jones.3
In its tax filings, Project Veritas states that its mission is to train, educate, and inform others to investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.4Some of the primary methods used by OKeefe and other Project Veritas operatives, however, use disguises and deceptive editing.
Project Veritas Served with Restraining Order, Latest Sting Blocked
James OKeefe, Who Pled Guilty in Federal Case, Threatens WI AG Schimel into Flip Flop on Project Veritas Video
Botched Sting Attempt on Open Society Foundations
Operative Refuses Plan to Dupe Protesters with Kill Cops Script (2015)
WI Senate President Drops Out of GOP Primary after Project Veritas Video (2014)
Failed Attempts to Entrap Democrats and Nonprofits During 2014 Midterm Campaigns
$100,000 Paid to Settle Lawsuit over Secret Recording (2013)
Probe of Senators Office Nets Arrests and Probation for Project Veritas (2010)
Former Director of Operations Calls Project Veritas Nothing More than a PR Machine
After Project Veritas attempted to infiltrate Democracy Partners, a group called The Undercut and American Family Voices launched ProjectVeritas.Exposed. The mission of the site is to serve as a research resource for individual and organizational targets of Project Veritas, lawyers representing the victims, and the media. The site keeps a running list of the attempted stings Project Veritas is caught in.5
A woman tried to tell theWashington Postabout a relationship she and then-senate candidate Roy Moore had in 1992 which, according to her story, led to an abortion when she was 15. The woman repeatedly pressed Post reporters to give their opinions on the effects that her claims could have on Moores candidacy if she went public. Reporters discovered that the woman went to the Project Veritas office, suggesting that the story was manufactured by Project Veritas. OKeefe refused to answer questions about the encounter2
Michigan Circuit Court Judge Brian R. Sullivan granted the American Federation of Teachers-Michigans request to barJames OKeefes Project Veritas from releasing information gained through a possibly illegal sting over the summer of 2017.6
According to the Intercept, political operative Marisa Jorge posed as a University of Michigan student interested in becoming a teacher and applied for a summer internship with the teachers union. (Verney, the Project Veritas executive director, said he knows Marisa Jorge, but wouldnt confirm or deny whether she works for the organization.) Jorge was hired as an intern in May, and over the course of three months, she gathered information that exceeded the scope of her duties, the lawsuit alleges. For example, she showed a particular interest in employees who were disciplined for inappropriate sexual interactions with students. On more than one occasion, the lawsuit alleges, Jorge was found sitting alone in other employees offices, accessing information she had no right to.6
The lawsuit accuses Jorge of fraudulent misrepresentation, trespass, eavesdropping, and theft. It also accuses Jorge and Project Veritas of conspiring to infiltrate AFT Michigan, gather and copy proprietary information, and disseminate that information to paint the union group in a false light. By granting a temporary restraining order, Sullivan has indicated his belief that the allegations are more than likely to be true and that the benefit of barring the defendants from disseminating the information Jorge collected outweighs the harm of suppressing her speech. The injunction will stay in place for at least 14 days, and the case is set for a hearing on October 5.6
OKeefe had no comment when The Intercept asked him about the restraining order.6
In October 2016James OKeefe, a widely discredited video attack dog published video through his groupshowing Democratic political operatives in bars discussing the use inappropriate and potentially illegal campaign tactics with unidentified persons posing as funders. The video does not contain evidence that any of the campaign activities discussed were actually undertaken. In 2017, OKeefe was sued for breaking federal and local wiretap law in the incident.7
After a review of the facts in the case, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte wrote in a memo: Based on all the available facts I do not believe there is any basis to conclude that the videos demonstrate or suggest violations of Wisconsin criminal laws… The conversations remain best described as vague and theoretical in many respects… There are no clear or direct statements indicating that voter fraud (bringing in out of state voters) was planned or had occurred.8
On April 27, 2017 OKeefe released a four-minute video attacking Schimel personally for failing to prosecute and threatening to target the Attorney General himself. We should investigate you and you should lose your job.9The OKeefe tirade was enough to push Schimel to change his stance writes Bruce Murphy of Urban Milwaukee. He went on conservative talker Mark Bellings show and announced that the investigation his office had previously announced was over was actually still continuing. Schimel added that I appreciate the work that groups like Project Veritas do to expose corruption and criminal conspiracies, wrongly suggesting the groups accusations had actually led to anyone being charged with a crime.10
Ironically, OKeefe himself has been charged and prosecuted by federal officials. He and three others pled guilty in 2010 after they engaged in an effort to trespass and bug the offices of U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu went awry.
Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles III sentenced Stan Dai, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan each to two years probation, a fine of $1,500 and 75 hours of community service during their first year of probation.James OKeefe, as leader of the group and famous for posing aa pimp in ACORN office videos, received three years of probation, a fine of $1,500 and 100 hours of community service, reported the New Orleans paper at the time.11
Previously, OKeefe paid $100,000 in 2013 to settle a lawsuit filed by Juan Carlos Vera, a former employee of ACORN. The lawsuit alleged that OKeefe and his associate filmed Vera in the San Diego ACORN offices without his consent, a violation of California law, and portrayed him untruthfully.12
On March 16, 2016 James OKeefe contacted the offices of Open Society Foundations — a nonprofit that promotes democratic rights internationally — under the name Victor Kesh and left a voicemail in which he expressed interest in collaborating for the promotion of European values.13OKeefe botched the sting attempt when he failed to hang up the phone, discussed the sting with someone else while still recording the voicemail, and revealed his identity to Open Society Foundations by accessing his targets Linkedin page while logged on to his own profile. OKeefe admitted defeat several months after the sting attempt, stating in an interview withBreitbartthat he was forced to abandon an ambitious undercover investigation into billionaire left-wing financier George Soros.14He stated in the same interview that the objective of the sting had been to find out what the Soros foundation is doing in Eastern Europe. According toThe New Yorkermagazine, recently-appointed Veritas board member Matthew Tyrmand is a thirty-five-year-old Polish-American investor who is an informal adviser to Polands right-wing nationalist government.13
In March 2015, former Director of Operations of Project Veritas Rich Valdes toldMedia Mattersthat he had been fired over his unwillingness to strong-arm an undercover operative into baiting protesters at a rally against police brutality. According toMedia Matters, which also reviewed copies of emails related to the incident, Valdes said:
OKeefe wanted him to send the other activist, whom Valdes describes as a Muslim operative, to a January National Action Network event related to the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after being put in a chokehold by a New York police officer in July 2014.
In this particular situation, James came to my desk and asked me to send this particular operative into the field, Valdes recalls about the incident, which he says took place in the organizations Mamaroneck, N.Y., offices. And he was really anxious and he said, do whatever it takes, do whatever it takes, tell him to say whatever hes got to say, get me the content. Content is king.
According to Valdes, the operative, who was Muslim, was hesitant about doing the project, worried about its legality and about its intellectual honesty.
This particular situation, he made the case that in the past when we were out there, we were just exposing stuff that was already going on, he felt the difference with this … he felt that what we were trying to achieve, or what James was asking him to do, was to kind of dupe people into saying something they would not ordinarily say and he took exception to that, and of course I respected that.
Despite being told by OKeefe to press the operative again, Valdes decided not to, and was then called into OKeefes office and dismissed from Project Veritas. Valdes also said that he had not received his final paycheck. His lawyer said that he was considering a lawsuit over wrongful termination.15
Talking Points Memopublished the full text of the script the operative was to use, based on emails obtained from Valdes attorney:
As a minority and a Muslim, I know what its like when the police treat me unfairly. They have even searched my little daughters body. Can you believe that? Do you know what its like to have your rights violated because of the color of your skin or because of your name? -PAUSE-
Sometimes, I wish I could just kill some of these cops. Dont you just wish we could have one of the cops right here in the middle of our group? -PAUSE-
What would you do if we could get Officer Pantoleo (who killed Eric Garner) right here in this crowd? What would you do to him?
A spokesman for Project Veritas declined to comment on the situation toTalking Points Memobeyond confirming Valdes former employment,16but the same spokesman had earlier told theNew York Post– which first reported the story — that Project Veritas would never do anything that we believe would incite violence against police officers. Anyone suggesting otherwise is clearly unfamiliar with our body of work.17
In April 2014, Project Veritas published a video it had secretly recorded in which Wisconsin State Senate PresidentMike Ellis(R-Neenah) appeared to discuss setting up an illegal political action committee to attack his Democratic opponent and having his fundraiser, Judi Rhodes Engels, help run the supposedly independent group, as theMilwaukee Journal Sentineldescribed the video. Ellis later told theJournal Sentinelthat he had never spoken to her about the matter and that he later discovered his plan wasnt legal and scrapped the idea. Engels likewise said they had never discussed the idea.18Ellis announced two days later that he was dropping out of his re-election race, after serving for almost 44 years in the state legislature. He had previously been known as a champion of campaign finance laws, and his decision to leave the race would accelerate a trend in the Senate toward sharper party clashes, observers agreed, according to theJournal Sentinel.19
In an interview after the videos release, Ellis speculated thatWisconsin Club for Growth(WiCFG) might have been behind the video.20The Center for Media and Democracy reported in January 2015 on tax documents showing that WiCFG DirectorEric OKeefe, a longtime supporter ofScott Walkerand a group at the center of the John Doe criminal investigation of potentially illegal campaign finance coordination, had given $50,000 to Project Veritas in 2013. When called by CMD and asked about the $50,000 donation, Eric OKeefe said I didnt give that in 2013, then ended the call.21
Learn more about the John Doe investigationhere, and keep up with CMDs latest reporting on the investigation with theReporters Guide.
Project Veritas operatives reportedly tried to get staffers for several Democratic campaigns on tape supporting voter fraud in 2014.Mother Jonesreported in October that OKeefe and two others tried to bait Democratic field staffers into approving voter fraud involving Colorados universal vote-by-mail program, according to three Democratic staffers who interacted with OKeefe or his colleagues. Two operatives asked questions about filling out others mail-in ballots, which staffers explained would be voter fraud, telling them not to do it. Wearing makeup and a costume and presenting himself as a civics professor, OKeefe tried to enter the office of a progressive nonprofit, New Era Colorado, while carrying campaign literature for the Democratic candidate. New Era staff refused to let them inside, and the groups executive director toldMother Joneshe thought OKeefe and his collaborators were trying to establish evidence we were working together.22
In March 2013, OKeefe agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Juan Carlos Vera, a former employee of ACORN. The lawsuit alleged that OKeefe and his associate filmed Vera in the San Diego ACORN offices without his consent, a violation of California law, and portrayed him untruthfully. The video was later heavily edited and published on conservative mega-blog , making it appear that Vera had conspired with OKeefe to smuggle underage girls across the Mexican border, when in fact Vera had immediately contacted the police after OKeefe left his office.23
In January 2010, OKeefe — together with Stan Dai, Joseph Basel, and Robert Flanagan — was arrested for attempting to enter U.S. Senator Mary Landrieus (D-LA) office under false pretenses. The four were arrested under suspicion of plotting to tamper with Landrieus phones, and initially were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.24OKeefe, Flanagan, and Basel posed as a telephone repair crew and asked a staff member for access to the phone system, while Dai reportedly was arrested with a listening device in a car blocks from the senators offices, according to theNew Orleans Times Picayune.24The four pled guilty to entering real property belonging to the United States under false pretenses and were sentenced in May, with OKeefe receiving a fine of $1,500, 100 hours of community service, and three years probation; and the other three receiving fines of $1,500, 75 hours each of community service, and two years probation. According to theTimes Picayune, The judge repeatedly told the defendants that, as journalists, they needed to learn where to draw a line in their investigative methods.25
Project Veritas first entered the public eye in 2009 when its founder/president,James OKeefe, gained notice for secretly videotaping his exchanges with workers for the community organizing group ACORN who appeared to advise him how to avoid prosecution for a variety of unsavory activities like child prostitution, according to theNew York Times. Aided by conservative bloggerAndrew Breitbart, the group spread the impression that OKeefe had dressed in an outlandish pimp costume, a detail that was quickly embraced by the mainstream media and turned into a central part of the ACORN story, leading to ridicule of ACORN employees for their apparent cluelessness, according to Media Matters.26Mother Jonesreferred to the ACORN sting and other such videos as disingenuously edited hit jobs.27
Later investigations, including one by the California Attorney General, showed that the videos released by OKeefe were misleading. From the AGs report:
Evidence obtained by Brown tells a somewhat different story [than the edited videos originally released], however, as reflected in three videotapes made at ACORN locations in California. One ACORN worker in San Diego called the cops. Another ACORN worker in San Bernardino caught on to the scheme and played along with it, claiming among other things that she had murdered her abusive husband. Her two former husbands are alive and well, the Attorney Generals report noted. At the beginning and end of the Internet videos, OKeefe was dressed as a 1970s Superfly pimp, but in his actual taped sessions with ACORN workers, he was dressed in a shirt and tie, presented himself as a law student, and said he planned to use the prostitution proceeds to run for Congress. He never claimed he was a pimp.
The Attorney General found that while some members of ACORN had engaged in inappropriate behavior, the organization had committed no violation of criminal laws.28
A 2009 investigation by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee found no evidence of fraudulent voting or of violations of federal financing rules by the group in the past five years, and also that Project Veritas might have broken privacy laws in California and Maryland […] The two states appear to ban the recording of face-to-face conversations without the consent of all participants, the report said.29
Nonetheless, Congress voted to pull funding from ACORN, and the group ceased operating in the United States.
TheAmerican Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC) contributed to pressure against ACORN, as the Center for Media and Democracy found.30Despite ACORNs ceasing to operate, asBloomberg Businessweekreported in late 2014, Every year since 2009, Congress has added language to must-pass spending bills that prohibits funds from ACORN.31
According toMedia Matters, Valdes also had harsh words for Project Veritas, suggesting the organization is less concerned with news and more focused on inflating OKeefes standing among conservative media.15
Each story that goes out is designed to push him further ahead as a leader in conservative media, Valdes said. I think its questionable if you purport yourself to be a news outlet and you are nothing more than a P.R. machine. Thats something I have learned in my time there.
Project Veritas does not appear to disclose its donors, but some of its major funders can be identified from tax filings and other documents. Known funders include:
Robert S. and Star Pepper Foundation(which has also funded theMedia Research Center): $5,000 (2011)
Dunns Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking: $1,000 (2013)
In 2015, the Center for Media and Democracy (which publishes SourceWatch) reported on tax documents showing thatEric OKeefe, director of theWisconsin Club for Growth, made a $50,000 donation to Project Veritas in 2013. (When called by CMD and asked about the $50,000 donation, Eric OKeefe said I didnt give that in 2013, then ended the call.)
For the period January 1, 2012-December 31, 2012.
Period not specified; filing submitted December 14, 2012.
Includes $1,500 in compensation, $1,000 paid to Francisco Gonzalez and $500 to Greg Walker. James OKeefe and Shane Cory were estimated to work an average of 50 and 40 hours per week, respectively, but received no compensation.
Staff as of January 2015 (according to LinkedIn):
Shawn Boburg, Aaron C. Davis and Alice CritesA woman approached The Post with dramatic and false tale about Roy Moore. She appears to be part of undercover sting operation
Andy Kroll,Colorado Dems: We Caught James OKeefe and His Friends Trying to Bait Us Into Approving Voter Fraud,
Project Veritas,2011 IRS Form 990, tax filing (amended return), December 14, 2012. Accessed January 23, 2015.
ProjectVertiasExposedhomewebsite, accessed March 5, 2019
Ryan Grim, Maryam Saleh, and Rachel M. Cohen,Conservative Provocateur James Okeefes Group Hit With Restraining Order, Blocking Latest Sting,
Ryan Grim,James OKeefe Hit by Group He Stung with Million-Dollar Lawsuit,
Patrick Marley,Wisconsin DOJ: James OKeefes Project Veritas tape did not show election law violations,
Patrick Marley,Conservative James OKeefe threatens to investigate Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel over video flap,
Bruce Murphy,The Incompetence of Brad Schimel, Urban Milwaukee, May 2, 2017.
Ramon Antonio Vargas,James OKeefe and friends plead guilty in Mary Landrieu office caper,
Harriet Rowan,James OKeefe Pays $100K Settlement after Deceiving Public about ACORN (and ALEC Helped Take Down ACORN), Center for Media and Democracy, March 14, 2013.
Joel Pollak,Exclusive: James OKeefe Outs Himself in George Soros Investigation,
Joe Strupp,Former Top Employee: Project Veritas A P.R. Machine For OKeefe,
Catherine Thompson,Ex-Staffer Slams James OKeefe: He Crossed A Line With Vile Kill Cops Stunt,
Carl Campanile,Activist allegedly tried to bait protesters with kill cops script,
Patrick Marley and Daniel Bice,GOPs Mike Ellis caught on recording talking of illegal fundraising,
Patrick Marley and Jason Stein,Mike Ellis drops out of state Senate race,
Wisconsin Eye,Newsmakers: Exit Interview with Sen. Mike Ellis, YouTube, April 12, 2014. Accessed January 28, 2015.
Mary Bottari,Money Trail Revealed: Did Eric OKeefe Pay James OKeefe for Hatchet Job on GOP Senate President?, Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, January 27, 2015. Accessed January 28, 2015.
Andy Kroll,Colorado Dems: We Caught James OKeefe and His Friends Trying to Bait Us Into Approving Voter Fraud,
Kevin Robillard,James OKeefe agrees to pay $100,000 settlement,
David Hammer,ACORN gotcha man arrested in attempt to tamper with Mary Landrieus office phones,
Ramon Antonio Vargas,James OKeefe and friends plead guilty in Mary Landrieu office caper,
Eric Boehlert,James OKeefe and the myth of the ACORN pimp, Media Matters, February 17, 2010.
Office of Attorney General Kemala D. Harris,Brown Releases Report Detailing a Litany of Problems with ACORN, But No Criminality, California Department of Justice, press release, April 1, 2010.
John Schwartz,Report Uncovers No Voting Fraud by Acorn,
Harriet Rowan,James OKeefe Pays $100K Settlement after Deceiving Public about ACORN (and ALEC Helped Take Down ACORN), Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, March 14, 2013.
Dave Weigel,Congresss Undying (and Less Than Effective) ACORN Funding Ban,
Center for Media and Democracy,DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients,
Jonas Persson,James OKeefe Cronies Unveiled in Attempted Sting on CMD,
American Bridge 21st Century Foundation,Project Veritas, Conservative Transparency database, accessed January 22, 2015.
Project Veritas,2012 IRS Form 990, tax filing, November 14, 2013. Accessed January 23, 2015.
LinkedIn,Rich Valds, personal profile, accessed January 28, 2015.
LinkedIn,Jim Dimeo, personal profile, accessed January 28, 2015.
Project Veritas,2014 IRS Form 990, tax filing, August 14, 2015.
This page was last edited on 5 March 2019, at 19:37.
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SourceWatch is a project of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).