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Project Veritas is the brainchild of right-wing “gotcha man” James O’Keefe and his merry band of conservative provocateurs. The group claims to work toward “a more ethical and transparent society” but has exclusively used its tax-exempt status to attack liberal organizations with unsound and dishonest “investigative journalism,” often in the form of blatantly doctored videos purporting to show wrongdoing by liberal activists.
O’Keefe got his first major victory in 2009 when a series of undercover videos showed him soliciting advice from ACORN workers on how to set up a brothel and evade taxes. The “heavily and selectively edited” videos contributed to the disbanding of the liberal group although prosecutors in both New York and California later absolved the group after finding “no evidence of wrongdoing.” Nevertheless, the videos earned him plaudits of conservative pundits and politicians alike, with 31 Republicans sponsoring legislation honoring O’Keefe and his accomplice. Rep. Pete Olson of Texas claimed that the video “demonstrates the concern young people have with the tax burden being placed on them.”
The group has gone after Planned Parenthood, labor unions and Medicaid, among others. In 2011, Project Veritas’ efforts to “embarrass or ensnare liberal groups” also led to the resignations of two NPR executives after he released questionably edited footage showing the officials criticizing the Tea Party movement.
O’Keefe’s investigations have also gotten him into trouble with the law. In 2010, the O’Keefe was arrested after taping associates entering Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans while posing as telephone repairman. The conservative activist pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and fined $1,500. The next year, Politico reported that his group was plagued by infighting and “lack of funding.”
Project Veritas’ top known donors are Koch Brothers-linked dark-money groups DonorsTrust and the affiliated Donors Capital Fund, with contributions of $149,450 and $105,000, respectively. In 2014, the most recent year for which financial information is available, the group reported $2,416,542 in revenue.
In 2014, the Project Veritas formed Project Veritas Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization that permits the group to be more directly involved in political activity and gives the group “more flexibility to investigate all public officials.” The new group has released two videos, including one that goes after Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and another against Kentucky Democrat and Senate hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes.