Maxine Waters, the object of a 2010 Project Veritas mission.
By the start of 2010, conservative multi-millionaires and media provocateurs were bombarding O’Keefe with proposals to rattle various liberal cages. He established Project Veritas — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit through which O’Keefe could raise funding to investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions. One idea that piqued O’Keefe’s interest involved California congresswoman Maxine Waters.
At the time, the House Ethics Committee was attempting to determine whether Waters had improperly steered millions of dollars to a bank in which her husband had a financial interest. In 2008, Waters had facilitated a meeting between treasury officials and the Boston-based OneUnited, where Waters’s husband was a board member and stockholder. The Washington Post described the bank as having a “history of mismanagement.” Yet OneUnited had gone on to receive more than $12 million from the federal Troubled Assets Relief Program. O’Keefe saw a ripe opportunity to disgrace Waters, an outspoken member of the Congressional Black Caucus with a reputation as an advocate for poor people.
“James was telling me about dirty elected officials like Congresswoman Waters, and her husband, and how they took [federal] money to benefit her family, and how her husband’s bank wasn’t lending to the downtrodden African-American community,” says Naffe. “He really made her out to be a bad, bad person. That resonated with me.”
O’Keefe picked up Naffe at LAX. They’d spoken on the phone and emailed, but this was the first time they’d met face to face. She liked him right away. He was driving a rented Mustang convertible — one of several vehicles on hand to execute the Waters mission. From the airport, Naffe says, they drove to an RV that friends of Project Veritas allowed O’Keefe to park on their Los Angeles property.
With financing from Thiel and Breitbart, Naffe says O’Keefe had turned the RV into a mobile intelligence center equipped with newly purchased smartphones, flatscreens, and recording devices. With those tools on hand, the crew concocted its crusade against congressional cronyism. On her first full day in LA, Naffe says she and O’Keefe hit various OneUnited branches in Los Angeles. Using a hidden camera, O’Keefe recorded video of different loan agents giving contradicting information on available tax credits. There was no smoking gun — none of the employees accepted a cash bribe that O’Keefe offered them. But Naffe says they had enough to show that there was mass confusion among OneUnited workers. From there, the pair headed off to the congresswoman’s office in South Central Los Angeles, where Naffe would ambush Waters about being rejected by OneUnited and capture her reaction on video.
The two-story commercial building where Waters has her district office is far from luxurious, but despite the cloudy windows and sun-dried shrubbery, it is one of the neighborhood’s brighter attractions. Up and down the busy thoroughfare are rows of blighted apartments protected by iron bars, with scattered liquor stores and churches offering salvation.
Naffe says she talked her way behind the bulletproof receptionist’s window by posing as “Nadia Jones,” a first-time home buyer who couldn’t get a loan despite being a model candidate, and now wanted to air her grievance to the congresswoman. Once inside, Naffe gave Waters a harrowing surprise — she noted that her problem was with OneUnited. “I literally saw her face just turn,” she remembers.
She recalls celebrating their victory afterward by stopping at the beach, where they shot some B-roll of O’Keefe doing a moonwalk with the Pacific blue backdrop behind him.
For reasons that aren’t clear, Project Veritas never released a long version of the Waters sting. They didn’t have to, though. Naffe says a promo reel showing the congresswoman jumping at the mention of her husband’s bank was enough to get donors opening their wallets to fund Veritas’s next assignment.
Naffe didn’t have long to wait for an invitation. It came via email on January 14, just days after she got home from Los Angeles:
We’re willing to book you a plane ticket to Boston to get some footage from the SEIU busses . . . i’ll be in new orleans causing trouble. im [sic] confident your training will take you far. Interested in making some more video history?
NEXT: Naffe looks for voter fraud in Boston; O'Keefe gets arrested in New Orleans . . .