Undercover Brooks Brothers
Immediately following the Waters sting, O’Keefe and Naffe embarked on their next missions. Project Veritas was expanding; this time around, they’d be working separately, and in different states. It was early 2010, and O’Keefe was riding high. But his first taste of defeat was just around the corner.
The idea for the next Project Veritas mission originated with John Fund, a Fox News contributor and author of the 2008 book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy. In January 2010, Fund emailed the Republican National Lawyers Association and other hard-right affiliates about an incriminating tip he received about the Massachusetts Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — Greater Boston’s brotherhood of janitors, health-care workers, and other mostly low wage earners. Fund’s “normally reliable” source, he wrote in an email that has since been made public, claimed the SEIU planned to help Democrats steal the special Senate election between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. According to Fund, the union would accomplish this by chartering buses in the liberal and minority-rich neighborhoods of Roxbury, Mattapan, Roslindale, and Jamaica Plain. “If you’re black or brown,” he wrote, “they’ll rope you in and take you to the polls. Registration can be worked out.”
Shuttling voters to polls is perfectly legal, of course — but pretty soon emails were flying between members of O’Keefe’s associates, rife with speculation that the SEIU would try more nefarious ploys, like paying for votes and helping people to vote twice.
Such hypothetical shenanigans sounded like surefire fodder to Steve Friess, son of investment billionaire and Rick Santorum bankroller Foster Friess. The elder Friess is perhaps most famous for telling MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell that, back in his day, “gals” “used Bayer Aspirin for contraception.” To plug conservative causes, Freiss has a whole foundation that’s run by his son Steve, who relished the prospect of causing “image problems for SEIU.” With their support in place, O’Keefe jumped on board, and he brought Naffe along with him. Not only did she have her star turn in the Waters series to recommend her, but she also matched the request from Freiss for “black/Latina conservatives [who] could be wired for video, and get picked up on one of these busses.” Less than a week later, Naffe flew into Logan airport. Her first task was to snoop on an election-eve rally for Coakley at a Dorchester union hall.
O’Keefe didn’t join Naffe in Boston. Instead, he and other Project Veritas chaps were in New Orleans “causing trouble.” As everyone would soon find out, O’Keefe was casing the district office of Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu. Her offense: the congresswoman was accused of ignoring constituents who called to complain about Obamacare. After crashing in the Big Easy for a week, contriving schemes to shame the NOLA Democrat, on January 26 O’Keefe was arrested in Landrieu’s field office — along with two sidekicks disguised as telephone workers — and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses. Such felonies are punishable by up to a decade in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In Massachusetts, Naffe also struck out. On the day of the special election, she says she shadowed SEIU workers and volunteers, asking every organizer she met if they knew of any buses. But after hours of spelunking — following organizers from door to door to door — Naffe found no evidence of pay-for-vote schemes or caravans transporting repeat voters between polls. Nor were there suspicious busloads of Democrats arriving from Rhode Island and New Hampshire. In the end, though, it didn’t matter that Naffe came up short — Brown wound up winning the Bay State after all. This minor defeat would only hint at the disaster that loomed for Project Veritas.
In May 2010, O’Keefe pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. He admitted that his crew planned “to orchestrate a conversation about phone calls to Landrieu’s staff and capture the conversation on video, not to actually tamper with the phone system, or to commit any other felony.” For the confessed crimes, O’Keefe received no jail time, but was instead sentenced to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service, and made to pay a $1500 fine.
Trying to reverse his luck, next O’Keefe turned his firepower on CNN. More specifically, he went after Abbie Boudreau, a CNN reporter who was researching a feature about Project Veritas and other gonzo conservative enterprises. O’Keefe agreed to an interview with Boudreau on August 17, 2010, to be conducted at a private home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. But when Boudreau arrived at the meeting place, she was intercepted by a female Project Veritas assistant named Izzy Santa. Trembling, Santa warned Boudreau of what her boss O’Keefe had in store. It wasn’t an interview.
As Boudreau would later tell hundreds of thousands of viewers, Santa was alerting her to O’Keefe’s “palace of pleasure” plot, in which, (as documents obtained by CNN show) he’d hoped to lure the reporter onto a docked boat stocked with champagne, strawberries . . . and sex toys. A list of props included: “lube,” “dildos,” “Viagra,” “fuzzy handcuffs,” “blindfold,” and “ceiling mirror.” A cigarette-smoking O’Keefe was to be “wearing gold chains,” and would “have a more sleazy persona than normal, with slicked back hair and exposing his chest.” The resulting video of him seducing Boudreau, he fancied, would embarrass CNN. Instead, the reporter balked on the meeting, and O’Keefe’s plan came to light. The backlash against Project Veritas was ugly — even from some conservative allies.
The most painful rebuke came from O’Keefe’s mentor, Andrew Brietbart himself — the man who made O’Keefe a household name now pilloried him publicly and demanded an apology. As Breitbart told CNN:
“I proudly stood behind James O’Keefe on his groundbreaking ACORN investigation. . . . However, in my dealings with Ms. Boudreau, she and her producer, Scott Zamost, conducted themselves professionally, and I believe James owes them a candid and public explanation. . . .
From what I’ve read about this script, though not executed, it is patently gross and offensive. It’s not his detractors to whom he also owes this public airing. It’s to his legion of supporters.”
NEXT: O'Keefe prevails despite a torrent of negative press . . .