We wrote last week about the most recent “Lincoln Day” dinner hosted by the Pueblo County Republicans, featuring newly-minted “CEO” of the Colorado Republican Party Steve House saying too much about the real purpose of threatened recalls against Democratic state lawmakers–a fresh angle from which to combat the GOP’s trend of losses in Colorado elections, which threatens to relegate their party to long-term minority status.
That was significant, but we also wanted to make sure readers were aware of the keynote speaker at this dinner, infamous Republican hidden-camera gotcha artist James O’Keefe. O’Keefe gained fame nearly a decade ago by baiting workers for the social welfare organization ACORN into making politically and morally questionable on-camera statements. Success in that campaign led to Project Veritas, in which O’Keefe himself or well-trained and paid subordinates fan out across the country during election season in search of Democrats they can entrap. In 2014 one such entrapment campaign led to brief notoriety in Colorado–which collapsed once it became clear that the fraud he was goading low-level local organizers into discussing would have been easily busted by county clerks before any fraudulent votes were counted.
With all of this in mind, here’s a rough transcript of a portion of O’Keefe’s remarks to Pueblo Republicans:
JAMES O’KEEFE: Someone asked if I’ve been to CO before and I fumbled the answer because I’m not supposed to say where I go in terms of investigations but I have been here before many times. Sometimes I’m here and nobody knows. [applause] I’m here to talk about Veritas. It’s the Latin word for truth…
Do people recognize me? Sometimes I wear a disguise. Most of time, I’m not doing undercover stuff–it’s a team. Sometimes. They never recognize me. Don’t expect to be recorded. Don’t people know you’re filming? Not really because corruption is everywhere…so what Veritas is doing is equipping brave patriots to wear tiny cameras. Where do they go? Everywhere. Tie, blazer, hat, lapel pin, pimp costume. [Pols emphasis]
Although O’Keefe has no real mainstream credibility, his popularity with conservative media outlets ensures wide distribution for all but the most self-immolating of his stunts. O’Keefe’s credibility took a huge hit in 2017 during a botched attempt to “gotcha” Washington Post reporters with a fake informant with planted allegations about Alabama Republican Roy Moore’s sexual misconduct–which ended with the reporters turning the tables on O’Keefe’s mole and writing a very different story.
But if there’s on constant in conservative politics, it’s that their operatives don’t stay discredited for long! A fresh proposal to tap the right’s seemingly limitless reserves of political nonprofit giving, for example sending a wave of hidden camera-equipped GOP activists to infiltrate Colorado Democratic campaigns and liberal groups, is all O’Keefe needs to bounce right back. And it appears he has.
With all of this in mind, here’s another reminder to do what you should be doing anyway–vet your volunteers. The website Veritas Exposed keeps track of O’Keefe’s operatives and methods as much as that’s possible, and it’s a good place to start, but you should be checking the voter file, social media histories, and whatever background check services you can afford or are comfortable with. But above all, it’s critical to inspire a culture of office awareness: that the way O’Keefe gets most of his material is by having a camera rolling during preventable mistakes he can then de-contextualize for maximum political effect.
The best place to stop James O’Keefe and his band of undercover tricksters is at the door. Failing that, if someone you don’t know starts spontaneously “joking” with you about election fraud while subtly angling the lapel of their coat towards your face, please do not laugh along. This may be the only warning you get.