Before James Rosen, There Was James O'Keefe
"On the morning of January 25, 2010, I woke curled up in a fetal position, on a green mattress stained with seminal fluid, to the sound of my fellow prisoners chanting the Qu'ran." So begins the bestselling new action-adventure memoir/battle plan by James O'Keefe, Breakthough: Our Guerilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy.
Although Fox reporter James Rosen has gotten much-deserved attention for the Obama administration's assault on his privacy, according to the liberal Huffington Post, at least, he "got off easy." As Ryan Grim writes, presumably with a straight face, "[a]fter searching his email and tracking his whereabouts, the Department of Justice has not jailed or prosecuted the Fox News journalist, which the Obama administration says reflects its deep respect for the role of a free press."
Even the Huffington Post cannot say the same about twenty-something guerilla journalist James O'Keefe. Some three and a half years ago, the New Orleans wing of the Obama Justice Department arrested O'Keefe and indicted him and three of his colleagues on the bogus charge of entering a federal building under false pretenses. For its part, the media celebrated their arrest.
The four young men, then all in their mid-twenties, were hoping to record staffers in Senator Mary Landrieu's office tell two phony telephone repairmen how they had blown off Tea Party activists trying to change Landrieu's mind on the ObamaCare vote. It was not a well-planned venture, and the four were caught in the act.
Although there was nothing illegal about recording the staffers and the four had all entered the building using their own IDs, the Justice Department wanted revenge for O'Keefe's and Hannah Giles's stunning takedown of the corrupt ACORN enterprise months earlier. O'Keefe was put on federal probation for this misdemeanor, and for the next three-plus years, he needed the permission of a federal judge just to leave his home state of New Jersey.
The same media that tried to ignore O'Keefe's ACORN sting all but celebrated O'Keefe's New Orleans bust. "4 Arrested in Phone Tampering at Landrieu Office" headlined the New York Times on its front-page story. "It was not clear precisely what the men were trying to do in Ms. Landrieu's office," admitted the Times, but the accompanying photo was captioned, "Four people were arrested for trying to tap the phones of Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, at left, on Capital Hill on Tuesday."
The Washington Post was no more accurate. "ACORN foe charged in alleged plot to wiretap Landrieu," read its January 27 headline. Both the Post and the Times eventually offered retractions, but the damage had been done.
Still, O'Keefe remained undaunted. Breakthrough tells the tale of his adventures over the next several years and the lessons he learned along the way. By the time O'Keefe and his Project Veritas crew launched a series of election stings in 2012 -- what the late Andrew Breitbart called "the most consequential thing" O'Keefe ever did -- he had lived an incredibly full life. As he recounts:
I was 27 years-old, five years into my self-created career as a citizen journalist, and I had already been arrested, imprisoned, nearly killed during my coerced "community service," commended along with Hannah Giles by the House of Representatives for exposing ACORN, publicly accused of everything from racism to rape, lauded by the governor of New Jersey for exposing a corrupt union, pursued recklessly on an Interstate by a teacher I caught on tape, denounced by Keith Olbermann as the "worst person in the world," applauded for causing major resignations at NPR, sued multiple times, slandered by half the working journalists in America, and finally inspired to expose voter fraud in the heat of a presidential election.
The vote fraud investigation would make waves across the nation, but even that effort failed to impress the folks at the Times. Less than two months before the November 2012 election, the Times' Stephanie Saul wrote a mocking 3,000-word article disparaging the work of Project Veritas and dismissing any concerns about vote fraud.
In turn, O'Keefe wrote to Saul asking, "Is there a particular reason why you chose to selectively edit out the following events over the last eight months?" He then listed some of the Project Veritas accomplishments she chose not to notice:
- Our video in New Hampshire was cited in passing a voter ID law.
- Our video in Minnesota was cited in passing a Constitutional amendment for Voter ID.
- Our video showing the Attorney General's ballot being offered to a stranger was cited in a House Judiciary Committee Hearing.
- Our video showing the Attorney General's ballot being offered to a stranger was discussed with the Director of the FBI.
- Our videos in Washington, D. C. prompted an investigation by the District Board of elections.
- Attorney General Holder, while under oath, cleared us of breaking the law.
- Attorney General Holder pre-cleared Voter ID law in New Hampshire after representatives cited Project Veritas in the passing of that law.
- The State of New Hampshire attempted to issue a criminal grand jury subpoena against me despite Attorney General Holder's statements.
- Our Vermont investigation showing ballots offered in the name of the dead prompted an investigation by the Secretary of State in Vermont.
By this time, O'Keefe was imagining a new slogan for Project Veritas: "Undocumented journalists -- doing the work that American journalists refuse to do."
Last week, Rush Limbaugh gave one of his rare interview spots to O'Keefe. O'Keefe so impressed Limbaugh with his energy and enthusiasm -- two virtues in short supply on the right -- that Limbaugh blew through his break and kept O'Keefe on for two segments.
The exposure pushed Breakthrough to the number-two spot on the Amazon bestseller list. There may be hope for the future after all.