Friday, January 29, 2010

James O'Keefe: The Case of the Senator's Telephone

Conservative activist James O’Keefe was arrested along with three accomplices on Monday this week after being caught tampering with the phones in Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu’s downtown New Orleans office. O’Keefe, 25, and cohorts Joseph Basel, 24, Robert Flanagan, 24, and Stan Dai, 24, have been charged with entering a federal building under false pretenses with intent to commit a felony – a charge that could carry a 10-year sentence.

If you’ve glanced recently at our calendar, you might already know that this could spell ominous news for O’Keefe’s speaking engagement at The Club next week, where we hope he’ll share his experience as an investigative journalist (or noisome muckraker, depending on where you get your news) in uncovering the alleged dirty side of a little organization called ACORN – the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. As of January 29, O’Keefe’s Club speaking engagement is still on.

In a series of online exposés, O’Keefe and partner in (uncovering possible) crime Hannah Giles visited ACORN offices in Baltimore, D.C., L.A. and New York posing as a pimp and prostitute (respectively) who were interested in starting a legitimized brothel that hinged upon successfully housing and “training” underage El Salvadoran illegal-immigrant prostitutes. The advice that O’Keefe and Giles received from the ACORN tax specialists – whose paychecks are heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars – was certainly surprising: all of it involved tax evasion. ACORN has charged that O'Keefe edited the videos, removing portions in which the ACORN employees showed that they didn't take O'Keefe and Giles seriously.

The resultant furor was fairly sharply divided down party lines, with Republicans labeling ACORN a corrupt and evil institution and Democrats labeling ACORN a corrupt and evil—wait, wait, that’s not right. As ACORN was investigated and defunded by Congress, Republicans and Democrats instead got into a fairly catty debate as to whether or not O’Keefe and Giles’ work constituted “investigative journalism,” with right-wing pundit Andrew Breitbart of taking them under his wing even as Fox News took care not to get too cozy .

With O’Keefe’s recent Louisiana episode (details remain scant as of this writing), we may have the FBI weighing in on the debate on his February 13 hearing. In the meantime, The Club's Inforum division is working on a remote conference with the undercover journalist on Monday, February 1. Check our web site for the latest

UPDATE: The James O'Keefe event at The Commonwealth Club has been postponed.

--By Andrew Harrison


Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting us. Please post your message. We ask that all comments be considerate of the many viewpoints and backgrounds of our other readers.