James O'Keefe: Wikis


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James O'Keefe
Born James E. O'Keefe III
June 28, 1984 (1984-06-28) (age 25)
New Jersey, USA
Alma mater Rutgers University,
(B.A. philosophy, 2006)
Occupation Speaker, filmmaker
Years active 4
Notable works Hidden camera videos of ACORN workers (2009)
Known for activism and film-making

James E. O'Keefe III (born June 28, 1984) is an American activist-filmmaker[1][2] who came to national attention in the United States in September 2009 after releasing videos that appeared to show the community organizing group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) advising a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute how to set a up a brothel with underage girls.[3] As a result, Congress temporarily cut ACORN's federal funding.[4] O'Keefe has created other videos on organizations which he considers corrupt, including Planned Parenthood.[5][6][7][8]

Although O'Keefe has described himself as a "progressive radical and an investigative journalist without formal training" who follows Saul Alinsky's rule of making "the enemy live up to its own book of rules",[9] most independent media coverage describes him as a conservative.[5][6][10] O’Keefe stated to the New York Times he considers the British writer G. K. Chesterton his “intellectual backbone.”[6] O'Keefe was once employed by Morton Blackwell at the Leadership Institute.[11]

On January 26, 2010, O'Keefe and three others were arrested and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony in connection with an incident at the New Orleans office of Senator Mary Landrieu.,[12][13][14][15] O'Keefe denies the charge.[citation needed]


Personal life and education

O'Keefe grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey. His father is a materials engineer, his mother is a physical therapist, and his younger sister is a painter and sculptor.[16] His father has said that the politics of the family home were "conservative but not rigidly so."[16] O'Keefe graduated from Westwood High School, where he showed an early interest in the arts, theater, and journalism.[16] He played the leading role in a 2002 production of the musical Crazy for You[6] and attained the highest rank, Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.[16]

O'Keefe earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Rutgers University in 2006.[16] During his college days at Rutgers, he founded the Rutgers Centurion, a conservative student newspaper.[17] In one of O'Keefe's first videos, he and a few other students attempted to ban Lucky Charms from the campus dining halls on the grounds the breakfast cereal was racist against Irish-Americans.[18]

Following graduation, he worked for Ben Wetmore at the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia traveling to various colleges to train students how to start up independent newspapers.[16] According to Morton Blackwell, the president of the Leadership Institute, O'Keefe's longstanding ambition was to catch his subjects in videos "breaking the law."[16] O'Keefe, however, stated to the Los Angeles Times that his videos "are not supposed to necessarily show people breaking laws. They are supposed to change hearts and minds."[19]

O'Keefe attended UCLA Law School for one year before turning full-time to a career in investigative journalism.[16] O'Keefe currently works as a speaker and video producer. In addition, in a January 26, 2010 interview, Andrew Breitbart, editor of the Drudge Report and owner of Breitbart.com, says he pays O'Keefe a salary for his "life rights".[20]

Planned Parenthood controversy

In 2006, O'Keefe began working with UCLA student and pro-life activist Lila Rose. He came up with the idea to have her pose as an underaged pregnant teenager, walk into Planned Parenthood clinics, and tape the conversations that followed. In the first video, accompanied by O'Keefe, Rose was told to "figure out a birthdate that works" and lie about her age to be eligible for an abortion.[21] Later videos of the exchanges led to Tennessee lawmakers seeking to end a $721,000 contract with Planned Parenthood, and the Orange County Board of Supervisors in California voting to suspend a grant worth nearly $300,000 to Planned Parenthood.[22]

During the summer of 2007, O'Keefe posed as a donor to Planned Parenthood. He specified his gift should go to fund abortions of minorities because "the less black kids out there the better."[23] All seven states he called agreed to accept his donation.[24] After audio recordings of the conversations were made public in 2008, Planned Parenthood issued an apology for the behavior of the staff members on the phone, calling it inappropriate.[23] Planned Parenthood in Albuquerque, New Mexico replied in sympathetic tones, “Yes, yes, it’s a strange time for sure” to O'Keefe's discussion about affirmative action and how he thought there was a need for fewer black people because they compete with white Americans for admission to schools.[25][26] Ohio Planned Parenthood said, "For whatever reason we'll accept the money."[27] Planned Parenthood Vice President Autumn Kersey was suspended after audio recordings from Idaho reported to show her laughing, saying, “understandable, understandable," and continuing, "Excuse my hesitation, this is the first time I've had a donor call and make this kind of request, so I'm excited and want to make sure I don't leave anything out." [28][29]

The call results prompted a group of African-Americans pastors to protest in Washington, DC accusing Planned Parenthood of "Genocide" on blacks.[24] Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., supported the campaign.[27]

ACORN video controversy

In July and August 2009, O'Keefe and 20 year old college student Hannah Giles visited a number of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now ) offices with Giles dressed as a prostitute. O'Keefe wore white khakis with a blue dress shirt and/or tie but claimed to be her pimp boyfriend.[30] Giles and O'Keefe pretended to be seeking advice on how to run an illegal business[11] which included the smuggling of underage girls from El Salvador for use in the sex trade. A few ACORN employees appeared to give them advice on how to evade detection by legal authorities and how to avoid paying taxes on the girls' income. O'Keefe secretly recorded the encounters.[31] On September 10, 2009, O'Keefe published the first in a series of five videos of his ACORN "investigation" on Andrew Breibart's website, BigGovernment.com.[32][33] Although O'Keefe dressed professionally during his ACORN visits, he never turned the camera on himself while inside ACORN offices.[30] O'Keefe edited the release of all his videos by intercutting segments in which he wore a fur coat, top hat, sunglasses, and wielded a cane.[30] This caused many viewers including the media to perceive that O'Keefe was actually dressed as a pimp when speaking with ACORN personnel.[30] Excerpts were frequently aired on the Fox News Channel. As of September 16, 2009, five edited videos and unedited audio transcripts had been released which were set in ACORN offices in five cities: Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Brooklyn, New York; San Bernardino, California; and San Diego, California.[5]

After the videos were made public, ACORN's role in the 2010 United States Census was terminated.[34][35][36] The director of the U.S. Census, Robert Groves, told ACORN's president that the organization "had become a distraction."[34] President Barack Obama, who once acted as an attorney for ACORN,[37][38] stated the video content was "certainly inappropriate and deserves to be investigated."[39] The videos also led to a bipartisan U.S. Senate vote to end Housing and Urban Development funding to ACORN.[40][41] The following day, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to end all federal funding to ACORN.[41] These Congressional actions were subsequently overturned as unconstitutional.[4] In October 2009, 31 House Republicans co-sponsored a resolution honoring the investigative journalism of Giles and O'Keefe in exposing "the fraudulent and illegal practices and misues of taxpayer dollars by the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN)."[42][43] On September 24, 2009 the Internal Revenue Service removed ACORN from its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program due to the scandal.[44] and on September 28, 2009 Bank of America suspended business dealings with ACORN's housing affiliate in response to the video controversy.[45]

O'Keefe said, "None of the facilities kicked us out."[46] However, an ACORN spokesperson claims that O'Keefe had no success with "this sham" at ACORN's New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles offices.[47] ACORN gave CNN a copy of the police complaint filed against the filmmakers In Philadelphia.[48] O'Keefe said, "Why does ACORN apparently think that making and publishing an after-the-fact police complaint would cover up its willingness to help our 'prostitution business' and its lies about what happened when we visited?"[49] In San Diego, former ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera told O'Keefe in the video he had "contacts" in "Tijuana" to help get the underage girls across the border.[50] Vera later reported what he thought was an attempt by O'Keefe at human smuggling to a police detective.[51] Vera was fired because of what ACORN called "unacceptable conduct", although Vera said he initially wanted to help the fake prostitute because she said that she needed to escape her controlling pimp.[52] ACORN worker Tresa Kaelke, who talked with the filmmakers, said they were "Somewhat entertaining, but they weren't even good actors."[53] According to CNN, the filmmakers released a transcript of their discussion with Kaelke that included a comment left out of the tape in which Kaelke said that ACORN would have nothing to do with their prostitution business.[54]

Bertha Lewis, ACORN's chief executive officer, froze admission to all of ACORN's service programs on September 16, 2009, and instituted a review committee to implement organizational reforms.[55][56] Lewis also stated that ACORN was considering legal action against the filmmakers, Fox News, and Breitbart.com[57][58] Asked by Fox News about the possibility of a lawsuit, O'Keefe said "Bring it on."[59] On September 23, 2009, ACORN filed suit in a Baltimore court against O'Keefe, Giles, and Breitbart.com, on the grounds that the filming was a felony under Maryland law, which requires two-party consent to electronic surveillance.[60][61] O'Keefe is also being sued by ACORN in Pennsylvania for violating recording laws.

2010 New Orleans arrest

On January 25, 2010, James O'Keefe along with Stan Dai, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan were arrested by U.S. Marshals for allegedly trying to interfere with the phones of the New Orleans office of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu.[15] According to a sworn affidavit from FBI Special Agent Steven Rayes, Basel and Flanagan disguised themselves as repairmen and attempted to access the office's telephone system through "falsely and fraudulently representing that they were employees of a telephone company."[62] Witnesses reported that the two requested access to the office's main telephone system closet, claiming that they needed to repair it.[62] Rayes stated that O'Keefe and Dai admitted to aiding and abetting Basel and Flanagan in the "planning, coordination and preparation of the operation",[62] and that O'Keefe recorded some of the events on his cellphone camera [62]. Rayes alleged that the men attempted the disguised intrusion with the purpose of "willfully and maliciously interfering with a telephone system operated and controlled by the United States of America."[62]

O'Keefe, Dai, Basel, and Flanagan were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony pursuant to 18 USC Sections 2, 1036, and 1362.[14][62] After posting $10,000 bail, O'Keefe was released on the condition that he live with his parents and not travel outside New Jersey without court approval.[63] On February 12 in federal court, O'Keefe declined his right to a preliminary hearing.[64] On February 24, O'Keefe's attorneys asked federal magistrate Judge Louis Moore for a 30 day extension to extend the amount of time by which the U.S. attorney's office must seek a felony indictment, press misdemeanor charges, or drop the case. Moore said the extension, which was unopposed by prosecutors, would offer the parties additional time to conduct informal discussions and raised the possibility of a plea deal between the four men and the government to avoid felony convictions.[65] If convicted of the felony charges, they could face a maximum of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.[15][66]

Regarding the arrest, O'Keefe had stated he had no intention to wiretap the Senator's office, while the specific charges against him involved an alleged plot to interfere with the office's phone system.[67][68] MSNBC quoted an unnamed law-enforcement official as saying that O'Keefe's intention was to disable the phone system in Landrieu's office and then record her staff's reaction.[69] During a January 29 interview with Sean Hannity, O'Keefe stated that the intent of his visit to Senator Landrieu's office was to "...to get to the bottom of the fact — of the claim that she was not answering her phones or phones were jammed," that "not only was there no interfering with phones -- we never even thought about interfering with phones," and that "we used the same tactics that investigative journalists have been using." [70] In a statement on January 29, O'Keefe wrote "On reflection, I could have used a different approach to this investigation, particularly given the sensitivities that people understandably have about security in a federal building."[67][71] On February 4, Senator Landrieu commented that O'Keefe should "save his excuses for the judge; he's going to need them."[72]


  1. ^ Filmmaker Who Targeted ACORN Arrested in Alleged Senate Phone Scheme, January 26, 2010, Fox News
  2. ^ "James O'Keefe (Overview)". New York Times. January 26, 2010. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/o/james_okeefe/index.html?scp=1-spot&sq=%22james%20o%27keefe%22&st=cse. Retrieved January 29, 2010. "Mr. O'Keefe is a filmmaker who produced videos purporting to document questionable practices at some field offices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as Acorn." 
  3. ^ Henneberg, Molly (February 12, 2010). "ACORN May Qualify for Up to Nearly $4 Billion in Obama's Proposed Budget". Fox News (foxnews.com). http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/02/12/acorn-qualify-nearly-billion-obamas-proposed-budget/. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Lorber, Janie (December 11, 2009). "House Ban on Acorn Grants Is Ruled Unconstitutional". New York Times: p. A12. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/12/us/politics/12acorn.html. Retrieved February 1, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Fears, Darryl; Leonnig, Carol D. (September 18, 2009). "The $1,300 Mission to Fell ACORN". The Washington Post (washingtonpost.com): pp. A01. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/17/AR2009091704805.html. Retrieved September 20, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d Shane, Scott (September 18, 2009). "A Political Gadfly Lampoons the Left via YouTube". The New York Times (nytimes.com): pp. A9. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/19/us/19sting.html. Retrieved September 20, 2009. 
  7. ^ Miller, Joshua Rhett; Clark, Steven (September 23, 2009). "ACORN Vows 'Serious' Internal Probe, Sues Filmmakers". Fox News (foxnews.com). http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/09/23/attorney-vows-holds-barred-probe-acorn/. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  8. ^ Weigel, David (September 24, 2009). "HuffPo Cofounder Takes On ‘Democrat-Media Complex’". The Washington Independent (washingtonindependent.com). http://washingtonindependent.com/60680/huffpo-cofounder-takes-on-democrat-media-complex. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  9. ^ "'Pimp' in ACORN video shares story". Los Angeles Times. September 19, 2009. http://theenvelope.latimes.com/business/la-na-acorn-student19-2009sep19,1,4941785.story. Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  10. ^ Whittell, Giles (September 18, 2009). "Anti-poverty group that helped Obama ‘advises prostitutes’". The Times (timesonline.co.uk). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6839237.ece. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
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  12. ^ Barr, Andy. Right wary of defending O'Keefe, January 27, 2010, The Politico.
  13. ^ "ACORN gotcha man among four arrested for attempting to bug Mary Landrieu's office". The Times-Picayune. January 26, 2010. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/01/acorn_gotcha_man_arrested_for.html. Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
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  15. ^ a b c "Filmmaker Who Targeted ACORN Arrested in Alleged Senate Phone Scheme". Fox News Channel. January 26, 2010. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/01/26/acorn-antagonist-arrested-senate-phone-scheme/. Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h "ACORN sting 'pimp' is N.J. man who attended Rutgers University". The Star Ledger. September 17, 2009. http://blog.nj.com/ledgerupdates_impact/print.html?entry=/2009/09/acorn_sting_pimp_is_nj_man_who.html. Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  17. ^ Horwitz, Jeff (May 25, 2005). "My Right-Wing Degree". Salon.com. http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/05/25/blackwell/. Retrieved February 3, 2010. "The Rutgers Centurion is a conservative monthly that got off the ground this fall with institute help... The institute gave O'Keefe books on starting a publication, awarded him a $500 "Balance in Media Grant," and suggested never-fail places on campus to ferret out liberal excess." 
  18. ^ http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/09/acorn_sting_pimp_is_nj_man_who.html
  19. ^ "Anti-abortion movement gets a new media twist". LA Times. April 26, 2009. http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/26/nation/na-abortion26. Retrieved January 26, 2010. 
  20. ^ An Interview With Andrew Breitbart About The O'Keefe Arrest, January 26, 2010.
  21. ^ CNSNews.com, May 16, 2007, Nathan Burchfiel
  22. ^ Abcarian, Robin (April 26, 2009). "Anti-abortion movement gets a new-media twist". Los Angeles Times (latimes.com). http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/26/nation/na-abortion26?pg=3. Retrieved September 15, 2009. 
  23. ^ a b Ryan, Josiah (February 28, 2008). "Planned Parenthood Agreed to Accept Race-Motivated Donations". Cybercast News Service (Cybercast News Service). http://www.cnsnews.com/Public/Content/Article.aspx?rsrcid=7753. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  24. ^ a b Vlahos, Kelley url=http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,352537,00.html+(April 24, 2008). "Pastors Accuse Planned Parenthood for 'Genocide' on Blacks". Fox News (Fox News). 
  25. ^ [1], April 2, 2008, Life Site News
  26. ^ [2], April 2, 2008, YouTube
  27. ^ a b "UCLA student sting exposes racism at Planned Parenthood". Catholic News Agency (CNA). February 28, 2008. http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/ucla_student_sting_exposes_racism_at_planned_parenthood/. Retrieved February 28, 2008. 
  28. ^ Meyer, Jon (March 1, 2008). "Groups Hold Planned Parenthood Protest". Idaho Press-Tribune (idahopress.com). http://www.idahopress.com/news/?id=4123. Retrieved October 17, 2009. 
  29. ^ Forester, Sandra (2008-02-28). "Response to caller 'a serious mistake,' says Planned Parenthood of Idaho". Idaho Statesman (The McClatchy Company). http://www.idahostatesman.com/newsupdates/story/308723.html. Retrieved October 17, 2009. 
  30. ^ a b c d Mock, Brentin (January 27, 2010). "O'Keefe: Neither Pimp nor Journalist". The Lens. http://thelensnola.org/archives/3666. Retrieved February 18, 2010. 
  31. ^ Taylor, Andrew (September 14, 2009). "Senate votes to deny funds to ACORN". Associated Press (seattletimes.nwsource.com). http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politics/2009865345_apuscongressacorn.html?syndication=rss. Retrieved September 20, 2009. 
  32. ^ Bykowicz, Julie (September 20, 2009). "ACORN's record of abrupt advocacy". The Baltimore Sun (baltimoresun.com). http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bal-md.acorn20sep20,0,2398493.story. Retrieved September 20, 2009. 
  33. ^ Theimer, Sharon (September 17, 2009). "ACORN plans probe amid stir over video". Associated Press (philly.com). http://www.philly.com/inquirer/world_us/20090917_ACORN_plans_probe_amid_stir_over_video.html. Retrieved September 20, 2009. 
  34. ^ a b Sherman, Jake (September 12, 2009). "Census Bureau Cuts Its Ties With Acorn". The Wall Street Journal (online.wsj.com): pp. A4. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125271412822705239.html. Retrieved September 20, 2009. 
  35. ^ Tapper, Jake (September 16, 2009). "White House Calls ACORN Employees' Behavior 'Unacceptable'". ABC News (blogs.abcnews.com). http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/09/white-house-calls-acorn-employees-behavior-unacceptable.html. Retrieved September 20, 2009. 
  36. ^ West, Paul. "End to all U.S. funds to ACORN sought". The Baltimore Sun (baltimoresun.com). http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation-world/bal-md.acorn16sep16,0,5888122.story. Retrieved September 20, 2009. 
  37. ^ Pritchard, Justin (September 23, 2009). "How the ACORN 'pimp and hooker' videos came to be". Associated Press (washingtonpost.com). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/23/AR2009092304007.html. Retrieved September 25, 2009. 
  38. ^ McGreal, Chris (September 21, 2009). "Congress cuts funding to embattled anti-poverty group Acorn". The Guardian (guardian.co.uk). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/21/acorn-prostitution-videos. Retrieved September 22, 2009. 
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  43. ^ "H. Res 809, 111th Congress, 1st Session". October 9, 2009. http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:hr809ih.txt.pdf. 
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  46. ^ http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20090917/NEWS/909170353
  47. ^ ACORN Workers Fired Over Video
  48. ^ CNN, September 11, 2009, Lou Dobbs, TRANSCRIPTS
  49. ^ October 21, 2009, Breitbart, Unsolved Mysteries and Irreconcilable Differences
  50. ^ September 22, 2009, FOX, ACORN Worker fired over video sting
  51. ^ September 22, 2009, FOX, ACORN Worker in Video Reported Duo to Police
  52. ^ 10 News, San Diego News, September 17, 2009, ACORN Worker Fired After Appearance In Undercover Video
  53. ^ FOX, September 16, 2009, Fourth Videotape Reveals ACORN Advising 'Pimp,' 'Prostitute' in California
  54. ^ CNN, September 17, 2009, Lou Dobbs, TRANSCRIPTS
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  62. ^ a b c d e f "FBI Affidavit pdf". Washington Post. January 26, 2010. http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/pdf/FBI_affadavit_012610.pdf. 
  63. ^ US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Case No. 10-12 MAG, Conditions of Release Order dated 1-26-2010, pages 1-3.
  64. ^ http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/capital/index.ssf?/base/news-7/126595699079150.xml&coll=1
  65. ^ http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/02/mary_landrieu_phone_tampering.html
  66. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35083861/ns/politics-more_politics/
  67. ^ a b Statement from James O'Keefe
  68. ^ see correction on http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/26/AR2010012604145.html
  69. ^ Williams, Pete (January 27, 2010). "Why tamper with Landrieu's phones?". MSNBC. http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2010/01/27/2187074.aspx. Retrieved February 4, 2010. 
  70. ^ "James O'Keefe Gives First Interview Since Arrest". Fox News (Fox News). February 1, 2010. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,584563,00.html. Retrieved February 1, 2010. 
  71. ^ O'Keefe: 'I could have used a different approach'. January 29, 2010, USA Today.
  72. ^ http://landrieu.senate.gov/mediacenter/inthenews/02-04-2010-2.cfm

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