James O'Keefe Project Veritas
James O'Keefe, founder of Project Veritas, toasts the end of his probation, the release of his new book and a fresh scandal
James O'Keefe is back to muckraking, with a new book and fresh "Obama phone" scandal as the "Ashton Kutcher of the Conservative movement" reaffirms his commitment to guerrilla journalism.
Having paid his debt to society after his 2010 arrest, he is now ready to pick up where he left off in his crusade to expose corruption in the halls of power, beginning with footage that shows shady practices in the government-subsidized cellphone program.
On Monday night, family, friends from his Rutgers days and members of Team O'Keefe squeezed into a club in West SoHo to toast the Project Veritas founder as he promotes his new book, "Breakthrough: Our Guerilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy," out Tuesday.
The shy but determined activist signed copies of his new release for fans and opined on the pressing scandals of the IRS, the NSA spy program and the whistleblower of the moment, Edward Snowden.
"At least he's getting information out there," O'Keefe said about his contemporary, sounding non-committal about whether Snowden is a traitor or hero.
It was a multi-purpose celebration for the New Jersey native, who is enjoying his newfound freedom - with his three year probation now behind him - and is ringing in his 29th birthday later in June.
In January 2010, he was arrested alongside three associates as they tried to make recordings at the office of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in New Orleans. That May, he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of entering a federal building under false pretenses and was given three years of probation, 100 hours of community service and slapped with a $1,500 fine.
Even with his legal woes, O'Keefe established his non-profit in 2010 to mobilize enterprising and eager crusaders to rise up in his stead.
His book chronicles his various projects, either carried out by him or executed by his Project Veritas-inators, as he was forced to take a back seat to comply with the terms of his sentence, which limited his ability to appear on camera.
Published by Threshold, the conservative imprint of Simon & Shuster, the book details his numerous sting operations, most notably the ACORN scandal in 2008 when he posed as a pimp with his girlfriend, Hannah Giles, who dressed as a prostitute. The pair videotaped their encounters with the organization, when they were allegedly advised on how to carry out illegal activity like tax evasion, human smuggling and child prostitution.
In retrospect, the tapes have been criticized for being "severely edited" but in the aftermath of the exposé, the advocacy group lost its public funding and was shut down.
O'Keefe's army of provocative journalists were also the masterminds behind the embarrassing NPR scandal, when top execs from the news organization were filmed bashing conservatives. The footage prompted the resignation of Ronald Schiller, NPR's then-senior vice president for fundraising, and NPR's CEO Vivian Schiller - no relation to Ronald.
To kick off the promotion of his new book, O'Keefe broke his latest scandal Tuesday regarding the government's free cellphone program, "Obama phones" to David Martosko from The Daily Mail. The story soon headlined the Drudge Report and went viral on the Web.
Investigators from his Project Veritas are filmed posing as low-income recipients of the phones, admitting to store employees how they intend to sell the mobile devices to get cash to buy designer accessories and even drugs.
"Hey, I don't judge," one employee says when learning of the plan.
And so the next James O'Keefe chapter begins.