BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
James O'Keefe, the discredited purveyor of criminal activities and pseudo journalism, who has been involved in undercover stings of ACORN, Democratic politicians, and other progressive/leftist enclaves, may be at it again. In a recent email, Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), pointed out that "a group of right-wing imposters … assumed fake identities to attempt a 'sting' operation on our staff." While the undercover operation has O'Keefe's Modus Operandi written all over it, and two of the stingers have longtime ties to O'Keefe, it is unclear as of this writing whether the right-wing provocateur is involved.
The elaborate sting against LCV appears to indicate that merely denying climate change is not enough for right-wing groups; targeting environmental groups hoping to bait staffers into some inappropriate and scandal-worthy revelations is the latest tactic.
In a Press Release dated August 9, and titled "LCV TARGETED BY RIGHT WING OPERATIVES USING FAKE IDENTITIES" (their caps) the organization explained that it "recently discovered" it had been targeted by "extreme right-wing groups [that] used fake identities in order to meet with LCV staff and supporters–presumably in an effort to bait them into statements that could be doctored or taken out of context to undermine our work."
The League of Conservation Voters "has filed a complaint against three individuals who infiltrated its operations, at least two of whom, the group alleges, 'could be associated with' O'Keefe and have past ties to him, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer recently reported.
Mayer pointed out that the LCV sent a letter asking California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, "to open a criminal investigation into the operatives for potential fraud, racketeering, unfair business practices, trespassing, invasion of privacy, and possible violation of the state's two-way-consent eavesdropping laws." The letter was filed in California "because the 'imposters,' … first made contact with the organization through its state branch in the San Francisco Bay Area."
In a phone conversation with Mayer, O'Keefe said "I don't comment on investigations real or imagined, or work with mainstream reporters who operate in bad faith."
On its website, LCV describes itself as "work[ing] to turn environmental values into national, state and local priorities. [I]n collaboration with our state LCV partners, [the organization] advocates for sound environmental laws and policies, holds elected officials accountable for their votes and actions, and elects pro-environment candidates who will champion our priority issues."
According to Mayer, LCV's letter maintains that three infiltrators "created false personas—backed up with fake Facebook, LinkedIn, and e-mail accounts—under which they met with 'dozens' of the group's staffers, board members, and donors, and gained access to 'confidential' information."
At this point, it is unclear whether O'Keefe himself was involved in the six-month project. What is known is that two of the three people involved -- identified as Christian Hartsock and Daniel Sandini – have worked with O'Keefe in the past. Mayer pointed out that "Hartsock and Sandini also have connections to Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump's chief political adviser: they both received film credits in 'Occupy Unmasked,' a 2012 documentary directed by Bannon."
A "'third imposter,' Ann Vandersteel, made her appearance in June 2017, posing as 'Ann Steel,' the widow of a wealthy oil investor, thinkprogress.org's Mark Hand reported. "In reality, Vandersteel is a conservative commentator on YourVoice America Radio, the LCV [letter] explains."
"Vandersteel appears to have falsely described herself to LCV as the widow of a wealthy oil investor who had decided to become politically active because of the opposition to President Trump. In June, following Sandini's introduction of her to LCV staff, she received a complimentary invitation to LCV's annual Capital Dinner, its largest fundraising event. In July, she was given extensive briefings from LCV staff in LCV's Washington, D.C. office about confidential LCV priorities," the complaint states.
Alex Leary, the Tampa Bay Times Washington Bureau Chief, recently reported that "her LinkedIn page shows she is a Realtor. In 1990, she worked as a 'residential liaison' for Trump Plaza in West Palm Beach. 'Interfaced with Donald Trump weekly upon property inspections,' it states."
Leary also noted that the St. Petersburg-based Sandini, operating under the name "Daniel Logan," "tried to get the liberal group to set up a voter drive in Florida, according to a report that suggests conservative activist James O'Keefe III could be tied the scheme."
Leary noted that "On Twitter, Dan Sandini lists himself as an 'independent citizen journalist' from Portland, Ore. It says he is 'inspired by Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe.'"
The infiltrators are associated with O'Keefe's right-wing Project Veritas and its affiliate, the Project Veritas Action Fund.
O'Keefe has been a key player in developing sting operations aimed at discrediting Planned Parenthood, progressive organizations and Democratic politicians. Think Progress pointed out that "In 2010, O'Keefe was sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $1,500 fine after taking a plea bargain following a botched sting attempt at the office of then-Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). In 2013, after receiving immunity from criminal prosecution from the California attorney general, he paid $100,000 to settle a civil suit after one of the people he filmed in his targeting of the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) claimed he violated a state law against secret recordings of an individual's voice and image."
O'Keefe is scheduled to keynote the Palm Beach GOP's annual lobsterfest dinner on Aug. 17, at the Polo Club of Boca Raton.
In its complaint, LCV noted that "These deceptions were used to gain access to our confidential strategic plans, learn the identities of our donors, participate in meetings with state and federal elected leaders, and possibly to record conversations without permission."
As Gene Karpinski noted in the organization's Press Release: "We will not be intimidated by craven efforts to smear our work and distract from this administration's real, dangerous attacks on voting rights and the planet. We will not let deceitful individuals disparage the people and issues we advocate for every day. The League of Conservation Voters has over 2 million members, and we have been a leading voice for environmental protection for nearly 50 years. We're proud of our work, our staff, our volunteers and our supporters."