James O’Keefe, the “film” producer who spends his life trying to take down any organization valued by progressives with heavily-edited videos of “stings” he orchestrates has been spending time in Michigan this year trying to bring down the American Federation of Teachers. Fortunately, a combination of an O’Keefe operative’s stupidity and the intelligence of the AFT’s staff resulted O’Keefe’s crew getting busted. This past week, Michigan Circuit Court Judge Brian R. Sullivan put a restraining order on O’Keefe and his company Veritas, preventing them from releasing any of the information they obtained – documents of videos – since it’s very likely that it was obtained illegally:
According to the complaint, political operative Marisa Jorge posed as a University of Michigan student interested in becoming a teacher and applied for a summer internship with the teachers union. (Verney, the Project Veritas executive director, said he knows Marisa Jorge, but wouldn’t confirm or deny whether she works for the organization.) Jorge was hired as an intern in May, and over the course of three months, she gathered information that exceeded the scope of her duties, the lawsuit alleges. For example, she showed a particular interest in employees who were disciplined for inappropriate sexual interactions with students. On more than one occasion, the lawsuit alleges, Jorge was found sitting alone in other employees’ offices, accessing information she had no right to.
Jorge told her internship bosses that she wanted to be a second-grade teacher, so they arranged for her to visit classrooms. She asked to attend bargaining sessions and, through the course of her work, was given access to confidential databases, according to the lawsuit. Her co-workers had no reason to believe she was not who she claimed to be.
“Defendant’s purpose was to use private, proprietary information to attempt to embarrass the Plaintiff and adversely impact labor organizations representing public schools,” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiff believes that Defendant Jorge and PV” — Project Veritas — “intended to disclose private and proprietary information to the public at large. Defendant has engaged in such behavior on numerous occasions in the past.”
Weingarten said that Jorge was trusted by the staff. “People embraced her, she went to people’s homes, she went out to meals,” she said.
They became suspicious when, after her internship ended, Jorge returned and asked if there was more work to be done. The staff wondered, wait, wasn’t she supposed to be back at school at the University of Michigan? They then swapped notes, and it was soon clear they’d been had. They searched for images of O’Keefe operatives, and found Jorge’s photo from her unsuccessful attempts to infiltrate the inaugural protests. They also discovered that she is a graduate of Virginia’s Liberty University.
O’Keefe has gone after NPR and CNN, took down ACORN, and has gone after numerous progressive politicians. He’s also gone after teachers in the past. He i funded by far-right conservative groups keen to take down their political opposition and Donald Trump gave $10,000 to Veritas right before announcing his candidacy in May of 2015. Earlier this year, O’Keefe was hit with a million dollar lawsuit filed by the Democratic consulting group Democracy Partners for using an intern to gain information illegally in the same way they did with AFT.
The question seems to be whether James O’Keefe will run out of wealthy corporate financiers before the lawsuits filed against him stop.