Our Common Good

A federal judge refused to throw out claims that a right-wing activist violated the privacy of an ACORN worker who was taped counseling defendant James O’Keefe, who sought advice on how to fill his house with underage prostitutes.
     Juan Carlos Vera sued O’Keefe and his associate Hanna Giles in Federal Court on privacy claims, after O’Keefe secretly filmed Vera at an ACORN office in National City in 2009.

The now-famous series of ACORN recordings featured O’Keefe posing as pimp, dressed in a chinchilla coat, while Giles was disguised as a prostitute.

"The edited video depicted plaintiff as conspiring to promote an underage prostitution business by agreeing to help defendants file fraudulent tax forms and smuggle underage girls from Mexico," U.S. District Judge M. James Lorenz wrote in his order denying defendants’ request for summary judgment.

Vera, who said he contacted police shortly after the activists’ peculiar visit, sued them in the summer of 2010.
     O’Keefe sought summary judgment, claiming that Vera had no expectation of privacy when the conversation was taped.
     But Judge Lorenz found a “genuine dispute as to whether plaintiff’s [Vera’s] expectation of privacy was reasonable.”

"ACORN is in the business of providing counseling and support for the community on various matters," Lorenz wrote. "By its very nature, the organization handles personal matters with individual clients. Defendants walked into ACORN and asked for plaintiff’s help with tax forms. … Specifically, they solicited his help with setting up an illegal prostitution business with underaged girls. … Plaintiff, as a worker for an organization like ACORN, reasonably believed that the content of the conversation was sensitive enough that it would remain private."

O’Keefe duped Vera by asking if the conversation would remain confidential, before he launched into details of the nonexistent scheme, Lorenz wrote.

Conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe released a new video today supposedly exposing voter fraud in North Carolina by highlighting non-citizens like Zbigniew Gorzkowski who have voted in recent elections.

The problem: Gorzkowski is an American citizen.

A DOJ official responds to a video released by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas that shows a D.C. poll worker offering Attorney General Eric Holder’s ballot to an undercover activist:

“It’s no coincidence that these so-called examples of rampant voter fraud consistently turn out to be manufactured ones.”

O’Keefe’s vision, pieced together from court filings, interviews and tax records filed by his nonprofit Project Veritas, has been hampered by bitter infighting, lack of funding and even his own fame.

And O’Keefe has begun to fight back, preparing lawsuits against two former associates-turned-critics — one who claims O’Keefe had little to do with his biggest post-ACORN exposé, focused on NPR, and another former colleague who says she backed out of a project last month because of O’Keefe’s lack of professionalism.

The two men who pulled off James O’Keefe’s NPR sting are now criticizing the conservative activist for what one calls a ‘hit job.’ They tell Howard Kurtz exclusively why they feel exploited.


NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, on his own blog, pressthink.org, writes about being the target of a sting operation by right-wing smear artist James O’Keefe (the guy who helped destroy ACORN):

It started with a request from a staff person at NYU to allow a prospective graduate student named “Lucas” to sit in on my class on October 17. This is something that happens 8-10 times a semester. Students want to know what they can expect if they come to study at NYU. I said yes because I always say yes. The class he wanted to observe is called “Digital Thinking.” That day I had scheduled a guest speaker: my colleague Clay Shirky. The students had read all of Shirky’s major writings about the transformation of journalism in the digital age and they were eager to ask him questions.
When I got to class, Lucas was already there. I welcomed him, introduced him to the class, and asked my students to be nice to him because he was thinking of coming to study at NYU. About 30 minutes later Clay showed up and we did what college professors do thousands of times a day at universities everywhere. We tell stories with ideas inside them and share how we think. We answer students’ questions and get them to share how they think. We try to complicate their picture of the world and inspire them to inquire further. This is the work of education. And this is what Clay and I did.

 Read more.

Progressive radio host Nicole Sandler is at the Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis, where she ran into a decidedly conservative attendee: James O’Keefe.

As Sandler describes on her blog, she spotted O’Keefe in the lobby, and he invited her over to chat. Naturally, she pulled out her Flip Cam and recorded the whole thing. Eventually, O’Keefe tires of her and tries to get Sandler to go away.

Mr. O’Keefe’s demonizing of Acorn and now NPR shows how far he will go to get the right their way. Is it a coincidence that this video appears just when Republicans have passed a budget bill that would end funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?