James O’Keefe III, a conservative activist known for using false identities to produce undercover videos targeting liberals, says someone is fraudulently using his name to create a political action committee.
On Thursday, a person filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to create “Project Veritas PAC.”
The PAC name echoes that of O’Keefe’s nonprofit organization: Project Veritas. The website and Mamaroneck, New York, mailing addresses listed in the Project Veritas PAC filing are those of O’Keefe’s nonprofit Project Veritas. And the PAC treasurer listed on the FEC document is “James O’Keefe,” who also purportedly signed it.
But O’Keefe said in an interview with the Center for Public Integrity that the FEC filing is a fraud: He denied setting up the PAC and he wants to know who did. O’Keefe said he first learned about the PAC filing when reporters contacted him to ask about it.
“Someone was trying to create a PAC in my name,” he said. “We did not create it. It is fraudulent.”
The email address listed on the form, purportedly for O’Keefe, uses the domain Yandex, a service provider based in Moscow, Russia. O’Keefe said the email address is not his, and the banking information included on the form is also unfamiliar.
Efforts to contact the creator of the PAC via the Yandex email address were unsuccessful.
O’Keefe’s biography describes him as a journalist “dedicated to investigating corruption, dishonesty, waste and fraud.” Much of his work has been controversial. Project Veritas activists have used aliases and false identities in their stings. But some conservatives have hailed Project Veritas’ work as vital to holding liberals to account.
O’Keefe said Project Veritas’ lawyer, Benjamin Barr, is submitting complaints and requests for investigation to the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the FEC.
O’Keefe provided the Center for Public Integrity with copies of the letters from Barr to the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission. The letters state the creators of the PAC “fraudulently misrepresented themselves to be James O’Keefe and Project Veritas” in “an effort to damage their reputation and goodwill through such fabrication.”
In 2010, O’Keefe and three others allegedly pretended to be telephone workers in an unsuccessful effort to gain access to the New Orleans offices of Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat. O’Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal charge of entering a federal office under false pretenses in connection with the incident.
O’Keefe first made national news in 2009 after he posed as a pimp and secretly recorded employees at liberal community service organization ACORN allegedly advising him on how to set up a prostitution ring. The video galvanized opposition to ACORN, and by 2010, the group had disbanded.
The FEC, meanwhile, has increasingly struggled to manage a flood of fake filings.
Last year, faced with increasing numbers of filings involving obviously fictitious figures, including Darth Vader, Katniss Everdeen and even God, the agency decided to act. It sent out stern letters asking filers to verify their information. For those that failed to do so, the agency said it would withdraw the filings.
Anyone filing false information could face FEC fines or even criminal penalties, although the government has traditionally been reluctant to put resources into such cases.
A nonprofit group such as Project Veritas, which is organized as a charity under section 501(c)(3) of federal tax code, is also prohibited by law from sponsoring a federal PAC.
Judith Ingram, a spokeswoman for the FEC, said the agency can’t comment on any particular filing or committee “due to the potential of enforcement matters to come before the Commission.”