— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) August 11, 2017
Lest we forget — being a Republican means never learning anything from one’s mistakes. Jane Mayer, in the New Yorker, on a repeat offender:
James O’Keefe III, the conservative activist famous for undercover stings, has dedicated his life to exposing the “misconduct” of others. But he’s developed a side business in accidentally exposing his own. In the latest chapter of his strange career, the League of Conservation Voters, a national environmental-advocacy group, 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 group’s leaders recently began to suspect that they were being scammed, and decided to go to the authorities before O’Keefe or his alleged associates released any material on their own.
In a six-page letter of complaint sent to the California Department of Justice on Friday, the League of Conservation Voters, or L.C.V., asked the state’s 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 environmental group filed the letter in California because the “imposters,” as it labelled the operatives, first made contact with the organization through its state branch in the San Francisco Bay Area. A spokesperson for the California Department of Justice declined to comment, as is its policy on potential criminal investigations.
O’Keefe, whom I reached by phone on Tuesday, said that he was unaware of the letter and otherwise declined to discuss the matter. “I don’t comment on investigations real or imagined, or work with mainstream reporters who operate in bad faith,” he told me. In 2016, I wrote an article for this magazine about O’Keefe’s bungled attempt to sting George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, a liberal nonprofit group that O’Keefe had targeted.
L.C.V.’s letter describes an elaborate, six-month-long scheme. It alleges that the three operatives 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. According to the letter, “at least two” of the individuals, who are identified as Christian Hartsock and Daniel Sandini, have reportedly worked with O’Keefe in the past, though L.C.V.’s letter acknowledges that the group doesn’t know whether O’Keefe was directly involved in the sting or merely inspired a copycat operation. 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. The film’s cast notes describe Hartsock as a longtime collaborator of O’Keefe’s and a “protégé” of Andrew Breitbart, the late founder of the right-wing Web site Breitbart News, which Bannon ran prior to joining Trump’s Presidential campaign last year. They also say that Sandini is “inspired by Andrew Breitbart and James O’Keefe.” The third individual named in the letter, Ann Vandersteel, is a conservative online commentator who has promoted conspiracy theories including “Pizzagate,” the election-season right-wing fantasy that claimed Hillary Clinton’s campaign was running a child-molestation ring in the basement of a Washington pizza parlor that, among other things, has no basement. (Hartsock declined to comment for this article, and attempts to reach Sandini and Vandersteel were unsuccessful.)…
According to the letter, the scheme began last December, when Hartsock approached L.C.V.’s Oakland, California, office pretending to be a man named Trent Maynard. He allegedly said that he represented a wealthy but politically inexperienced donor who had been motivated by Trump’s election to give to progressive causes. Hartsock presented a fake business card and mentioned that his donor friend wanted to be introduced to environmental leaders and elected officials. Soon after, L.C.V. staffers invited Hartsock to attend an Inauguration Day fundraiser for environmental groups, where he mingled with various progressive leaders…
The L.C.V. staff found some of Sandini’s behavior bizarre. At one L.C.V. event, he seemed inexplicably disappointed when he wasn’t able to present a pair of cufflinks to the California Senate’s president pro tempore, Kevin de León, after de León failed to show. The staff also noticed that he had a habit of leaving his cufflinks, and his phone, on tables during get-togethers, which, according to L.C.V.’s letter, “raises the possibility that we have been recorded without consent. We are deeply concerned that if surreptitious, unauthorized videos or recordings were made, these individuals could make deceptive edits to create unfair, malicious, and false impressions.”…
Beats looking for an honest job, I guess.
Apart from casting a cold eye on all the little criminals, what’s on the agenda for the evening?