The Power of James O'Keefe

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 25 2012 9:34 AM

The Power of James O'Keefe

This is a fact, and it will piss off liberals, but: James O'Keefe has had more of an impact on the 2012 election than any journalist. His newest victory occured in Virginia, where a reporter from his Project Veritas approached Patrick Moran—son of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., nephew of Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran—and asked him about how he might forge documents to cast votes in the name of 100 dead people. Moran almost wriggled out of it, encouraging the reporter to focus on GOTV instead. But for agonizing minutes, Moran indulged him and discussed the upsides and downsides of the plan.

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Moran resigned within hours, telling Politico that he was "joking." It didn't stop AP stories about the sting and the resignation. The speedy decision, and the five-second news cycle that we get during the final stretch of the campaign, probably spares the Democrats more damage. But consider what O'Keefe's stings have done up to now.

- In 2009, O'Keefe and Hannah Giles embarass ACORN workers by getting them to provide advice to faux criminals. The backlash is swift, and scared Democrats go along with a bill that bans funds to ACORN. The group disbands within six months.

- In 2010, secretaries of state are elected in several states—Ohio, Kansas, Colorado—pledging to undo the potential damage to the electoral system wrought by voter fraud. In 2011, numerous states pass voter registration and voter ID laws. Democrats don't really dispute this: They got fewer new registrations than they might have when ACORN was around.

- In 2012, O'Keefe's reporters try to vote in places with no ID laws, including New Hampshire and D.C. Their success in getting offered ballots bolsters voter ID campaigns in states like Minnesota. The reporters try to get Democratic staffers interested in helping them commit fraud. So far, two of the targets have fallen for it, then resigned. And because there's video evidence, it's more powerful and more widely reported than the sorts of voter problems (like purges in Indiana and Florida) that excite Democrats.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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