James O’Keefe left Project Veritas after an internal power struggle


Project Veritas, the far-right organization known for its undercover sting operations, has split with the group’s founder and chairman, James O’Keefe, pulling the curtain on allegations of a bitter management dispute, workplace misconduct and mismanagement of donor money.

The group’s executive director, Daniel Strack, told some employees on Monday that O’Keefe had given an ultimatum to resign from the board of directors to allow him to stay, according to people familiar with Strack’s account. RC Maxwell, spokesperson for Project Veritas, wrote O’Keefe was “fired as CEO by the Project Veritas team,” tweeted O’Keefe.

Neither Strack nor O’Keefe responded to requests for comment. O’Keefe announced his departure to staff at the organization’s headquarters in Mamaroneck, N.Y., on Monday morning and began packing his belongings.

According to a video of his remarks obtained by The Washington Post, he hinted that he would create a competitive organization, “and the mission will probably take a new name.”

“I don’t know why this is happening now,” O’Keefe said of the action against him. Dressed in a suit and tie, he accused his internal opponents of “smearing our reputation, leaking confidential information and fabricating stories in front of supporters and donors.”

O’Keefe sheds light on the uncertain future of Project Veritas, a controversial organization closely identified with its 38-year-old founder. The group, formed in 2010, has employed deceptive tactics in attempts to expose alleged wrongdoing by journalists, liberals and labor unions. O’Keefe’s secretly recorded videos, which sometimes land their subjects in hot water, are shown to be selectively edited, often leaving out important context. Recent attacks have been aimed at Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company behind one of the coronavirus vaccines, although the company protected its methods.

O’Keefe’s tactics sometimes put him in legal jeopardy. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to a misdemeanor charge of entering a federal building under false pretenses; In 2013 a community organizer agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from an attempt to target the group; In 2021, the president faced a court-ordered FBI search of his apartment over alleged theft of a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, his daughter.

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All the while, O’Keefe gained influence in conservative circles and found common cause with Donald Trump, which increased fundraising. By 2020, the nonprofit will break $20 million in annual revenue, according to public filings. In 2021, the most recent year for which tax filings are available, Project Veritas paid O’Keefe about $400,000.

But behind the scenes, O’Keefe struggled to manage his growing organization.

His exit follows an internal conflict that pitted O’Keefe against two of the group’s executives – chief strategy officer Barry Hinckley and chief financial officer Tom O’Hara. Earlier this month, O’Keefe tried to oust Hinckley and O’Hara after raising concerns about his approach to fundraising and staff management.

“Last night I stood up to a bully and got fired,” Hinckley wrote to his colleagues in a group chat on the messaging app Telegram. “Management through humiliation and bullying is never acceptable and does not belong in the workplace.”

The board, after an emergency meeting, recalled both executives, placed O’Keefe on paid leave, and informed Project Veritas leadership that it would discuss O’Keefe’s fate at the company. Meanwhile, some Project Veritas employees produced a memo airing grievances against O’Keefe, which his associates vehemently denied.

The 11-page document, obtained by The Post, accuses O’Keefe of belittling his staff, mistreating donors and wasting the group’s resources. One person labeled him a “power drunk tyrant”.

Some objected to the use of donor money in highly produced videos featuring O’Keefe. “All the theater stuff and how it’s handled makes me so uncomfortable,” the unnamed person wrote. “I understand that the rationale is to ‘raise awareness of our brand,’ but the cost, both in terms of funds and personnel and resources, comes before why donors actually give us money, which is exposing undercover investigations. Wasteful fraud and abuse.”

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The memo paints a picture of fear and paranoia within the organization. One described an episode in which employees had to go to headquarters for questioning by two private investigators over concerns about a “mole” in the office. Another person wrote, “Everyone is acting in fear because James is out of order.”

According to the memo, the alleged instability extended to interactions with donors. O’Keefe allegedly asked benefactors for money, refused when a donor asked for a photo with one of them, and was late for donor meetings.

The criticism of O’Keefe sparked a backlash among some of his staff and outside allies, who blamed the group’s executives and some of its board members. They singled out right-wing commentator Matthew Diamond, described by O’Keefe’s defenders as the “leader” of a “conspiracy” against him. According to reports reviewed by The Post, Dimond told associates weighing in on internal developments that he “didn’t have a clue” about what was going on. He did not respond to requests for comment.

The suggestion of discontent among donors was met with a sharp response from a lawyer who claimed to represent “a large group of significant donors to Project Veritas.” Attorney, Stephen C. Pipecross sent a cease-and-desist letter to the group’s board of directors, expressing “serious concerns” about any attempt to remove O’Keefe, warning that the group “may already be acting in breach of the charity”. Law.

In addition to Tyrmand, the letter was sent to four other board members, including O’Keefe. However, the tax filings for Diramant and John K. identify only Garvey as directors. Garvey did not respond to requests for comment.

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According to people close to O’Keefe, O’Keefe asked allies who approached him to publicize the cease-and-desist letter.

In his speech Monday morning, O’Keefe said the board rejected his offer to apologize to staff for his brutal behavior. Although Project Veritas publicly maintained that he was on leave, he read aloud board minutes recording that he was “indefinitely suspended from this organization.”

O’Keefe also described what Strack, the group’s executive director, called an ultimatum. O’Keefe said he wrote a letter to the board on Feb. 16 proposing that its members resign by the end of last week “or I will be forced to leave.”

“They asked me to go till the 20th; It is now the 20th,” he said. “I asked the board to resign for their behavior and they didn’t. So now I don’t have a job at Project Veritas. I have no position here based on what the board has done.

At the end of his remarks to the staff, O’Keefe choked up as he thanked his parents, recalling how he founded Project Veritas 13 years ago out of his father’s carriage house.

Because it is set up as a non-profit organization, Project Veritas is not required to disclose its donors. However, details of its funding can be found in separate disclosures by its beneficiaries. More than a quarter of its revenue in 2020 came from the Bradley Impact Fund, a Milwaukee-based donor-advised conservative philanthropy, according to the group’s tax filings. Project Veritas tried to spread false information about failed 2017 Senate candidate Roy Moore in The Post. In 2020, it aimed to provide evidence for Trump’s false claims about voter fraud.

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