No one knows what a journalist is anymore and maybe that’s good. But when thirty-one lawmakers on one side of the aisle in Congress decide to commend someone for “journalism,” then it’s abundantly clear the person being commended is no journalist. Gotcha activist YouTuber James O’Keefe was so commended by GOP members of Congress last year for acting like a pimp and getting a few ACORN employees to go along in front of a hidden camera with his proposed fraud schemes. It wasn’t exactly Woodward and Bernstein Watergate-style investigative reporting, but Republicans, including Colorado’s Doug Lamborn, loved it. Now, though, O’Keefe is at the heart of a story that does have a Watergate flavor. The FBI arrested him Tuesday for breaking into Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office and attempting to tap her phones. Surprise! In this version, O’Keefe is less the award-winning journalist, less a Woodward or Bernstein, than he is one of the Watergate break-in men whom the journalists sent to jail, a James W. McCord or a Frank Sturgis, for example.
But O’Keefe, like McCord and Sturgis then, is small fish in this latest version of the story. As Deep Throat told Woodward, “follow the money.” The snarky wags at Gawker are following the money— not that I’m saying that what they do over there is anything like journalism. If you’re looking for an expert opinion on that question, you’ll have to ask Doug Lamborn.
Gawker went looking to find who paid for the Landrieu-office break in and started by tracing O’Keefe’s tweets and digging up interviews on the web with related players. Gawker has landed unsurprisingly upon right-wing media man Andrew Breitbart, who denies everything, of course, because he is not a crook! Except that Breitbart pays O’Keefe to conduct his “journalism,” which means he paid for the break in.
As Gawker’s Alex Pareene puts it after printing a transcript of an interview Breitbart gave with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt:
So… Breitbart’s websites pay O’Keefe a salary and have right of first refusal for the work he produces as an “independent filmmaker.” But the work he did when he attempted to film himself and his friends sneaking into the office of a US Senator to tamper with her phones does not count as work done for Andrew’s sites. (I guess because it wasn’t finished?) Lots of people do illegal things “that are not within the scope of their employment,” sure, but O’Keefe’s job is actually to sneak into places under false pretenses and film it without permission, for Breitbart’s websites.
Which brings us to the question TPM is asking? Who’s paying O’Keefe’s legal fees?
No answer to that question yet.
Here’s the Congressional resolution Rep. Lamborn co-sponsored lauding the good work of break-in man O’Keefe:
Whereas Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III filmed investigatory videos uncovering the fraudulent and illegal practices of the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN);
Whereas the House of Representatives voted to completely defund ACORN on September 17, 2009;
Whereas these videos resulted in the potential annual savings of millions of taxpayer dollars to organizations that contract with ACORN;
Whereas Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III have displayed exemplary actions as government watchdogs and young journalists uncovering wasteful government spending; and
Whereas Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III are owed a debt of gratitude by the people of the United States:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives— (1) honors Hannah Giles and James O’ Keefe III for their work as investigative journalists; (2) commends Hannah Giles and James O’ Keefe III for bringing to light the fraudulent behavior of the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN) and helping save millions of taxpayer dollars that otherwise would have funded ACORN; and (3) respectfully requests the Clerk of the House to transmit an enrolled copy of this resolution to Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III.