James O'Keefe is a willing soldier for Trump, but he's shooting blanks. His latest "sting video" (which I will not embed here) once again targets Americans United For Change, one of the most effective progressive activist groups working for progressive policy changes.
This time, O'Keefe claims AUFC accepted a $20,000 donation from a foreign entity, after he routed funds through Belize to an American bank, which then wired them to AUFC's account.
In this case, he says he used a shell corporation from Belize to move the cash to Americans United, which shares a consultant with the DNC. An emergency internal audit at Americans United, which for the last week has been the target of O’Keefe’s videos, pulled the receipt for the transfer. The money was received from The Bank of New York Mellon, incorporated at the same address as TIME Magazine’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan. Americans United allowed TIME to review these documents.
What’s more, the Sept. 9 transfer receipt shows that the customer who ordered the money moved is registered in Stamford, Conn. The exact address is used by Veritas executive director Russell J. Verney as his residence on his Connecticut voting registration forms. Verney also lists that address on forms filed with the state of Virginia incorporating Project Veritas. And that shell corporation? It lists its address these days as Verney’s Connecticut home—a far cry from the colony formerly known as British Honduras.
(O’Keefe, however, did route the cash through Heritage Bank in Belize to justify his claims. But the cash was sent from an American address, via an American bank, to an American political group. Even though it’s not illegal, O’Keefe is definitely trying to get his headlines here by claiming this is foreign cash. The documents he released to back up his claim appear to black out the Stamford, Conn., address.)
To summarize: AUFC received a transfer from a bank in the US with funds James O'Keefe laundered through Belize. They had no way of knowing that the funds passed through an entity in Belize, but even if they had, it still would not have been an illegal transfer.
To put an exclamation point on that last conclusion, let's turn to an earlier story this week where a SuperPAC for Trump, backed by Rudy Giuliani and Eric Trump, agreed that they could accept a $2 million donation from a mysterious Chinese donor.
An investigative reporter set up the sting:
The reporter said a Chinese client wished to donate to the PAC to support Mr Trump's campaign.
Mr Beach appeared interested despite raising concerns about his nationality and saying he would need to know the donor’s identity.
He suggested the donation could be put through a social welfare organisation called a 501(c)(4) - or C4 - , which unlike a PAC is not subject to a blanket ban on receiving foreign money, and not required to name donors. He stressed in an email that "any path we recommend is legal".
So there you go. Even O'Keefe's own side admits that it's legal to accept foreign funds. This is exactly why the Citizens United decision is so destructive!
By the way, one of the players in the Trump SuperPAC/Chinese donor stories was Jesse Benton, Ron Paul's son-in-law, who recently got out of jail after being convicted of using campaign funds to bribe people in the 2012 Iowa caucuses.
The reporter then received an email from Jesse Benton, a senior figure at the PAC until being convicted in May in connection with buying a senator’s endorsement on a prior campaign. He said he was a “consultant” and that Mr Beach had not wanted a “paper trail” of contact. He and the PAC later denied that he had worked for it at all since May.
Mr Benton proposed channelling the donation through his own company to mask its origin. It would then be passed on to two C4s before being donated by them to the PAC, or simply used to fund projects the PAC had already planned.
My suggestion to everyone is this. When you hear about O'Keefe releasing another video, assume he is really trying to hang the actions of his own side on ours.
In the meantime, have Americans United For Change's back. We should not allow a discredited, video-editing idiot like O'Keefe to have any oxygen in this election.
UPDATE: O'Keefe also tried to slime bartender Scott Prouty of Romney's 47% fame with statements made by Scott Foval, now-former field director for Americans United For Change. As it turns out, O'Keefe felt no need to actually follow up on Foval's statements. If he had, he would have found out they were false, as David Corn reports.