Conservative provocateur James O’Keefe and his handlers promised to “expose massive voter fraud” in his new video project, but according to Think Progress, the one-time right wing media sensation’s latest blockbuster scoop is more of a bust. The video, another release from O’Keefe’s struggling nonprofit Project Veritas, showed alleged “non-citizens” voting in U.S. elections, but investigation has proven that both men are legally entitled to vote.
O’Keefe came to national attention when he and a female friend filmed themselves posing as a pimp and prostitute and defrauding personnel at the offices of the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN). The heavily edited videos were used as part of a successful campaign to deny ACORN funding and shut the organization down. He then carried out a similar sting on executives from National Public Radio.
More recent stunts by the conservative activist have not been as successful, including a botched hidden-camera interview with a Columbia University School of Journalism dean who turned his own camera on the media prankster, and this latest project, in which O’Keefe claimed to have video evidence of two alleged non-citizens voting in U.S. elections in the state of North Carolina. The video, which was released on May 15, charged that Zbigniew Gorzkowski and William Romero were immigrants who had committed voter fraud by casting votes without having valid U.S. citizenship.
Think Progress debunked the claim about Gorzkowski on the day of the video’s release, pointing to a 2008 article in the Raleigh News and Observer that discussed Gorzkowski and his wife’s naturalization process, through which they became U.S. citizens in the late 1980’s.
Today, the family of William Romero has provided Think Progress with proof of his citizenship in the form of his certificate of naturalization dated February 4, 2011. In a post that provides an image of the certificate, TP‘s Scott Keyes wrote, “O’Keefe’s “proof” that Romero had committed voter fraud was that he refused jury duty in 2010 for not being a citizen but then registered to vote on December 5, 2011, as though there was no possible way his citizenship status could have changed in the interim year.”
Media Matters also notes that a man who O’Keefe’s video identifies as dead but still on the voter rolls has turned up alive. O’Keefe’s operatives claimed that Michael G. Bolton was deceased but still registered to vote in North Carolina. The man named Michael Bolton who is still listed on voter registration rolls as living at the dead man’s address is actually Bolton’s son, Michael G. Bolton, Jr., who is very much alive legally eligible to vote.
The specter of vote fraud is one that Republicans have used to justify the imposition of harsh voter ID laws, laws that many civil rights organizations have shown to disproportionately affect poor and minority voters. However, when Indiana’s voter ID law was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, records showed only one case of in-person vote fraud in the last 143 years.
O’Keefe has been sued by multiple former Project Veritas personnel and charged with acts of sexual impropriety by former coworkers and others. He was fined and placed on probation for three years by a Louisiana judge after being arrested with three others at the offices of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu dressed as telephone repairmen and attempting to gain access to the office’s phone system.