The right-wing rabble-rouser James O’Keefe made his name by secretly recording stunts designed to uncover the supposedly sinister machinations of progressive institutions. So there’s some poetic justice about the way he accidentally broadcast his plans to conduct a sting against a prominent billionaire liberal philanthropist: by running his mouth when he didn’t realize he was on tape.
O’Keefe planned to conduct his latest investigation into the Open Society Foundations, a group of nonprofits founded by George Soros. As is O’Keefe’s wont, he assumed a false identity—this time it was a Hungarian businessman named Victor Kesh—and called up the Foundations’ New York headquarters, hoping to catch employees in some embarrassing slip-up, like he famously did at Planned Parenthood and ACORN in 2008 and 2009.
As the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer details in a thorough profile published online today, O’Keefe reached a voice mailbox. He left a brief message in character as Kesh, and then, not realizing he hadn’t hung up the phone, began talking at length about his plan to take Soros and Open Society down. (Audio from the call is available here.)
She continued to listen, and the man’s voice suddenly took on a more commanding tone. The caller had failed to hang up, and Kesh, unaware that he was still being recorded, seemed to be conducting a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros. “What needs to happen,” he said, is for “someone other than me to make a hundred phone calls like that”—to Soros, to his employees, and to the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberal political donors that Soros helped to found, which is expected to play a large role in financing this year’s campaigns. Kesh described sending into the Soros offices an “undercover” agent who could “talk the talk” with Open Society executives. Kesh’s goal wasn’t fully spelled out on the recording, but the gist was that an operative posing as a potential donor could penetrate Soros’s operation and make secret videos that exposed embarrassing activities.
In an interview with Breitbart about how throughly he played himself, O’Keefe said that the mistake would not jeopardize his larger investigation into Soros, which is apparently still forthcoming. “The irony was that the official called me back. I don’t think that she realized until later,” he added, referring to the Open Society employee with whom he’d left the message.
Whether O’Keefe sees the greater irony in his situation—having accidentally applied the exact same tactics he uses against his liberal enemies to his own operation—is unclear.