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ACORN foe tweeted about planned sting of Sen. Landrieu's office

James O'Keefe, left, and Stan Dai, are accused of aiding two men in the alleged phone tampering scheme and face up to 10 years in prison.
James O'Keefe, left, and Stan Dai, are accused of aiding two men in the alleged phone tampering scheme and face up to 10 years in prison. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

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By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 28, 2010

On New Year's Eve, conservative activist James O'Keefe telegraphed across the Internet that he was up to something big.

On the social networking site Twitter, he said that his past undercover video stings had exposed wrongdoing at Democratic-leaning organizations -- and he foreshadowed one more in the offing.

"2008: Planned Parenthood VPs fired 2009: ACORN defunded 2010: Get ready cuz this is about to get heavy," he wrote on his public Twitter page, dubbed "JamesOKeefeIII."

Conservative supporters say O'Keefe's newest operation occurred just days ago. Federal prosecutors allege that he helped carry out a plot Monday in which two partners impersonated telephone repairmen to enter the downtown New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). O'Keefe, 25, waited inside the office and used his cellphone to record his two colleagues saying that the senator's phone was not receiving calls, according to charges unsealed Tuesday.

Supporters say O'Keefe and his friends entered Landrieu's office to conduct another undercover sting: to show on video that citizens trying to call Landrieu's office could not get through. Now O'Keefe -- a celebrated figure among some Republicans for his undercover sting last fall targeting the nonprofit Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) -- and three other men face charges of entering federal property on false pretenses as part of a plot to tamper with the lawmaker's phone. If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Michael Madigan, O'Keefe's attorney, could not be reached to comment.

Opponents of health-care reform legislation had complained this month that they repeatedly heard busy signals when they called Landrieu's office to register their views.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in New Orleans declined to comment on the allegation or potential motives. A law enforcement source said investigators are still sorting through evidence and conducting interviews.

O'Keefe considers himself a journalist with creative approaches to exposing wrongdoing. He told conservative talk show host Glenn Beck that he was not afraid to go to prison if necessary to do his work. In late December, he again tweeted about the power of undercover citizen-journalists.

"Hidden audio/video is the new gun: 1st grade teacher fired after being caught on book bag tape http://bit.ly/7Yipse."

The news of O'Keefe's arrest and the allegations against him rippled through Democratic and Republican circles Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Salt Lake City Republican Party announced Wednesday that it canceled O'Keefe's appearance as keynote speaker at a Feb. 4 fundraiser. "The allegations and arrest today certainly change our plans," Chairman Thomas Wright said. "He doesn't necessarily represent the Republican Party."


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