Conservative activist admits to plot in Landrieu's office

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post staff writer
Saturday, January 30, 2010

The conservative activist accused this week in a plot to tamper with telephones in the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) admitted to the scheme Friday, conceding that he "could have used a different approach" in trying to determine whether she was avoiding calls from opponents of the health-care reform bill.

Federal prosecutors allege that James O'Keefe helped carry out a plot in which two friends impersonated telephone repairmen to get access to Landrieu's office in downtown New Orleans. 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.

O'Keefe, who is charged with entering federal property on false pretenses, said in a statement Friday that he undertook the project "as an investigative journalist."

"I learned from a number of sources that many of Senator Landrieu's constituents were having trouble getting through to her office to tell her that they didn't want her taking millions of federal dollars in exchange for her vote on the health-care bill," he wrote. "The sole intent of our investigation was to determine whether or not Senator Landrieu was purposely trying to avoid constituents who were calling to register their views to her as their Senator."

O'Keefe became a hero to some conservatives last fall when he conducted a hidden-camera exposé targeting the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Posing as a pimp, he captured several employees on tape appearing to give him advice on concealing his illegal prostitution business. ACORN officials have said he doctored some of the tapes to make the liberal-leaning organization look bad.

In the statement, O'Keefe acknowledged that he videotaped the visit to Landrieu's office and said that federal prosecutors are reviewing the videos.

If convicted, O'Keefe could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. Under a judge's order, he is required to reside with his parents in New Jersey pending future court hearings.

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