Project Veritas, a conservative charity that uses deceptive techniques and undercover videos to expose what it calls dishonesty and corruption, is at risk of losing its ability to raise money in New York because it did not disclose that its founder had a criminal record, New York regulators said Thursday.
The organization has until Dec. 14 to explain why it failed to disclose James O’Keefe’s 2010 criminal conviction on records submitted to the state, according to a letter the New York attorney general sent to the charity Wednesday.
If it does not provide an explanation, the letter states, Project Veritas could lose its ability to raise money in New York, a hotbed for charitable giving and the state where the group has its offices. It was not immediately clear how much of the group’s fundraising could be affected.
Stephen Gordon, a Project Veritas spokesman, said in a statement: “This is an intentional and malicious attempt to shut us down — but we will not be stopped! We attempt to comply not only with the letter of the law but also the spirit of the law in every state.”
Gordon said media organizations, including The Washington Post, obtained a copy of the letter before Project Veritas did, and he called the letter’s release “obviously politically motivated and orchestrated.”
The letter is dated Wednesday, and The Post obtained it Thursday afternoon from a source. A spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declined to comment.
The letter came days after a Post report revealed that an operative tied to Project Veritas falsely claimed to two Post reporters that U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore impregnated her as a teenager. The Post did not publish a story based on her account, which collapsed under reporters’ scrutiny.
On Wednesday, The Post reported that the effort by Jaime Phillips to plant a false story about Moore was part of a months-long campaign to infiltrate The Post and other media outlets in Washington and New York.
New York is the latest state to raise concerns about the 2010 criminal conviction of O’Keefe, the group’s president. In late 2014 and early 2015, Utah and Mississippi stripped the charity of its ability to raise money in those states after learning that it had failed to disclose O’Keefe’s conviction to regulators there.
O’Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering a federal building under false pretenses in May 2010 after posing as a telephone repairman to gain entry to the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). He was sentenced to three years of probation.
Project Veritas was created in June of that year, and O’Keefe is listed as the founder on documents the charity submitted to the Internal Revenue Service that same month.
When the group applied for a license to raise money in New York that December, it certified that none of its officers, directors or principal executives had been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, records show.
The attorney general’s letter demands that Project Veritas explain why that certification is not a violation of a state law prohibiting false statements on an application for registration in the state.
State officials also flagged two other problems with the group’s paperwork.
The group did not disclose that it was “enjoined” from fundraising in Mississippi and Utah, according to the letter. Charities are required to report any such changes to its status in other states.
Project Veritas has said in public documents that it had not intentionally misled officials in Mississippi and Utah.