James O'Keefe out at Project Veritas amid allegations of staff bullying, 'financial malfeasance'

James O'Keefe
James O'Keefe Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Project Veritas, the controversial right-wing undercover-sting group founded by James O'Keefe in his father's carriage house in 2010, ousted O'Keefe on Monday, O'Keefe and the nonprofit's board said in separate statements. O'Keefe's departure follows an internal power struggle that started spilling into the open when the board suspended him with pay earlier in February.

O'Keefe said Monday in a 45-minute video addressed to staff that the board had "indefinitely suspended" him and refused his ultimatum that they resign. "So currently I have no job at Project Veritas," he added. "I'm packing up my personal belongings." The board then issued a statement saying "we did not fire him, nor do we want him to resign," but rather wanted to "continue conversations with James to resolve internal matters rather than litigate them publicly."

In the same statement, though, the board said its preliminary review of O'Keefe's leadership had uncovered "financial malfeasance," including O'Keefe spending "an excessive amount of donor funds in the last three years on personal luxuries."

The board is continuing to review O'Keefe's spending, it said, but so far they have discovered "$14,000 on a charter flight to meet someone to fix his boat under the guise of meeting with a donor," more than $150,000 "in Black Cars in the last 18 months," $60,000 in losses for dance events, and "thousands of dollars spent on DJ and other equipment for personal use."

O'Keefe tried to fire the group's chief strategy officer, Barry Hinckley, and chief financial officer Tom O'Hara earlier in February. Both had raised concerns about O'Keefe's spending and treatment of staff, The Washington Post reports, and the board reinstated them and suspended O'Keefe.

Meanwhile, Project Veritas staff prepared an 11-page memo outlining their grievances against O'Keefe. "James has become a power-drunk tyrant," the memo said. "Everyone is operating in fear because James is erratic," one employee wrote. O'Keefe denied some of the staff allegations in Monday's video.

The memo also painted Project Veritas as in crisis amid an ongoing federal investigation into its purchase of a stolen diary that belonged to President Biden's daughter Ashely.

Project Veritas is known for using undercover operatives to secretly record journalists, liberal politicians, union members, and other perceived progressive enemies, then releasing the selectively edited video. It has gotten in hot water because of its deceptive practices, but O'Keefe gained stature, and Fox News and White House invitations, under former President Donald Trump. Project Veritas is largely funded by donors, and it's unclear what will happen without O'Keefe.

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