Controversial right-wing group Project Veritas suspends all operations indefinitely, report says

Right-wing group Project Veritas has suspended all of its operations indefinitely, according to a report.

The organisation, founded by James O’Keefe, shuttered operations after another round of layoffs this week, Mediaite reported.

In a letter titled “Reduction in Force” sent to staffers on Wednesday, HR director Jennifer Kiyak wrote that “in the interest of preserving the possible future existence of Project Veritas we need to put operations on pause and, as communicated since the Spring, another Reduction in Force (“RIF”) is necessary”.

Ms Kiyak said the organisation could not “carry the present staff count any longer”.

Project Veritas had already laid off six staffers in the last week, leaving just 11 people on its payroll including CEO Hannah Giles, one source told Mediaite.

Project Veritas was founded by Mr O’Keefe back in 2010, and is known for its use of hidden cameras to discredit mainstream media organisations and progressive groups.

In February, Mr O’Keefe was forced out by the Project Veritas board over allegations that he mistreated workers and misspent organisation funds.

The chairman and CEO was also accused of spending “an excessive amount of donor funds” on personal luxuries.

Project Veritas later sued Mr O’Keefe in May, accusing him of breaching his contract with “incredibly troubling workplace and financial misconduct,” including screaming at colleagues, exposing employees to obscene messages and having staffers run errands for him, such as picking up laundry and cleaning his boat.

Among Mr O’Keefe’s lavish spending, the organisation alleges, were: $10,000 for a helicopter flight from New York to Maine; more than $150,000 on private car services over an 18-month span; and expensive stays in luxury hotel suites while other employees were forced to stay in budget accommodations.

Following Mr O’Keefe’s departure, the company’s fraught financial situation appeared to continue.

Earlier this month, Ms Giles told an internal meeting the organisation was “bankrupt,” according to previous reports.

Former lead investigative reporter with Project Veritas Bobby Harr, who was laid off this Wednesday, told Mediaite he was “confused” when he was officially laid off because he thought he was already let go last month.

Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“I was confused by this as my job was actually cut during the first round of layoffs while I was on medical leave,” he said.

Mr Harr blamed “lack of funding and poor management” which he said was “amplified by the damage” Mr O’Keefe did to the organisation.

Meanwhile, former chief investigative journalist Christian Hartsock, who was laid off in August, told the outlet that he has “no idea what ‘operations’ there are to suspend” after production and journalism staff were laid off over a month ago”.

Mr O’Keefe’s attorney Jeffrey Lichtman told Mediaite that the organisation’s demise after accusing him of misspending was “highly suspect”.

“It appears that in the few months since Project Veritas ousted James, it continued to spend money at the same rate, blowing through the many millions of dollars James had previously raised for it — despite PV having no new sources of fundraising,” he said in a statement.

“This is highly suspect and we would welcome a full audit of PV’s finances to learn where that money was actually spent.”

Project Veritas’ suspension of operations comes one month after New York prosecutors announced that Mr O’Keefe was under investigation over his use of funds and treatment of staff.

Mr O’Keefe’s lawyer responded by blaming the investigation on “disgruntled former employees of Project Veritas who had a problem with their CEO using too many car services to pay for fundraising efforts which paid their salaries”.

Ms Giles told The Independent: “Project Veritas is continuing to operate, but due to various events and circumstances we are making changes in the operations of our organization including laying off additional employees.

“Our hearts go out to our colleagues and their families as this difficult transition occurs, and we thank them for their dedication and hard work and hope for the best new opportunities for them.

“We are pausing our fundraising efforts and proactively taking steps to honor our donors’ expectations and to preserve the trust the American people have placed in us. We are sincerely grateful for everyone who supports us in fulfilling our mission.”