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What you need to know for 12/16/2017

New York attorney general warns Project Veritas its fundraising license is at risk

New York attorney general warns Project Veritas its fundraising license is at risk

Letter comes days after Washington Post story
New York attorney general warns Project Veritas its fundraising license is at risk
Washington Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen (left) interviews Jaime T. Phillips at a Greek restaurant in Alexandria, Va.
Photographer: Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post

Project Veritas, the conservative charity that uses deceptive techniques to make undercover video recordings to embarrass its targets, 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 and had other omissions on records submitted to the state, according to a letter the New York Attorney General sent to the charity on 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 would be impacted.

Stephen Gordon, a spokesman for Project Veritas, said Thursday that he could not comment because he had not seen the letter.

The letter came days after a Washington Post story 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 scrutiny from reporters.

On Wednesday, The Post reported that the effort by Jaime Phillips to plant a false story about Moore was part of a monthslong campaign to infiltrate The Post and other media outlets in Washington and New York.

New York becomes the latest state to raise concerns about the 2010 criminal conviction of the group's president, James O'Keefe. 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.

A spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the range of possible repercussions.

O'Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of entering a federal building under false pretenses in May 2010 after posing as a telephone repairman to gain entry to the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. He paid a fine and 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 IRS that same month.

But when the group applied for a license to raise money in New York that December, records show, it certified that none of its officers, directors or principal executives had been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, records show.

The letter sent Thursday, signed by the chief of the charity's bureau in New York, demands that Project Veritas explain why that certification is not a violation of a state law prohibiting making 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 tried to explain similar problems to North Carolina regulators earlier this year, records in that state show. It said it had not intentionally misled officials in Mississippi. But Mississippi declined to give the charity a license because "O'Keefe held a position with the authority to write checks," according to documents the charity submitted to North Carolina.

Utah refused to issue Project Veritas a license because it made the same mistake, documents show.

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