This train wreck became inevitable the day James O’Keefe was forced out (or left on his own, depending who you believe). O’Keefe was the public face and persona of Project Veritas, and the reason so many people gave so many millions of dollars. No James, no donations sufficient to sustain the operation.
We covered the drama as it unfolded:
- James O’Keefe Out at Project Veritas, Updated with Video (February 20, 2023)
- O’Keefe Video: “I don’t build to have donors, I have donors to build” (February 20, 2023)
- Project Veritas To Conduct “Two-Dimensional” Audit Of James O’Keefe Expenses Looking For Problems (February 23, 2023)
- VIDEO: “We, the Whistleblowers of Project Veritas stand with James O’Keefe” (February 24, 2023)
- ‘I’m Back’: James O’Keefe Launches New Media Company After Project Veritas Ouster (March 15, 2023)
- Project Veritas Seeks Injunction Against James O’Keefe and O’Keefe Media Group In Newly-Filed Lawsuit (May 31, 2023)
- Project Veritas v. James O’Keefe: Parties “engaged in productive discussions to attempt to resolve this case” (August 27, 2023)
Since that last linked post, the Washington Post obtained an alleged draft of an audit report from Project Veritas’ outside counsel detailing James alleged excess spending. The Post summarized the findings, but did not publish or link the actual audit report. The report was consistent with the allegations made against James in the lawsuit and eslewhere – He spent too much on being James:
In August 2022, James O’Keefe needed to get to Maine for a sailing trip. Rather than take a commercial flight for roughly $200, the conservative undercover-video activist directed his employees to book a $12,000 helicopter flight direct from New York to the seaside town of Southwest Harbor, using funds donated to Project Veritas, the nonprofit he founded, according to a draft of a private internal audit conducted by an independent law firm.
When bad weather forced the helicopter to make an unscheduled landing in Portland, O’Keefe booked a $1,400 black car for the three-hour drive from the helipad to the sailboat. O’Keefe justified the expenses by saying that he had a meeting near the dock, the audit stated. Two Project Veritas staffers described the person he met with to The Washington Post as a low-level donor.
It wasn’t the first time O’Keefe had covered personal expenses with funds from the donor-supported nonprofit whose self-described mission is investigative journalism, according to the report compiled by Dorsey & Whitney, a firm hired by the Project Veritas board in the wake of its founder’s departure in February. A copy of the report was shared with The Post.
There was $208,980 worth of luxury black-car travel over a two-year period. There was a $600 haul of bottled water during one hotel stay in San Antonio. There was even a $2,500 set of DJ equipment; O’Keefe dreamed of playing a set at Coachella, according to two former employees, and was irritated when his staff couldn’t get him booked at the legendary California music festival.
Based on the description in WaPo, it’s far from clear that any of this was criminal, but getting James prosecuted seems to be a major objective of those with whom he had a falling out. Neither the lawsuit nor getting James prosecuted ever could save the company.
Amid layoffs, there were reports that Project Veritas was running out of money:
Mediaite obtained audio from an August 22 meeting between Giles, Project Veritas board president Joe Barton, and several staffers. At the meeting, held just days after 23 staffers were fired and two resigned, Giles can be heard explaining that the organization is in financial ruin.
“It’s devastating,” Giles said. “I’ve got to get back into the bank accounts to see what’s real and what’s not real because I have been getting presented with things that were not making sense and then when I’m presented with okay there’s only a thousand dollars left in the 501(c) (3) and I thought we had until October. We did a half a million dollar transfer and that was this period. But, like, we’re bankrupt.”
Giles continued to paint a bleak financial portrait of the well-known conservative nonprofit that raked in $22 million of donor cash in one recent year.
“The bills that are owed and everything, and there’s lawyers threatening to like, to force us into bankruptcy, and come take all this stuff,” Giles said. “So, I do not want us, I do not want to declare bankruptcy or go into bankruptcy, but we have to imagine that’s where we’re at so how do we get to the point where we’re clawing our way out of that situation?”
“So, we’re under water?” one staffer asked. Giles responded: “Yeah.”
Accusations were flying that Hannah Giles, who took over for O’Keefe, mismanaged the operation.
Project Veritas announced in a mass email this morning:
For more than a decade, Project Veritas has led the pursuit of transparency and truth in the media and other powerful institutions.
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.
Project Veritas is continuing to operate, but 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 incredibly grateful for everyone who supports us in fulfilling our mission. It is our sincere hope that Project Veritas can continue many more years of delivering truth for the American people.
Hannah Giles, CEO, Project Veritas
Media reports are that operations are in fact suspended:
Project Veritas, the conservative organization founded by James O’Keefe, suspended all operations on Wednesday after another round of layoffs, Mediaite has learned.
According to a letter titled “Reduction in Force” that was sent to Project Veritas staffers by HR director Jennifer Kiyak on Wednesday, the organization is putting all operations on pause amidst severe financial woes.
“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,” Kiyak wrote.
Six staffers were laid off from the embattled organization this week, sources said, including all remaining journalists and one development associate. One former Project Veritas staffer said just 11 people remain on the non-profit’s payroll, including CEO Hannah Giles.
Kiyak wrote in the letter that the group cannot “carry the present staff count any longer” and reminded those being laid off of their nondisclosure agreements.
Things are only going to get uglier, with James needing to find another source of funding to defend against the criminal investigation of Ashley Biden’s diary:
James O'Keefe, Eric Cochran, Spencer Meads, the three former Project Veritas journalists raided by the FBI regarding the Ashley Biden Diary – announce they are teaming up with the nonprofit legal defense fund, Private Citizen.
This comes on the heels of Project Veritas… pic.twitter.com/S9pnQ50Y3r
— James O'Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) September 21, 2023
And the recriminations are flowing in every direction:
Good job taking the man's company and burning it down everyone. Total senseless act of destruction.
Project Veritas ceases operations, lays off all remaining journalistshttps://t.co/U3SeNv9uYc
— Libby Emmons (@libbyemmons) September 21, 2023
He was fired for cause when lawyers investigated staff claims and documented his misappropriation of massive amounts of donor/non profit funds and all sorts of other malfeasance (such as: ya can’t fly private to go on your vacation & lie about it, can’t fire a cfo who tells you…
— Matthew Tyrmand (@MatthewTyrmand) September 21, 2023
It’s pretty clear the company is over. But not the drama.DONATE
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