Clash of the ‘citizen journalism’ titans

Fresh from his bail hearing, James O’Keefe – the conservative activist whose surreptitiously recorded videotapes sparked a firestorm of criticism against ACORN, and who was arrested Monday for allegedly trying to tamper with a U.S. Senator’s phones – will address the Commonwealth Club of California at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, in the club’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. Club members get in free; tickets are available online for nonmembers at $18 and for students with valid ID at $7.

This all assumes that a federal court officer will give O’Keefe permission to come to California for the event, per a U.S. Magistrate Judge’s order issued Tuesday; I’d say it’s a good bet.

The moderator of this discussion of “undercover journalism” will be UC-Berkeley journalism graduate student, blogger and freelance journalist Josh Wolf, himself widely known for being jailed for contempt of court as he refused a federal judge’s order to surrender raw video he’d shot at a 2005 street protest of which he was part.

Meanwhile, the O’Keefe backlash begins. Labor-backed liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change today is taking to task House Republicans – including Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Rep. John Campbell, R-Irvine – who co-sponsored a resolution in November honoring O’Keefe for the ACORN tapes.

“It wasn’t too long ago that Representatives Campbell and Lungren believed that James O’Keefe was deserving of national recognition and praise – that is, before Mr. O’Keefe was arrested by the FBI for allegedly plotting to tamper with the phone lines of a United States Senator,” AUC acting executive director Tom McMahon said in his news release. “The people of California might be interested to know if these Representatives have any regrets for taking up valuable time in Congress to ‘honor’ Mr. O’Keefe’s special brand of ‘investigative journalism’ that apparently devolved into Watergate-style schemes.”

I e-mailed Lungren’s and Campbell’s press people about 90 minutes ago, haven’t heard back from them yet.

UPDATE @ 10:52 A.M. MONDAY 2/1: This event has been postponed until further notice.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • stevefromsacto

    Gee, after this, who’s to say that this right-wing criminal’s “investigation” of ACORN may also have been a little crooked. Just sayin’

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    I seem to recall that the rap on M. Wolf was that his taping of the street protests/disorders included an assault on a police officer.

  • Josh Richman

    Actually, it was a federal case because the FBI said there had been damage to a city police car funded in part by federal tax dollars. Wolf eventually posted his unaired video online in exchange for prosecutors relenting in their demand that he testify before a grand jury as to the identities and activities of other protestors.

  • Elwood

    “it was a federal case because the FBI said there had been damage to a city police car funded in part by federal tax dollars.”

    Now that’s just ridiculous.

    It’s hard to believe our government could be that desperate to get something on someone.

    Did they also charge him with spitting on the sidewalk?

  • Elwood

    Re: #1

    Right wing criminal?

    To my knowledge, O’Keefe has not been convicted of anything.

    Which do you suppose is the bigger criminal conspiracy? O’Keefe and his mini-band of merry pranksters or ACORN?

  • Josh Richman

    Re: #4

    Elwood – many people thought that the reasoning was absurd. The subtext was that law enforcement desperately wanted to compel Wolf to hand over his video and testify as to people’s identities, but California’s shield law precluded them from doing so in state court; the cop car was widely seen as a pretext for dragging him into federal court, where there is no shield law.

    That said, it also raised questions about who is and isn’t a journalist; Wolf was clearly sympathetic to, if not actually one of, the protestors he was videotaping for his own “vlog.” There’s a good rundown on the whole thing here.

  • Jeff

    ” Why tamper with Landrieu’s phones?”


    ” A law enforcement official says the four men arrested for attempting to tamper with the phones in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) were not trying to intercept or wiretap the calls.
    Instead, the official says, the men, led by conservative videomaker James O’Keefe, wanted to see how her local office staff would respond if the phones were inoperative. They were apparently motivated, the official says, by criticism that when Sen. Landrieu became a big player in the health care debate, people in Louisiana were having a hard time getting through on the phones to register their views. “