Conservative activist James O'Keefe plotted a potential voter fraud sting of the Service Employees International Union in 2010 in Massachusetts — a sting that, had it been carried out, could have been funded by Rick Santorum patron Foster Friess.
The plot is elaborated on and eventually ruled out in an email chain started by conservative writer John Fund, who emailed Republican National Lawyers Association executive director Michael Thielen that the union was "contracting for buses on election day."
"If you're black or brown they'll rope you in and take you to the polls, registration can be worked out," Fund wrote, per his "Boston source." His email was forwarded on to others, forming the basis for the plans.
The email exchange, parts of which may be missing, is below. Read from the bottom. The last email is from James O'Keefe to associates Stan Dai and Nadia Naffe, who later filed harassment charges against O'Keefe.
Others on the thread include Heather Higgins, the founder of the conservative Independent Women's Voice and the late Andrew Breitbart.
Naffe told BuzzFeed she flew to Boston to investigate, but that they never uncovered anything of interest and the project fizzled.
From: "James E. O'Keefe III" Date: January 13, 2010 12:21:54 PM EST To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Subject: Fwd: brainstorm of sorts, here - far-fetched? Maybe not?...
Your thoughts Nadia?
---------- Forwarded message ----------From: Heather Higgins Date: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 Subject: Re: brainstorm of sorts, here - far-fetched? Maybe not?... To: Steve Friess , James O'Keefe firstname.lastname@example.org, Andrew Breitbart Cc: Foster Friess
Andrew and James, I'm forwarding what could be a very clever idea from Steve Friess in response to the intel below from John Fund re SEIU's intentions in Tuesday's election in MA. Don't know what it would cost, but you all should talk.
Warmest regards -Heather Higgins
On Wed, Jan 13, 2010 at 12:25 AM, Steve Friess wrote:
Wouldn't it be great if a "ACORN sting video" could be produced about these busses?
Dad - maybe bounce this off Breitbart?
Some black /Latina conservatives could be wired for video, and get picked up on one of these busses, and show what goes on. My guess -they are offering cash, (which I am pretty sure is illegal), and I also would wager that at least some of these busses are making more than one stop with the same people - ie getting them to vote twice -though I don't know the mechanics of that.
Perhaps some private detective types would be needed to help track down the busses, and a block or two ahead of them to drop our cameramen off...
Too much to dream? Imagine pulling this off - legal / image problems for SEIU would be a good thing... think there's upside to this?
Brietbart would know, and Fund would know - 'if we catch them doing X, it could mean Y' - I just don't know what the stakes are...
On Jan 12, 2010, at 12:46 PM, Heather Higgins wrote:
Foster --See below from John Fund re SEIU -Acorn is in MA as well. It would be hugely helpful if you would assist with our non-glamorous but highly effective GOTV effort. If you could possibly let me know today, that would be helpful to our planning. This is such a great opportunity for making trouble in the best sort of way - I hope you can help us really capitalize on it.
Many thanks, Heather
-------- Original Message --------Subject: FW: John Batchelor From: "Fund, John" Date: Tue, January 12, 2010 8:25 am To: 'Michael Thielen'
Tip from Boston source (normally reliable)
Seiu contracting for buses on election day and heading to roxbury, mattapan, roslindale and jamaica plain. If you're black or brown they'll rope you in and take you to the polls, registration can be worked out.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
In the next installment, O'Keefe, who appears to have contacted Fund at this point, starts setting up
From: "James E. O'Keefe III" > Date: January 13, 2010 4:16:14 PM EST> To: "mikeroman.com" > Subject: Re: ACORN videos / seiu / election>> what time zone are you in. I'm assuming you mean 8Est. That works.> I'm 201-637-0564>> On Wed, Jan 13, 2010 at 1:10 PM, mikeroman.com wrote:>>>> Have time to talk around 8?>>>>>> On Jan 13, 2010, at 3:41 PM, James E. O'Keefe III wrote:>>>> > Mike,>> >>> > Got your info from John Fund.>> > I was the producer of the ACORN Videos>> > Would like to know whereabouts of the busses in Boston SEIU, et al are using in order to bus people in to vote in the Tuesday special election.>> > Thinking about sending some undercover folks up there.>> >>> > James
Then O'Keefe proposed sending Nadia Naffe up to Boston:
From: "James E. O'Keefe III"
Date: January 14, 2010 11:10:49 PM EST
Cc: Stan Dai
We're willing to book you a plane ticket to Boston to get some footage from the SEIU busses.
Joe will be joining you taking care of logistics/equipment--- but i'll be in new orleans causing trouble.
im confident your training will take you far.
Interested in making some more video history?
A couple days later, O'Keefe has booked travel for Naffe, who was to do the operation. This email included an Orbitz booking confirmation:
From: "James E. O'Keefe III" > Date: January 15, 2010 2:46:09 PM EST> To: email@example.com, Stan Dai , Joe Basel > Subject: Fwd: Travel Document - Boston 1/18/10>> Nadia,>> here's what I could come up with- one stop but its along the way - no 12 hour flights, more like 4-5 hour flight.> leaving tampa mon at noon> leaving boston wed at 2pm so you can sleep.>> keep in mind Wed morning is for additional work - if the polls are continuing if its close..>> I'll also get you a hotel room for the mon night - Joe is flying in overnight from San Francisco and arrives at 6:30am.>> Joe will be picking you up shortly thereafter. But you will have to wake up around 7 on tuesday - your country needs you.>> More details to follow.> James
He also set up a place for her and Joe Basel, one of the men later arrested with him after the Senator Landrieu affair, to stay in Boston (Naffe and Basel are copied on the email):
From: "James E. O'Keefe III"
Date: January 16, 2010 10:59:14 PM EST
To: Amy Contrada
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, Joe Basel
Subject: Boston election day,
Two of my collegues are coming to Boston to infilrate the SEIU on election day. One of them is a female.
Would you be able to put them her up Monday night?
The video from the trip, if it was ever made, was never published.
"I believe there was discussion of doing something but O'Keefe's office will tell you nothing was done," said Fund, reached by email.
"This is a classic example of someone trying to breath life into a three-year old dead horse," said Fund.
He said that other reporters had contacted him about it in the past and that some "pointed out the email thread looked truncated and edited." .
Reached by email, Naffe said the emails were authentic: "Fund and Steve Friess, the son of billionaire Foster Friess, introduced the idea to O'keefe that SEIU would fraudulently register anyone with brown skin to vote."
"James flew me out to Boston to find the SEIU busses, just days after that email was sent," Naffe said. She claimed that "Congressman Steve King from Iowa was waiting at the hotel when we arrived to take us to dinner. He gave us a pep talk about illegal voting."
"O'keefe has the footage, though I'm doubtful he would share any of it. Since, he was arrested a week later in New Orleans while attempting to wire tap Senator Mary Landrieu," Naffe said.
O'Keefe didn't respond to a request for comment.
Update: Fund emailed to say that he thinks his original email was altered: "I maintain the email was edited to take out the fact I was referring to what someone told me might be happening and that I was asking a source (whom I have quoted in the past) if they had heard anything about it."
He also wished to clarify that he did not personally tip O'Keefe to the busing. That has been reflected above.
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
Contact Rosie Gray at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.