Project Veritas loses jury verdict to Democratic consulting firm

Political activist James O’Keefe, currently CEO of Project Veritas, speaks during the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor near Washington, United States, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo/File Photo

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September 23 (Reuters) – A federal jury has found Project Veritas, a conservative group often accused of using deceptive tactics, responsible for violating wiretapping laws and misrepresenting itself in an effort to undercover to target Democratic political consultants.

Jurors in Washington awarded $120,000 on Thursday to a member of Democracy Partners, co-founded by self-proclaimed progressive strategist Robert Creamer.

Democracy Partners claimed he was undercover by a Project Veritas agent who lied about his name and background to secure an internship during the 2016 presidential campaign, and secretly taped conversations while he worked there.

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The company and Creamer said Project Veritas used “heavily edited” footage in videos that falsely suggested they had conspired to incite violence at then-Republican candidate Donald Trump’s rallies and had conspired to promote electoral fraud.

According to the complaint, the espionage cost the plaintiffs, who supported Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, more than $500,000 in contracts.

Project Veritas said it had done nothing wrong and would appeal.

The Mamaroneck, New York-based group has long called its work journalism and said the verdict threatens the use of hidden cameras by investigative reporters.

“Project Veritas will continue to fight for the right of every journalist to gather information, investigate and report wrongdoing – no matter how powerful the party being investigated,” Chief Executive James O’Keefe said in a statement. communicated.

Democracy Partners said in a statement it hoped the verdict would “help deter Mr. O’Keefe and others from carrying out these types of political espionage operations – and from posting misleading and selectively edited videos “.

Media outlets including The New York Times, which Project Veritas is suing for defamation, and Politico earlier reported the verdict.

The $120,000 prize was on a fraudulent misrepresentation claim.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman, who oversaw the trial, will assess damages based on the jurors’ separate finding that the agent, Allison Maass, intended to breach a fiduciary duty, according to the form of verdict.

Friedman has yet to rule on the defendants’ arguments that they should prevail at law.

“This case involves fundamental First Amendment issues. People to my left prefer to ignore that fact,” defendants’ attorney Paul Calli said in a statement. “We’ll see what the finish line brings.”

The case is Democracy Partners LLC et al v Project Veritas Action Fund et al, US District Court, District of Columbia, No. 17-01047.

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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; edited by Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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