Conservative undercover journalist James O'Keefe (R) holds a news conference at the National Press Club September 1, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Conservative provocateur flops with anti-Clinton stunt

The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/31/15, 9:56 PM ET

Conservative group botches Hillary Clinton sting video

Rachel Maddow reports on a conservative activist group’s attempt to catch Hillary Clinton campaign staffers on video committing illegal or unethical acts. Members of the group first accidentally exposed the scam by revealing to the campaign that their ope
The political world learned on Monday that conservative provocateur James O’Keefe and his operation claimed to have damaging new information about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. They scheduled a Tuesday morning press conference to unveil the findings, and everyone was assured, this was going to be a big deal.
So, what exactly did we learn yesterday from O’Keefe and his Project Veritas? MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald reported on the new, not-so-devastating expose.
[O’Keefe] claimed his hidden video cameras had caught two senior Clinton campaign officials accepting illegal contributions from a foreign citizen at the candidate’s June kickoff rally in New York City.
The size of the donation – $40 for a t-shirt – did not impress the assembled press corps. “Is this a joke?” a reporter with the Daily Beast asked.
As best as I can tell, O’Keefe wasn’t kidding. He organized an event at the National Press Club with under-cover proof of a Canadian buying a t-shirt.
As for why you should care about a Canadian buying a t-shirt, the story gets a little weird.
According to the video, campaign staffers working at a merchandise booth actually turned away the Canadian customer, since under our campaign-finance system, only Americans can offer financial support to American campaigns.
But a Project Veritas employee intervened to facilitate the transaction – the Canadian woman apparently gave the under-cover conservative activist $40 for the shirt, and the activist then bought both the shirt and $35 worth of merchandise for herself.
As of yesterday, Project Veritas now wants three things: (1) lots of attention; (2) its $35 back; and (3) people to consider this story an outrageous abuse of the campaign-finance system. The group seems likely to fall short on all three fronts.
A Project Veritas attorney acknowledged that the Project Veritas staffer who made the purchase probably broke the law herself, but he said that shouldn’t count.
Most news outlets that covered the event found it hard to take the revelations seriously – imagine that – and at this point, none of the Republican presidential campaigns, each of which love to slam Hillary Clinton at every available opportunity, have shown any interest in the story.