Conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe is free on a $10,000 bond today after one of his undercover "sting" operations backfired, and stung him and three of his colleagues. It's a case some Democrats are calling the "Louisiana Watergate."
O'Keefe is the conservative activist who posed as a pimp last year and taped a hidden-camera video of himself and his "prostitute" seeking advice from the liberal group ACORN. Now, O'Keefe's undercover work has left him in the sights of the FBI. He and three associates face federal criminal charges in an alleged plot to tamper with the phones in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
An FBI affidavit filed in the case describes a Keystone Cops-type of ruse used by O'Keefe and his three associates to try to gain access to the Senator's phone system, and videotape their undercover actions.
The FBI affidavit alleges that Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan entered Sen. Landrieu's office and represented themselves as phone company employees, "each dressed in blue denim pants, a blue work shirt, a light fluorescent green vest, a tool belt, and carry white, construction-style hard hats." When asked for their credentials, both told Sen. Landrieu's staff they had left them in their vehicle.
O'Keefe, meanwhile, stood in the office with his cell phone pointed at the two men, and later admitted to recording them, according to the FBI. Another man, Stan Dai, is accused of aiding and abetting the plan.
Sen. Landrieu said Tuesday, "I am as interested any everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward."
One possible connection, sources say, is that one of the men charged in the case, Robert Flanagan, is the son of William Flanagan, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, a man Sen. Landrieu has been seeking to replace. William Flanagan declined to comment on the case.
James O'Keefe and his co-defendants are scheduled for a preliminary hearing February 13. If convicted, each could face a fine, and up to 10 years in prison.