Inside the Project Veritas Plan to Steal the Election

Last year, Project Veritas’s
donor development team solicited big-ticket funders with a pitch deck—frequently tailored to
a given patron’s pet ideological
grievances and personal hang-ups—offering tantalizing details about the
group’s undercover operations for the 2020
campaign cycle. One iteration of this Apple Keynote file was prepared for an
ask meeting with a person who appears to be Cognex Corporation founder Robert Shillman, a devoted funder of Islamophobic causes who was also
one of O’Keefe’s
would-be wedding guests. (Shillman ended up pledging to donate $50,000 to the
group.) The slate of investigations in the “Dr.
Bob” pitch included
schemes to procure evidence of “illegal aliens
voting,” mail-in
ballot tampering at “nursing
homes,” and
“the sale of absentee
ballots and voter profiles on the ‘Dark Web.’”

By the end of summer 2019, Diamond Dog had already grown to be a
cross-country effort, based on internal Project Veritas memos, research notes,
and other documents that we have obtained. In
California and Texas, Project Veritas has tasked its operatives with
unearthing supposed evidence of widespread mail-in ballot forgery. In both
states, Project Veritas has worked to infiltrate the groups of volunteers and
paid canvassers who collect absentee and mail-in
voter applications from low-income, elderly, and minority groups—a perfectly legal
practice in most states that conservatives have tried to label as nefarious “ballot harvesting.”

In Texas, Project Veritas has also
coordinated in secret with a local Republican operative named Aaron
Harris, codenamed “Dragon,” currently chief of staff
to Republican congressman Lance Gooden. In turn, through the activist group he
, Direct Action Texas, Harris has helped Project Veritas covertly
strategize with a staffer working for the office of the state’s Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton
is leading the state’s “election integrity initiative,” one
of many Republican efforts nationwide to suppress the vote under the guise of
rooting out the nearly non-existent threat of voter fraud.

Granted, Project Veritas, whose fervor to own the libs is matched
only by its comical incompetence, is hardly likely to tip the election in
Donald Trump’s favor all by
itself. But it is at the vanguard of a larger, underhanded approach that
Republicans, starting at the very top, are taking to the 2020 cycle. If they
want to win, they really have no other choice but to undermine the vote: Trump’s poll numbers are in the basement, and he
appears constitutionally incapable of making appeals beyond his hardcore
supporters on the right.

Republicans have all but admitted that this is their strategy. In
coordination with the Republican National Committee and a raft of independent
conservative groups, Trump has staked the success of his entire reelection
campaign to a widespread voter suppression effort built on the pretext of
preserving election integrity. The project, led by his campaign’s senior counsel Justin Clark, has worked to
place operatives in at least ten battleground states to challenge voter rolls
and procedures. Between lawsuits and local advertising blitzes—all
regularly relayed to Trump in the Oval Office—the effort could cost “well
over $20 million,” as the RNC told
the Washington Post. 

Project Veritas has been among the on-the-ground organizations at
the forefront of these efforts, and has benefited substantially as a result.
According to internal Project Veritas documents, the group’s fundraising total for 2019 leapt up to more
than $13.44 million, $4.58 million more than their 2018 returns and the group’s largest reported annual revenue figure to
date. The group may be comically incompetent, but in these cursed times we all
know how dangerous comical incompetence can be, once enough money and clout
line up behind it.

For an operation premised on conspiracy theories and fueled by
raging paranoia, it will come as no surprise that the agents helping to
spearhead Project Veritas’s election mischief are oddballs on the fringes of
American political life. In one slide prepared for
Dr. Bob, a 69-year-old Florida resident and registered Republican named Joseph
Vancheri notifies O’Keefe of his soon-to-be
status as a poll worker in Broward County, likely for undercover Election Day
snooping on Project Veritas’s
behalf. Vancheri,
an ex-cop and die-hard Trump supporter, has routinely taken to Facebook to lash out against “all the Trump haters” and “SHEEP,” including
SHIFTY SCHIFF” and “the Idiot Warren” using Trump’s
preferred epithet “
Pocohontas [sic].” A
first-generation immigrant
himself, Vancheri has nevertheless long harbored
hardline views on
immigration that echo
his anxieties over the
potential for illicit enfranchisement of foreigners.

In another
slide, Project Veritas boasts of receiving a tip from a former
broadcast meteorologist
named Arch
Kennedy who found it suspicious that 300 people were all registered to vote at
the address for Emory University’s
Emory Muslim Student Association in Atlanta. (In all likelihood these voters,
who constitute 2 percent of Emory’s
total student population and .0028 percent of Georgia’s population, have their mail forwarded there.) In 2017,
Arch organized one of the anti-Muslim group ACT! For America’s
28 nationwide “March Against Sharia” rallies. Held in Atlanta’s
Piedmont Park, it was a sparsely attended affair, but still managed to include
Republican Georgia state Senator Michael Williams, then mounting a doomed
primary campaign for governor. 

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