On Sunday night, Project Veritas posted a choppy video of its latest sting operation, which uses a haze of jerky editing and anonymous sources to imply that people in Minneapolis’s East African communities have been collecting absentee ballots under false pretenses, telling people who to vote for, or even exchanging money for ballots on a massive scale.
The beneficiary of the corruption they claimed to expose was – who else, in their world? – DFL U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Proof of wrongdoing was in short supply. One clip shows someone explaining how to fill out a voter registration form in Somali. That's only scary if you don't think people who speak Somali should be allowed to vote.
And “ballot harvesting” is just a spookier way of saying “ballot collection” or “voter assistance.” All it means is someone turns in your ballot for you. Which, with a pandemic on, might not be such a bad idea if you happen to be older and more vulnerable to COVID-19.
In Minnesota, you’re allowed to turn in up to three ballots in addition to your own. That limit was temporarily struck down in late July, before the Minnesota primary election, and reinstated in early September.
This is all to say that there’s a lot of reason to regard Project Veritas and its helmsman, James O’Keefe, as pretty goddamn sus. (Since, say, 2009.) Not that that's stopped President Donald Trump from tweeting about the allegations, in so doing fanning the flames.
Few have explained the ins and outs of what these videos do and don’t show as well as Sahan Journal, a nonprofit publication dedicated to covering immigrants and refugees living in Minnesota. You can pop over there if you want to do a deep dive. O’Keefe, meanwhile, has taken a threatening tone toward various outlets covering his videos.
You doctored the headline. You ‘selectively edited” out the actual criminal transactions caught on camera. Why did you do that, @maggieastor ? Too damning ?— James O'Keefe (@JamesOKeefeIII) September 30, 2020
You’re not a journalist, you’re a activist lying by omission.
You are precisely what you project onto me.
Lawyer up. https://t.co/w3W9dFNOOM
Sahan Journal, for its part, stands by its reporting.
Website the Daily Dot has also provided some additional insight on another key cast member in the sting: Omar Jamal, a self-described “insider” and “whistleblower” who often presents himself as a spokesperson for and expert on Minnesota’s Somali community.
In the Project Veritas video, Jamal alleges Ilhan Omar’s office is orchestrating voter fraud and paying people to “harvest” votes. (Again, only illegal in Minnesota under certain circumstances.)
Jamal says he’s the chairman of the Somali Watchdog Group – an organization that didn’t have so much as a website until late August, despite Project Veritas’s video including footage from July. The Daily Dot was “unable” to identify any other members or affiliates.
The Daily Dot also had no luck finding proof of Jamal’s supposed credentials from Tufts University Graduate School of International Affairs or the U.N., contrary to what his LinkedIn said. (When reached for comment, he allegedly told the Daily Dot journalist that he was going to “report” them and “fuck [their] mother.”)
And, to put an even finer point on the issue, the Daily Dot reported this week that Jamal was under investigation for trying to profit off his new moment in the spotlight.
On Monday, Jamal set up a GoFundMe account with a $500,000 goal, asking donors to help him “further fund” his collaboration with Project Veritas and “fight any legal charges” he may be presented with in the meantime. Project Veritas even tweeted about it, asking supporters to contribute. As of Thursday afternoon, over 900 people had donated, and the page had raised over $30,700.
GoFundMe’s “Trust & Safety team” is currently investigating Jamal’s page, and says the funds “are being safely held by our payments processor” until it’s been determined how they’ll be spent and how they’ll be delivered.
The Daily Dot asked Project Vertias what kinds of legal needs Jamal may be anticipating, and a spokesperson “could not provide any.”
The publication deployed its communications director, Neil W. McCabe, who dodged that question and allegedly began to ask the reporter several others.
“Do you know my title …I’m not the communications director for his GoFundMe page, so if that’s what he said, I will take it at face value, I have no reason to believe that’s untrue, do you?”
Honestly, Neil? Yeah, we might.