The lesson of James O'Keefe's latest legal problem might be: it can be far more expensive to consult a lawyer after the fact than before. Had O'Keefe checked California law, he might have avoided a $100,000 bill for videotaping at an ACORN office near San Diego.
On Thursday Wonkette revealed that O'Keefe had reached a legal agreement to pay that amount to Juan Carlos Vera, who in 2009 worked for the community organizing group ACORN. O'Keefe and his partner Hannah Giles taped an interview with Vera in his office which O'Keefe used in his ongoing campaign against the group. In fact, the video is still on the YouTube page of O'Keefe's group, Project Veritas.
That little segment — not even the most damning of the recordings O'Keefe and Giles filmed at ACORN offices — cost O'Keefe $100,000. You see, California is what's known a "two-party consent" state, which means that both participants in a conversation have to consent to it being recorded. Here's a guide to California's privacy laws meant for reporters. So, the hidden-camera tactics that O'Keefe specializes in are illegal in California. And while the settlement is specific in articulating that it "is in no way representative of any actual or implied admissions of liability," there's a reason O'Keefe will be handing over a six-figure check. Wonkette also notes that the settlement requires an 11-word apology for "any pain suffered" by Vera or his family.
Given his choice of outlets to break the details of this unfavorable agreement, it's safe to assume O'Keefe wouldn't have chosen Wonkette. Depending on your view of O'Keefe (and swearing) (and over-the-top schadenfreude), you will find the site's story either infuriating or hysterical. You have been warned.
O'Keefe's ACORN recordings ultimately doomed the organization; by March 2010, it announced that it was disbanding. O'Keefe fared better, becoming a hero to political conservatives after Andrew Breitbart picked up the story. As Wonkette notes, O'Keefe was reportedly paid $65,000 by Breitbart to write a blog post about the video series. Meaning that O'Keefe got all that fame and attention for the low price of $35,000.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.