Project Veritas Board Accuses James O’Keefe of Misusing Donor Funds, Denies Forcing Him Out

Project Veritas board members are accusing the conservative watchdog’s founder, James O’Keefe, of engaging in “financial malfeasance” by spending an excessive amount of donor money on “personal luxuries,” including booking a $14,000 flight to meet someone to fix his boat, according to a prepared statement.

The statement by the nonprofit’s board of directors was released Monday after O’Keefe recorded a video from his Project Veritas office announcing that he had been indefinitely suspended from his role as CEO and removed from the board. O’Keefe, a guerilla filmmaker, launched Project Veritas over a decade ago and used under cover reporters and hidden cameras to expose left-wing politicians and institutions.

In their statement, board members said they did not fire O’Keefe and did not ask him to resign. They said O’Keefe skipped a board meeting on Friday. O’Keefe had been invited to the meeting “to discuss the financial malfeasance that was discovered, which requires us to act in order to remain in compliance with the law,” according to the board’s statement.

A preliminary review of the group’s finances found that O’Keefe “has spent an excessive amount of donor funds in the last three years on personal luxuries,” the board said. Those luxuries included: spending $14,000 on a charter flight to meet someone to repair his boat, under the guise of meeting with a donor; spending $60,000 for “dance events such as Project Veritas Experience”; spending over $150,000 on “Black Cars” over the last year and a half; and spending thousands of dollars on a DJ and other equipment for his personal use.

O’Keefe addressed some of the spending in question in his video Monday, which he said was being recorded “for internal distribution,” but appears to have been planned for wider release. He said the cars and the charter flights were necessary. “I don’t know how I can do my job here if I can’t transport myself around the United States,” O’Keefe said, adding that board members suggested he utilize Zoom to lower travel expenses. “Zoom meetings over in-person meetings is not how you raise money, and not how you conduct your journalism,” he said.

O’Keefe said he was accused of using Project Veritas’s money to make a down payment on his wedding. “I got a chuckle out of this. I’m not married. I’ve never been married,” he said, suggesting that the expenses in question were really for a Project Veritas Christmas party.

O’Keefe’s announcement and the board’s statement come after weeks of internal discord at the nonprofit, and apparent conflicts between O’Keefe and other leaders of the conservative watchdog group. O’Keefe was suspended by his board earlier this month after he attempted to fire the group’s chief strategy and financial officers over alleged conflicts over fundraising. In its statement, the board said Project Veritas executives can only be fired with board approval.

In the video Monday, O’Keefe noted that his ouster came on the heels of the release of an undercover video that allegedly showed a Pfizer research director expressing concerns about Covid-19 vaccines and acknowledging that his company planned to mutate the coronavirus through “directed evolution.” O’Keefe called the Pfizer sting the “biggest story in our organization’s history,” but stopped short of stating directly that it was linked to his downfall.

“That is the only thing that has changed,” O’Keefe said of the release of the Pfizer sting. “And then, suddenly, an unusual emergency happened just a few days after that.”

In early February, after the release of the Pfizer sting videos, an 11-page letter signed by 16 Project Veritas employees – and including opinions and anecdotes allegedly from a third of the nonprofit’s staffers – was sent to the board taking aim at O’Keefe’s “management style and business acumen.” In the letter, O’Keefe was described as a “power drunk tyrant” and a “diva,” who abused, bullied, demeaned, and over-worked his employees, and who caused concerns among donors.

In their letter, board members said there were two subjects they “wished to come to terms with James on” – company morale and staff retention, and the nonprofit’s financial health, “which has been a serious concern for several months now.” While the board claims to have made several attempts over the past two weeks to have a conversation with O’Keefe, he denied that, and claimed instead that he was subject to a “listing of grievances” that lasted over six hours, and that he has been the subject of fabricated stories meant to ruin his reputation.

“The board wants to work things out with James, and has tried every route possible to remedy the issues at hand and begin to take the legally required corrective actions,” the board statement read. “Even with all of this public fallout, the Board still wants to speak with James. We did not fire him, nor do we want him to resign. We would like to continue conversations with James to resolve internal matters rather than litigate them publicly.”

Board members also said their top priority is their donors, who “donate their hard-earned money to use because they believe in the mission.” The nonprofit generated over $20 million in revenue in 2021, according to its tax filings.

“We could not allow for our donors to send us money and have it misappropriated in such a way,” the board statement said. “We love our supporters, and we would never sit idly by as money is being used for matters that are not mission related.”

O’Keefe has been the public face of Project Veritas since he founded it 13 years ago. Some have questioned whether the organization could survive without him. In his statement Monday, O’Keefe suggested that he may start a rival organization, and could potentially poach talent from Project Veritas.

Project Veritas has faced a laundry list of legal challenges in its history. Most recently, Project Veritas received scrutiny after it spent $40,000 to purchase President Joe Biden’s daughter’s diary and other items that had been stolen by two Florida residents before the 2020 election. Project Veritas never published the diary, and O’Keefe denied having any part in stealing it. The FBI searched Project Veritas’s office and some employees’ homes as part of its investigation.

When reached by National Review on Monday, O’Keefe declined to provide any additional comment about his ouster from Project Veritas. He said his comments to his former staff were heart-felt.

More from National Review