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James O’Keefe Says the PAC Registered Under His Name Is a Hoax

The conservative gonzo journalist’s non-profit organization appears to have sponsored a political action committee. If true, it would mean losing tax-exempt status.

03.31.17 5:52 PM ET

On Thursday a new Federal Election Commission filing appeared indicating that James O’Keefe, the self-proclaimed “guerrilla journalist” behind a series of ACORN videos and an infamous incident in which he entered the office of former senator Mary Landrieu under false pretenses, had established a political action committee for his organization, Project Veritas.

Now Project Veritas’ lawyer is telling the FEC that the registration was fake.

“We ask the Commission undertake an immediate investigation to determine the individual or individuals responsible for this false filing and that the Commission take action to enjoin any further violation of my clients’ rights,” Benjamin Barr wrote in the letter provided to The Daily Beast.

The filing names O’Keefe as treasurer and custodian of records. It claims that he signed the documents permitting the creation of the PAC. The email account associated with the filing returned an undeliverable message when messaged  by The Daily Beast.

O’Keefe adamantly denied that he had anything to do with it.

“This is definitely fraudulent,” O’Keefe told The Daily Beast via email. “Forming a PAC in someone else’s name is a felony.”

“This account is clearly a fraudulent activity, and a very amateurish one at that if the goal was to cause any harm to Project Veritas,” O’Keefe said. “Let’s see if the FEC refuses to investigate this matter just as they have refused to investigate the official complaint I recently delivered to them."

The filing also lists the Project Veritas site as its “official committee URL.” This is relevant, according to campaign finance experts because Veritas is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and should O’Keefe have really created this, it could lead to Veritas losing its tax-exempt status.

“They are prohibited by law from sponsoring a PAC,” Brett Kappel, an attorney who focuses on political law, including federal and state laws and regulations governing campaign finance, told The Daily Beast. “Project Veritas could lose its tax exempt status for engaging in political activity,” he said, if in fact someone from the organization did establish this PAC.

If it turns that Veritas was responsible for the PAC filing, someone would need to file a complaint bringing attention to the potential issue, according to Kappel.

“The Internal Revenue Code strictly prohibits 501(c)(3) charities from participating in political activity,” Kappel told The Daily Beast. “There is an IRS regulation specifically prohibiting them from sponsoring PACs.  The Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division of the IRS would revoke their tax exempt status – but only if someone files a complaint.”

The FEC said it cannot comment on complaints and specific filings until and unless “the requester can name both the respondent and the complainant.”

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“Any member of the public may file a complaint with the Commission should he or she feel that a violation of federal campaign finance law occurred,” FEC spokesperson Judith Ingram said. “Under 52 U.S.C. Section 30109(a), the Commission has the authority to pursue or refer action when a filing contains false information.”

If O’Keefe is correct and someone else filed this in his name, there could be serious consequences.

“If that is true, than whomever filed this PAC registration may have committed a criminal violation of 18 USC 1001(a)(2) by making a false statement and representation to a government agency,” Brendan Fischer, of the Campaign Legal Center, told The Daily Beast.