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James OKeefe Rightly Denied Entry to RNC Convention

In the land of the free and the home of the brave, why has activist James O’Keefe been denied an opportunity to attend and film the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week?

James O’Keefe is a conservative American activist who has produced audio and video recordings of staged encounters with public figures and workers in a variety of organizations, purportedly showing abusive or illegal behavior by representatives of those organizations. He gained national attention for his release of video recordings of workers at ACORN offices in 2009. After the videos were released through the fall of 2009, the U.S. Congress voted to freeze federal funding to ACORN. The Census Bureau and the IRS terminated their contract relationships with ACORN. O’Keefe’s work has garnered praise and criticism, but he has undoubtedly become a darling of the right. 

The late Andrew Breitbart said that O'Keefe is the right wing's answer to a long line of left-leaning "hybrid troublemakers who get put on the cover of Rolling Stone, like Paul Krassner and Abbie Hoffman." O’Keefe’s Project Veritas has been active in trying to identify and uncover instances of in person voter fraud. His efforts in New Hampshire led to the passing of new voter ID legislation in the states' House of Representatives.

According to host organization James Madison Institute, O’Keefe was scheduled to be their guest of honor and host a luncheon in Tampa on Tuesday. According to the organization, government restrictions prevented O’Keefe from attending the event. The organization said that the federal government revoked permission for O’Keefe to travel to Tampa.

O’Keefe is currently on probation for entering the offices of a United States Senator. According to an FBI document, in January 2010 O’Keefe attempted to make recordings at the office of United States Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). O’Keefe, who was dressed as a telephone repairman was apprehended and charged with malicious intent to damage the phone system, a felony charge and a federal offense. O’Keefe pled guilty to a reduced misdemeanor count of entering a federal building under false pretenses and was sentenced to three years' probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine.

Was this a gross over usage of government authority, a miscarriage of justice, and a violation of O’Keefe’s rights? It is more likely that travel restrictions were made part of O’Keefe’s plea bargain with the government in 2010 and this was a staged media event designed to draw attention to O’Keefe’s cause and event? This is not the first time O’Keefe changed his travel plans. According to the Huffington Post earlier this year, he Skyped into a New Hampshire event to avoid triggering a criminal grand jury subpoena.

On Tuesday, O’Keefe held his event and spoke to attendees remotely. He wrote to POLITICO. “We talked about the series of highly successful and publicized voter integrity investigations which have helped to shape the debate surrounding this vital issue, and which have prompted responses from governors, attorneys general, and state legislatures since January of this year."

James O'Keefe is not an aggrieved citizen. He is not a victim of government overreach. He is a criminal who has pled guilty to a misdemeanor. Stay home, Mr. O’Keefe, democracy is at work in Tampa, and you are not welcome there.

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