In defending his latest sting video, James O’Keefe likened his operatives to SEAL Team 6. But they’re more like Ocean’s 11 – scam artists – except they lack the skill or charm of movie heroes. (More)

“We have a sort of seal team 6”

So announced James O’Keefe yesterday as he released an anti-Clinton sting video that left reporters decidedly underwhelmed:

Conservative undercover journalist James O’Keefe has released the second in an ongoing series of videos inside Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The latest from Project Veritas Action accuses the Democratic front-runner’s director of marketing and FEC compliance director of breaking the law and allowing a Canadian tourist to launder money for campaign swag.

There are just two catches. One: No one’s ever thrown the book at an American for purchasing merchandise from a campaign, then giving it to a foreigner as a gift. Two: The person who takes the Canadian’s money and gives it to the Clinton campaign is the Project Veritas Action journalist. The Clinton campaign, which has leaked evidence of other PVA stings to journalists, is gleefully brushing this one off.

The not-even-close-to-a-scandal is that a Clinton staffer wouldn’t sell t-shirts to a Canadian citizen at a rally, because campaign finance laws don’t allow candidates to accept contributions from foreign donors. So O’Keefe’s operative bought the t-shirts for the Canadian woman, who then repaid O’Keefe’s operative.

The Clinton staffer followed campaign finance laws to the letter by refusing to sell campaign gear to non-citizens. If O’Keefe’s crew intended to act as the middlemen for a foreign donor, then O’Keefe’s crew committed a crime. But the Clinton campaign did not, and reporters quickly recognized the distinction:

Perhaps realizing his admission, O’Keefe refused to name the Project Veritas activists who made the sting video. But he insisted they were real journalists:

If I were a SEAL instead of a squirrel, I would find that insulting. Navy SEALs infiltrate enemy-held territory to gather intelligence, direct airstrikes, rescue captured U.S. personnel, or kill or capture enemy leaders like Osama bin Laden. If a mission goes wrong, SEALs risk being wounded, captured, or killed. For their courage, SEALs are rightly respected as heroes.

O’Keefe and his crews are not heroes. They risk only embarrassment or, if they commit crimes, arrest. More’s the point, they don’t undertake even that slight risk in the service a goal as noble as gathering battlefield intelligence, rescuing captured U.S. personnel, or killing or capturing enemy leaders.

Instead, O’Keefe and his crews try to scam political opponents. They try to trick targets into saying or doing something, anything, that O’Keefe can edit into right wing scandal bait. It’s worth noting that, although O’Keefe has been convicted of crimes related to his ‘investigations,’ not one of his targets has ever been charged with any crime ‘revealed’ in an O’Keefe sting video.

They’re not SEAL Team Six, or even “something like” that. Instead they’re like the crew of Ocean’s 11 – scam artists – but without the skill or charm of the movie heroes.

The Clinton campaign’s response in the Washington Post story linked above captures the difference nicely:

“This video shows a Project Veritas operative yet again unsuccessfully trying to entrap campaign staffers who very clearly rejected any foreign donation,” said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign. “Our staffers understand and follow the law, as demonstrated even in their selectively edited video. Project Veritas, on the other hand, has been caught trying to commit fraud, falsify identities and break campaign finance law – not surprising, given that their founder has already been convicted for efforts like this.”

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“A very large group of socks”

No, this isn’t a story about laundry, or a continuation of yesterday’s Tuesday’s Tale. Instead, it’s about PR flacks using sockpuppets at Wikipedia:

This post is to inform the English Wikipedia editing community that the Checkuser team has identified a very large group of socks creating promotional articles, inserting promotional external links, and otherwise editing disruptively on this project. The investigation is named “Orangemoody” because this was the first sock identified.

During the course of this investigation, evidence has been identified that this group is editing for profit (i.e., that they are paid editors). Only a few of the accounts have made any disclosure related to paid editing, and those which did failed to make complete disclosures. The investigation began in early July. Many functionaries have participated in the investigation and identification of accounts, as well as the review of articles created by the accounts. The Community Advocacy department of the WMF is also an active participant, focusing on issues best addressed by WMF staff.

It is important to note that the 381 accounts identified in this investigation are only those that were editing from the end of April to early August. This reflects the time-limited availability of checkuser data. Many of the identified accounts were editing before that time, and the nature and quality of the edits suggests that this paid editing scheme had been in place for some time before it was fortuitously identified. The WMF in particular will continue its liaison with article subjects, and will be reviewing data to determine further steps that are not directly available to the community.

Fusion’s Ethan Chiel has more:

According to a post by “Risker,” one of of the editors involved with the Orangemoody investigation, the perpetrators also carried out an extortion scheme. User(s) behind sockpuppet accounts would would work on previously created, but unapproved, draft articles. Then they would contact the subjects of the articles – for example a band called “The Receiver,” an English wedding photography service called “Married to my Camera,” and several Bitcoin casinos – and offer to get the article published for a fee that varied from article to article. After collecting the fee and publishing the article, Risker says, the fraudulent accounts would then contact the subject again and offer to “protect the article from vandalism and prevent its deletion,” charging prices of roughly $30 a month for what amounts to a protection and extortion racket.
[…]
This isn’t Wikipedia’s first struggle with undisclosed paid editing. The phenomenon is prevalent enough the The Atlantic wrote about it early last month, and a 2013 case involving the organization Wiki-PR led to 323 sockpuppet accounts being banned, and caused Wikimedia to change its Terms of Service “to clarify and strengthen its ban on the practice” of undisclosed paid editing.

I’m glad Wikipedia caught them. Good news like that makes macadamias even tastier.

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Photo Credit: Haraz Ghanbari (AP)

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Good day and good nuts