Is DeVos Money Funding James O'Keefe's Hit Jobs on Teachers' Unions?
Updated: May 6, 2019
According to The Intercept, Blackwater mercenary Erik Prince arranged for Project Veritas operatives to be trained in espionage tactics on at least two occasions, once during the 2016 election and once in February of 2017 at his family's ranch in Wyoming. The publication's sources allege that Prince teamed up with James O'Keefe and Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser and Breitbart chairman, to offer espionage services to Qatar. The author believes that business partnership may be at play domestically as well.
Prince confirmed his support for Project Veritas and giving the organization the use of his ranch in a statement through his spokesperson, but denied having business dealings with it, O'Keefe, or Bannon.
What makes this story even more interesting is that Prince is also the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the billionaire philanthropist from Michigan who is a champion of charter schools and scourge of teachers' unions. She has ties to the rightwing donor advisory group Donors Trust, which has been a major source of funding for Project Veritas.
Veritas has a long history of targeting teachers' unions going back to 2010. Typically operatives would go undercover at teachers' union conferences and record conversations in public areas surreptitiously. They have escalated their tactics in recent years to include going undercover into union offices and onto school grounds with fake accounts of teacher abuse of students, and in at least one case, embedding an operative into a union office as an intern.
James O'Keefe's most brazen hit job against teachers' unions is the latter example. In September of 2017, Project Veritas operative Marisa Jorge, going by "Marissa Rose Perez," was caught infiltrating the Detroit, Michigan affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers after having interned there since May of that year. Just six weeks prior to that, in March of 2017, O'Keefe voiced support on Twitter for Betsy DeVos' education reform agenda and named teachers' unions as obstacles to it. (And remember that approximately a month before that tweet, he received spy training at Prince's Wyoming ranch.)
The Project Veritas founder has shown an appetite for targeting his donors' political foes, in particular those of Donald Trump, whose foundation donated $20k to Veritas in 2015. As aforementioned, Betsy DeVos has ties to Donors Trust, but it's not known if any DeVos money explicitly funded Project Veritas' operations because of the opaque nature of the fund. However, if Erik Prince paid for what were surely expensive spy trainings for O'Keefe's operatives, those would be in-kind donations.
O'Keefe's relationship with Prince and the timing of Veritas' most brazen infiltration of teachers' unions right after completing spy training raises the question: is money from the family of the Education Secretary funding James O'Keefe's hit jobs on teachers' unions?