James O'Keefe's group granted nonprofit status

IRS application reveals that "citizen journalist" organization hopes to raise $1.65M in three years

Published May 27, 2011 10:10PM (EDT)

James O'Keefe.
James O'Keefe.

James O'Keefe, whose conservative coterie's "rogue journalism" escapades have grown infamous in recent years -- his most recent prank resulted in the resignation of NPR's former CEO, Vivian Schiller -- has just scored a major victory: The IRS has classified his organization, Project Veritas, as a nonprofit (prompting the Huffington Post's Jason Linkins to quip: "Hey! Now they're more like NPR than ever!").

Although Project Veritas' application for nonprofit recognition was approved in early April, the Chronicle of Philanthropy first reported the news earlier this week, after gaining access to relevant papers through the Freedom of Information Act. O'Keefe told the Chronicle:

“We’re pleased that Project Veritas’s nonprofit status has been approved. Our nonpartisan mission of exposing corruption while training new, investigative journalists can now be fully supported by donors who require a tax-exemption for their generous contributions.”

He also spoke to the New York Times, explaining how the new status would aid in the expansion of his organization:

He said the money saved with the status would help Project Veritas train and equip “an army” of citizen journalists to carry out its mission: “to investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.”

Some interesting takeaways from Project Veritas' full application, which the Chronicle has now posted online:

  • While O'Keefe has apparently not taken a salary from the organization in the past, his estimated future compensation is $120,000 per year.
  • The organization claims it will not "support or oppose candidates in political campaigns in any way," nor will it "attempt to influence legislation" through lobbying.
  • Project Veritas says it took only $2,367 in income last year -- and lists $2,200 in expenses. The team provides an optimistic three-year fundraising target of $1.65 million.
  • By next year, the organization hopes to be paying its "lead full-time investigator" an annual salary of $200,000.


By Emma Mustich

Emma Mustich is a Salon contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @emustich.

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James O'keefe