Overnight success can be heady and difficult to deal with – as any number of entertainers and athletes have discovered. James O’Keefe may — and I stress “may” — have discovered the same thing. O’Keefe was an instant sensation in conservative circles after he conducted a sting on ACORN offices; he made a video showing ACORN staffers giving him advice on how to conduct a prostitution ring.
Now, O’Keefe and three other young men have been arrested and charged with attempting to bug the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat. As a Southern Democrat — a member of an endangered species – Landrieu has been targeted by Republicans, though she was re-elected in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote. Perhaps O’Keefe wanted to bring down an even bigger target by embarrassing Landrieu or leaking her political strategy. (Suffice it to say that all four are presumed innocent at this point.)
James O’Keefe was among four men who created a ruse to enter the lawmaker’s downtown office, saying they needed to repair her telephones, according to court records unsealed Tuesday. O’Keefe used his cellphone to take pictures of two men, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan, who are accused in an FBI agent’s sworn affidavit of impersonating telephone company workers. Stanley Dai is accused of aiding the Jan. 25 plot.
All four were taken to a suburban New Orleans jail and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony. If convicted, each man faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Flanagan, 24, is the son of William J. Flanagan, the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, based in Shreveport. William Flanagan declined to comment through an office assistant.
Flanagan may have had a personal motive. Landrieu has proposed a replacement for his father, and President Obama has nominated her. That’s typical when the White House changes parties. A president nominates U.S. attorneys from his own party.
Landrieu said, “I am as interested as everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward.” Indeed.