People who attempt to publicly implicate their employers for perceived wrongdoing by partnering with James O’Keefe’s far-right nonprofit Project Veritas have been consistently going home with hundreds of thousands of dollars since at least November 2020. While fundraisers for Project Veritas’ purported “whistleblowers” in previous years appeared on the site GoFundMe, they now mostly pop up on the smaller Christian crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo, where they appear to be receiving unprecedented amounts of cash.
This trend is concerning as it appears that Project Veritas -- which bills itself as a journalistic enterprise -- may be all but promising significant amounts of money to people who give it enough supposedly insider information that the group can spotlight their claims in a video.
O’Keefe and Project Veritas attempt to create news narratives or inject themselves into existing ones by producing undercover videos meant to expose hypocrisy, bias, or corruption within the media, unions, political campaigns, the government, or other groups. They attract “insiders” — usually employees of organizations that Project Veritas targets, including Google, CNN, and even the toy company Hasbro — to become “whistleblowers” for Project Veritas, appearing in videos complaining about a perceived company bias or wrongdoing. There is rarely a solid foundation for their complaints, and these “insiders” often lose their jobs shortly after Project Veritas features them. Often they also take home hundreds of thousands of dollars raised on crowdfunding platforms.
GoFundMe vs. GiveSendGo
O’Keefe has a history of promoting crowdfunding pages for his public “insiders.” Up until late 2020, Project Veritas “whistleblowers” frequently used crowdfunding site GoFundMe, raking in as much as over $100,000. O’Keefe has promoted some of these fundraisers directly in his videos.
But GoFundMe pages associated with Project Veritas “insiders” came under scrutiny in September of 2020 after a video series accused Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) of being associated with an illegal ballot collection scheme. The “insider” interviewed for this series was Omar Jamal, a longtime media figure with a history of making unsubstantiated claims, including that Al Qaeda had an active presence in the Twin Cities. While GoFundMe said it investigated Jamal’s fundraiser, the page appears to still be up and active.
Project Veritas ceased promoting GoFundMe campaigns shortly after the 2020 election, when the site shut down a fundraiser for an “insider” who claimed that his supervisor at a post office in Pennsylvania was illegally backdating ballots. Now, Project Veritas promotes a new platform that its “whistleblowers” use to rake in up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
GiveSendGo is a Christian crowdfunding site launched in 2015, purportedly as a tool to raise money for missionary trips -- but it has since reportedly become a haven for far-right causes. Project Veritas-affiliated campaigns seem to be some of the largest on the site, with each “insider” campaign Media Matters identified making well over $100,000. Most other “trending” campaigns rarely receive even half that. Notable exceptions are largely for far-right extremist groups, including one fundraiser used to raise money to travel to Washington, D.C., for the January 6 Capitol riot and another created to raise money for the defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, the man who allegedly killed two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the aftermath of the police killing of Jacob Blake.
So far, GiveSendGo has hosted at least five major fundraisers for Project Veritas “insiders.” Each one was promoted in Project Veritas communications — either in its videos, or its emails to supporters, or both.
The first GiveSendGo after GoFundMe
After GoFundMe shut down the fundraiser for Project Veritas’ U.S. Postal Service “whistleblower,” a GiveSendGo page for him appeared around November 10. The insider, a postal worker named Richard Hopkins, told Project Veritas he overheard a conversation in which the postmaster told his supervisor to backdate mail-in ballots received after November 3. Hopkins then recanted this claim to USPS investigators.
Hopkins and O’Keefe have since tried to claim that the postal worker was coerced by investigators, even releasing what appears to be two hours of uncut audio of the interview with investigators. However, that two hours of tape reveal that Hopkins was quick to say it’s possible he made the wrong assumptions, telling investigators, “I didn’t specifically hear the whole story. I just heard a part of it, and I could’ve missed a lot of it.”
The GiveSendGo campaign is listed as started by Hopkins, and the header image is a photo of a James O’Keefe tweet that was quote-tweeted by then-President Donald Trump. The description of the fundraiser claims that it will “help me now that I have been put on unpaid leave from my job in Erie and have been ostracized by most of my coworkers.” Months later, the fundraiser has accumulated more than $236,000 from over 5,700 individual donations.
O’Keefe promoted the fundraiser in an email sent out to Project Veritas’ email list.
Hopkins was suspended without pay on November 10, 2020, and he has been traveling with Project Veritas to events as part of the group’s panel of “insiders” encouraging more people to “blow the whistle.”
Half a million dollars
The next large payout to a Project Veritas “insider” kicked off in late May after two people alleging to be Facebook data center employees came forward claiming that Facebook’s methods to curb vaccine hesitancy were a form of censorship. One of the two “insiders,” Morgan Kahmann, originally came forward anonymously in a video featuring himself and another anonymous “whistleblower.” A subsequent video revealed his identity, but not that of the other person, and it is unclear whether his anonymous counterpart received any money.
In the original video, O’Keefe and the “insiders” go over documents leaked by Kahmann that he says show Facebook is piloting a program to make comments promoting “vaccine hesitancy” less prominent. This appears to be the same program Facebook announced in a May 11 blog post:
Addressing content that could discourage people from getting vaccinated: An important part of our work to increase vaccinations is to address content that violates our rules on COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. Over the course of the pandemic, we have removed more than 16 million pieces of this content from our apps for breaking our rules on COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. For certain content that does not break these rules, but could still discourage someone from getting vaccinated, we reduce its distribution on Facebook and remove it from recommendations on Facebook and Instagram.
While O’Keefe acknowledges that this blog post exists, he dismisses it as too vague to really count as Facebook disclosing the pilot program. However, portions of the video veer away from criticism of Facebook for perceived censorship and into general rejection of vaccines. At one point in the video, the anonymous “whistleblower” questions why Facebook would “push a narrative that it’s not OK for people to go ahead and exist, to express themselves as God’s creation, without taking a vaccine?” The whistleblower does not acknowledge that these vaccines are vital to easing the effects of a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. O’Keefe does not mention COVID-19 in response to his “insider.”
On May 28, Project Veritas released a video showing O’Keefe interrupting a Zoom meeting in which Kahmann is fired. Before O’Keefe interrupts the meeting, one person on the Zoom tells Kahman that they are “terminating your employment with Milestone effective immediately.” (Milestone is the name of a company that contracts employees out to Facebook.) Despite the possibility that the people on the call are not from Facebook itself, O’Keefe still peppers them with questions about the company. Project Veritas displays the link to Kahmann’s GiveSendGo on the video.
Kahmann has received over $508,000 via over 12,700 individual donations via the GiveSendGo page, making his by far the largest of the “insider” fundraisers.
Two local reporters
After Kahmann, the next few GiveSendGo fundraisers for “whistleblowers” had already been set up by the time they sat down for an interview with O’Keefe.
On June 14, Ivory Hecker, a local reporter for Houston’s local Fox station, announced live on the air that she was working with Project Veritas and would turn over recordings of her co-workers at KRIV, saying Fox Corp. had been muzzling her. Less than a week later, April Moss, a meteorologist for CBS’ Detroit station, pulled a similar on-air stunt, announcing at the start of her weather forecast that she would be talking to Project Veritas about discrimination at her workplace.
Hecker claimed that Fox was censoring her journalism on hydroxychloroquine to suit a broader corporate narrative. She spotlighted Houston Dr. Joseph Varon’s use of the drug in her reporting despite Food and Drug Administration findings posted over a month before that it was useless against the coronavirus at best and could cause heart rhythm problems at worst. Hecker also posted a video on Facebook of Dr. Stella Immanuel touting hydroxychloroquine and complained that Immanuel was “censored” by social media. Along with promoting hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 cure, Immanuel has said gynecological problems are caused by demons.
In Moss’ Project Veritas videos, she said her company’s COVID-19 policy — that employees who do not get vaccinated or do not disclose their status must continue with weekly testing, masking, and social distancing — is a form of “segregating co-workers” and that she “should not be discriminated against.” She claimed this is a “human rights issue” and that everybody “has the right to breathe fresh air.” (It should be noted that, with some restrictions, employers are allowed to mandate COVID-19 testing.)
Both Moss and Hecker were fired shortly after their on-air stunts, and both have lucrative GiveSendGo fundraisers. Hecker’s page claims it was set up by her mother; it has raised over $194,000 from more than 5,300 individual donations. Moss’ fund appears to have been set up by Moss herself and has 3,400 individual donations totaling more than $126,000.
O’Keefe promoted both of these GiveSendGo pages on the Project Veritas YouTube channel, featuring links to the fundraisers prominently in the reporters’ sit-down interviews.
The fundraiser for the man who has not been fired
On July 18, Project Veritas released a video with David Johnson, who claimed to work as a packaging engineer for the toy company Hasbro. Johnson provided footage to O'Keefe of what appears to be a racial bias training led by The Conscious Kid, an education and policy organization that seeks to understand and reduce the development of racial biases in young children. O’Keefe and Johnson both claim this is an example of “critical race theory,” or CRT, infecting the toy company and helping indoctrinate children.
CRT is a way of looking at how laws based on older racist systems continue to perpetuate racism and uphold old power structures. The Conscious Kid’s training appeared to offer a discussion of research on when racial biases tend to develop in early childhood and the role children’s media and toys can play, which has little to do with how racism is embedded in the American legal system.
In the aftermath of the release of the original video featuring Johnson, it was revealed that he did not work for the toy company, but for a contractor that works with Hasbro. Johnson was pulled from working on Hasbro contracts while his actual employer, Harvey Nash, investigated. It appears Johnson has not lost his job at Harvey Nash, yet he has raised over $180,000 on GiveSendGo from more than 4,900 individual donations. O’Keefe promoted the fundraiser in multiple videos including the original video making accusations against Hasbro, indicating the fundraiser was up by the time Project Veritas published Johnson’s allegations.
Johnson and Project Veritas’ misinterpretation of CRT is also repeated in the GiveSendGo created for him. The fundraiser includes an inaccurate description of CRT as “the academic justification for why discrimination based on race is actually a good idea.”
“Insiders” on tour
Project Veritas will likely continue its strategy of releasing misinformation-filled “whistleblower” videos, while simultaneously boosting the fundraising campaigns of those same people, yielding hundreds of thousands of dollars for the recipients. Over the summer, O’Keefe, the “insiders” who received GiveSendGo money, and a few others, have appeared at least once on a “tour” of various conservative and libertarian events in an effort to “recruit … the next class of insiders,” according to former CNN “insider” Cary Poarch.