On Wednesday afternoon, James O'Keefe dropped his latest YouTube bomb and unlike his recent videos, it actually caused a stir. In it, an O'Keefe foot soldier named Nathan approaches Patrick Moran, son of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran and field director for his father's campaign, in a coffee shop with a hidden camera and asks him that he wants to commit voter fraud with a list of 100 inactive voters. Moran brushes off the would be criminal at first and says it would be "tough." But when pressed, Moran eventually explains that he'd need to forge utility bills of bank statements of the inactive voters and suggests that he call the people on the list to make sure they haven't already voted. In effect, he gave advice to someone wanting to commit voter fraud. O'Keefe released the video, and just minutes later, Moran resigned his position with his father's campaign.
At first glance, this is just James being James. Corner a political opponent into saying or doing something controversial, secretly film the whole thing, release a YouTube video, declare a conservative victory. Everybody knows that O'Keefe's batting average is pretty questionable, though. Sure, he scored big with the ACORN scandal and managed to push a couple NPR executives out of a job, but more often than not, the 28-year-old makes a fool out of himself.
This time around, though, he's winning some unexpected praise from some unexpected folks. One of them is Salon's political reporter Alex Seitz-Wald who got straight to the point with the headline on his blog post about the incident: James O'Keefe Does Something Right. Seitz-Wald explains O'Keefe's successful stunt, providing a very useful tally of his past failed stunts along the way, and he admits that O'Keefe didn't necessarily completely deceive the viewer like he usually does. "There are no misleading editing tricks (we watched the full raw video) and Nathan Moran’s comments were detailed, extensive, and clear," writes Seitz-Wald who ultimately offers "a small, grudging tip of the hat to James O’Keefe, who finally did something sort of right and exposed something fishy."
Some less direct praise for O'Keefe comes from Jon Healey at The Los Angeles Times. "I think O'Keefe is good at capturing people with broken moral compasses, not proving criminality," Healey wrote in his coverage of the incident. "Moran showed himself as someone willing to support a voter-fraud scheme, if not necessarily to cast fraudulent votes himself…" That is not to say that Healey didn't also have a healthy dose of criticism for how O'Keefe carried out the sting, but the end result remains the same. O'Keefe created a questionable situation for a prominent political figure to say something questionable. Said figure said something questionable. Said figure lost his job.
Perhaps the biggest piece of praise O'Keefe received from anyone, however, was a lack of negative press. The majority of the coverage about the Moran case is basically straightforward, focusing on Moran's offenses more than O'Keefe's process. Sure, it didn't attract the level of attention or controversy that the ACORN or NPR sting operations did. But O'Keefe did manage to make a point and have it heard. Furthermore, he didn't have to face any criminal charges in the process. Not yet, anyways.