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Subpoena scares off O'Keefe

Activist appears at GOP event by video

James O'Keefe III - the man behind surreptitiously recorded videos showing young men being offered the ballots of dead people for the 2012 presidential primary - said yesterday that he cannot enter the state of New Hampshire for fear he'll be subpoenaed by state attorney general.

O'Keefe, who is 27 and lives with his parents in New Jersey, was scheduled to speak in person at a Rye Republican fundraiser at the Abenaqui Country Club yesterday. But instead, his image was projected on a screen via an internet video connection.

"I've been advised that if I appear physically in New Hampshire, I will be hit with a grand jury subpoena," O'Keefe told several hundred Republicans.

"Yesterday, a representative of the state of New Hampshire attempted to serve me with a criminal grand jury subpoena. My lawyer, Mike Madigan, has requested a copy of it . . . thus far the attorney general of New Hampshire has declined to provide us a copy of that."

Shortly after the Jan. 10 primary, the state attorney general's office said it would investigate what happened in O'Keefe's videos. Representatives from that office were not available for comment last night, but they have declined to comment on the ongoing investigation in the past.

O'Keefe also said he would file a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Department of Justice for access to all communications between Gov. John Lynch, the New Hampshire Attorney General's office and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

"This is what public officials do to journalists these days," O'Keefe said.

A spokesman for Lynch referred a request for comment to the state attorney general's office. After the videos were released in January, Lynch called them "outrageous" and called for a full investigation.

But New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien and other Republicans have cited O'Keefe's videos in their arguments for laws requiring voters to present a photo identification to receive a ballot. Such legislation is making it way through the legislature, and was repeatedly applauded yesterday.

O'Keefe's appearance was the culmination of a two-hour event that featured speeches by U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta and gubernatorial candidates Kevin Smith and Ovide Lamontagne.

After the event, Mike Rogers, a conservative blogger with the website GraniteGrok.com, said a representative from the New Hampshire attorney general's office knocked on his door around 9 a.m. Saturday. Rogers would identify the man only by first name, Mark.

Rogers said Mark was polite and was accompanied by officers from the Hollis Police Department.

"They were looking for James," Rogers, 60, said. He said he only got a passing glance at the document.

After Mark and the officers left, Rogers said he called O'Keefe, who consulted an attorney and then decided not to make the trek.

"Thanks to them showing up, he had time to reconsider his trip," Rogers said.

Through Skype, it was easy to see O'Keefe smile widely when Republicans cheered through his roughly 30-minute presentation, which featured clips of his videos and officials reacting to them.

Popular for his videos featuring workers with ACORN, Planned Parenthood, National Public Radio and other organizations, O'Keefe told the crowd he needed financial support and asked them to donate to his 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit, Project Veritas.

"You can make a donation at Projectveritas.com for our legal expenses," O'Keefe said after a member of the audience asked how to send money.

Skip Murphy, who works with Rogers and about a half dozen others at GraniteGrok, said he admires O'Keefe's combination of "chutzpa" and sincere intentions.

"There's some principles there," said Murphy, of Gilford. He and Rogers said they are among the many who financially support O'Keefe's non-profit.

Jack Kimball, the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican party, offered O'Keefe his gratitude.

"I personally want to thank you on behalf of this country and this state for your courage, and I hope that more people, more people even in this room, will take (voter fraud) seriously," Kimball said.

"You are a warrior in this fight," said Kimball, who called President Obama a "scourge."

Event organizer Diane Bitter of Rye declined to say whether the group would pay for O'Keefe's appearance.

"I was sorry James couldn't be here," she said. "We'll see him again."

Not everyone yesterday was happy to see O'Keefe whose tactics include lying to gain access to and secretly recording his subjects.

At the entrance of the club, about two dozen Democrats protested Republicans and their decision to invite O'Keefe.

"Republican leadership is making excuses for him," said Tim Horrigan, 55, a state representative from Durham.

O'Keefe has needed permission to leave the state of New Jersey because he plead guilty in 2010 to a Class B misdemeanor of entering a federal building under false pretenses. The plea came after he and several others - some dressed as telephone repairmen - went into the office of Democratic U.S Senator Mary Landrieu to test her claim that her phones had been jammed. He was sentenced to community service and probation.

O'Keefe has said in the past that the requirement that he receive permission to travel out of state has interfered with his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

But he reassured the crowd that he would not let the bureaucrats and public officials interfere with his organization's work. More videos of voter fraud investigations around the country will be released soon, O'Keefe said.

"The guys that I work with have a tremendous amount of courage, and I think that that's going to outweigh any threats coming from any of these people," O'Keefe said.

Story updated on 5/7 to correct Rep. Tim Horrigan's quote.

 

(Molly A.K. Connors can be reached at 369-3319 or mconnors@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @MAKConnors.)