A conservative U.S. group that specializes in getting Democratic activists to say compromising things on undercover video has forced two party operatives to step away from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign after its latest sting.
Project Veritas Action, a group run by conservative political activist James O'Keefe, released video this week of Scott Foval, a Wisconsin-based Democratic operative, appearing to brag about planting people at Donald Trump's campaign rallies to incite violence. Mr. Foval suggested at one point that he pays people with mental health issues to disrupt Mr. Trump's events.
"It doesn't matter what the friggin' legal and ethics people say; we need to win this," Mr. Foval said in the video.
The Democratic Party swiftly distanced itself from Mr. Foval – whom it described as a "temporary regional subcontractor" – and said the tactics he discussed in the video were never carried out.
Still, the pinhole camera recordings obliged both Mr. Forval and another Democratic activist, Robert Creamer, to step back from the campaign. Mr. Creamer, who runs a political consulting firm, was hired by the Democrats to organize protests at Mr. Trump's rallies; he employed Mr. Foval as a subcontractor.
Mr. Creamer said he would no longer work with Mr. Foval and that his firm would stop working on the Democratic campaign.
"We regret the unprofessional and careless hypothetical conversations that were captured on hidden cameras of a temporary regional contractor for our firm, and he is no longer working with us," Mr. Creamer told The New York Times.
Added the Democratic National Committee in a statement: "The practices described in the video by this temporary regional subcontractor do not in any way comport with our long-standing policies on organizing events, and those statements and sentiments do not represent the values that the committee holds dear."
The videos are certain to further stoke conspiracy theories among Mr. Trump's supporters; the candidate himself has claimed the Nov. 8 election will be rigged against him, in an apparent attempt to prepare for his likely defeat by Ms. Clinton.
Mr. O'Keefe first came to prominence in 2009, when he posed as a pimp and secretly recorded employees of social services organization Acorn appearing to advise him on how to make a criminal enterprise appear legal. The recordings were later revealed to have been selectively edited, but the fallout caused Acorn to lose much of its funding and declare bankruptcy the following year. Other Project Veritas videos include one from Ms. Clinton's campaign launch last year. In it, a researcher from Project Veritas helped a woman from Montreal purchase a pin and a hat from a merchandise tent.
At first, Ms. Clinton's compliance manager Erin Tibe told the Canadian she could not purchase the items because it is illegal for foreigners to donate to U.S. political campaigns: "We can't take contributions from anyone that is not a citizen of the United States," she said.
Then, the Project Veritas operative agreed to buy the merchandise on her behalf, and Ms. Clinton's campaign workers sold it to her. "So Canadians can't buy them, but Americans can buy it for them?" the operative asked.
"Not technically, you would just be making the donation," Molly Barker, Ms. Clinton's director of marketing, replied in the video.
Mr. O'Keefe claimed the transaction showed the Clinton campaign breaking the law by allowing a foreign national to funnel money – in this case $75 – to the campaign through an American. But Ms. Clinton's campaign said it had done nothing illegal, and that there are no rules to prevent an American purchasing campaign swag on behalf of a foreigner.
With reports from Associated Press and The New York Times News Service