While we may never find out just who plotted the break-in by James O'Keefe and his comrades of Senator Mary Landrieu's (D-LA) district office or why, we may be certain it was no accident or "misunderstanding." It was the culmination of a long-term investment strategy by conservatives to rewrite the rules of professional journalism. Organizations like The Leadership Institute, the Collegiate Network, and the National Journalism Center--an arm of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative youth organization--have been funneling millions of dollars into college newspapers and training programs designed to overturn what they believe to be a liberal bias on the part of the mainstream media. In doing so, they are also working to subvert the media's professional standards.
As TPM Muckracker notes, The Leadership Institute, where James O'Keefe was employed to train young activist/journalists--and where he met Ben Wetmore, who put up the alleged criminals in Louisiana--claims on its website to "prepare conservatives for success in politics, government, and the news media." So far, the organization boasts, it has trained more than 79,000 students since its inception in 1979. It claims assets of $11.8 million and a staff of 58.
And as Dave Wiegel reported in The Washington Independent, O'Keefe and his accomplices, Stan Dai and Joseph Basel, worked as undergraduates at newspapers funded and founded by funds from the Collegiate Network. The Collegiate Network's parent organization, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, enjoyed $8.3 million in contributions in 2009. Hannah Giles, O'Keefe's partner in the ACORN scam, enjoyed an internship at Young Americans for Freedom's National Journalism Center.
In one respect, this money has been almost entirely wasted. To keep reading, go to http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/02/ta020410.html
Follow Eric Alterman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Eric_Alterman