And The Moral Of The Story Is, Trust No One

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Sofia LaRocca and Beau Maier, GOP operatives posing as Democratic donors last fall.

The New York Times has an in-depth investigative report out today documenting what appears to be a failed attempt by Republican political operatives to effect a deep-cover infiltration of the Democratic political establishment in several states, including right here in Colorado:

The young couple posing in front of the faux Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas fit right in, two people in a sea of idealistic Democrats who had arrived in the city in February 2020 for a Democratic primary debate.

Large donations to the Democratic National Committee — $10,000 each — had bought Beau Maier and Sofia LaRocca tickets to the debate. During a cocktail reception beforehand, they worked the room of party officials, rainbow donkey pins affixed to their lapels.

In fact, much about them was a lie. Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca were part of an undercover operation by conservatives to infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns and the offices of Democratic as well as moderate Republican elected officials during the 2020 election cycle, according to interviews and documents.

Using large campaign donations and cover stories, the operatives aimed to gather dirt that could sabotage the reputations of people and organizations considered threats to a hard-right agenda advanced by President Donald J. Trump.

James O’Keefe wearing a Mark Udall sticker in 2014.

It’s a plot reminiscent of the Illegals Program run by the Russian foreign intelligence service over the course of decades, where spies inserted into the country built fake lives and pursued long-term infiltration whose full objectives either weren’t achieved or remain unclear after the ring was broken up in 2010. GOP operatives Sofia LaRocca and Beau Maier reportedly met at the Wyoming ranch of Erik Prince, former head of the mercenary organization Blackwater and brother of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who was hosting a “training” for James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas–a legendarily shady outfit we’ve had the pleasure of discussing in this space in several previous election cycles.

Although Project Veritas’ specialty is sending low-level volunteers to infiltrate Democratic and progressive groups in their endless and frequently legally dubious quest for out-of-context gotchas and any other material that could be used to embarrass Democrats, sending “donor class” infiltrators writing $10,000 checks is a novel and potentially concerning strategy for infiltration of political operations at a much higher level. In the case of Beau Maier, it’s apparently not hard to discover that he is in fact right-wing commentator Glenn Beck’s nephew–but Maier was reportedly ready with a cover story about how he and Uncle Glenn don’t agree politically. There are plenty of legal questions raised, including whether their large donation was illegally reimbursed.

With all of this in mind, it does appear that the damage done by this couple despite the large investment in their strategy was minimal. Although the two operatives did attend a presidential debate last year thanks to a Colorado-based Democratic fundraiser who now knows he was duped, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have denied them many of the networking opportunities that would have been the logical reward for their investment. A $1,250 donation to Secretary of State Jena Griswold got them into a Washington, D.C. fundraiser where Griswold was present, but there’s no indication anything useful came of it. Likewise the couple made donations to Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly and the Wyoming Democratic Party–all of which are suspicious now for illegal reimbursement either directly or indirectly. It does appear that the payoff for their long-term infiltration of Western Democratic politics was still over the horizon, and their exposure in this story has prematurely ruined the plan.

It’s creepy stuff, and there’s no analogue for it on the left that we know of. In politics, writing checks opens doors, and until–unless–that changes this is just another risk Democratic candidates and organizing groups will have to consider.

And thank your lucky stars, we guess, that Erik Prince isn’t sending actual mercenaries.

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