The conservative think tank to which James O’Keefe and at least one of his alleged co-plotters have ties enjoys a prominent voice in Louisiana politics — and has lately gone hard after ACORN.
O’Keefe — who gained national notoriety last fall for his ACORN sting — and three other men were arrested Monday after allegedly trying to tamper with phones in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu. O’Keefe, was scheduled to give a speech last week on investigative journalism to the Pelican Institute. Robert Flanagan, who was arrested with O’Keefe, works at Pelican, according to his lawyer, and has written blog posts on policy issues on Pelican’s website.
In August, Pelican released an investigative report (via Nexis) finding that ACORN, whose national headquarters are in New Orleans “has a habit of paying its federal payroll taxes months or even years late” and that ACORN and related groups “owe more than $1 million in state and federal taxes.” The report, which was written by veteran investigative journalist Steve Beatty and gained national attention, noted that ACORN is “referred to by critics as ‘radical’ and ‘mob-like’ in its tactics.”
Pelican, which was founded in 2008 by conservative activist Kevin Kane, also appears to have a prominent place in Louisiana political circles. In September, Kane appeared at a press conference with the state’s GOP senator, David Vitter, to tout a Pelican study on health-care, conducted by the research firm of renowned conservative economist Arthur Laffer. The study recommended converting the Medicaid program into vouchers for private insurance, among other ideas.
And in December, the group hosted a mayoral debate focused on corruption in city government. Landrieu’s brother, Mitch, a Democratic candidate for mayor, attended.
Pelican has not yet spoken publicly about the Landrieu incident, and Kane did not respond to our request for comment.
Pelican describes itself on its website as a “non-partisan, tax-exempt organization,” which “relies on voluntary support from individuals, private foundations and businesses.”
Late Update: Kane has told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Flanagan was paid on an hourly basis to assist with Pelican’s blog. And in a statement, Kane said that O’Keefe was invited to speak at the Pelican event last week because the group had done investigative reporting on ACORN and thought that his presentation “would be of great interest to the local community.”