- The Washington Times - Friday, January 29, 2010

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A conservative activist accused of trying to tamper with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s phones said he and three others facing federal charges in the incident wanted to investigate complaints that constituents calling her office couldn’t get through.

“On reflection, I could have used a different approach to this investigation, particularly given the sensitivities that people understandably have about security in a federal building,” James O’Keefe wrote Friday on the Web site biggovernment.com.

O'Keefe, known nationally for hidden-camera videos targeting the community-organizing group ACORN, said he believes it’s clear he and others weren’t trying to wiretap or shut down Landrieu’s phones in her office in a New Orleans federal building.

He said the four, including two who posed as telephone repairmen, wanted to investigate criticisms that Landrieu’s constituents could not reach her office by phone.

“I learned from a number of sources that many of Senator Landrieu’s constituents were having trouble getting through to her office to tell her that they didn’t want her taking millions of federal dollars in exchange for her vote on the health care bill,” O'Keefe said in the statement.

“I decided to investigate why a representative of the people would be out of touch with her constituents for ‘weeks’ because her phones were broken. In investigating this matter, we decided to visit Senator Landrieu’s district office — the people’s office — to ask the staff if their phones were working.”

Landrieu responded in December to complaints about phone problems in her office, saying a flood of calls jammed lines. Her spokesman has denied anyone on staff intentionally ignored or mishandled calls.

O'Keefe and the others face a charge of entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony, which carries up to 10 years in prison. They are free on $10,000 bail.

Charged along with O'Keefe are Robert Flanagan of New Orleans, Joseph Basel of Minnesota and Stan Dai of the Washington, D.C., area, all 24. The four are due back in court Feb. 12.

“The sole intent of our investigation was to determine whether or not Senator Landrieu was purposely trying to avoid constituents who were calling to register their views to her as their senator,” O'Keefe said in his statement Friday. “We videotaped the entire visit, the government has those tapes, and I’m eager for them to be released because they refute the false claims being repeated by much of the mainstream media.”

A day earlier, J. Garrison Jordan, an attorney for Flanagan, also denied the men were trying to disable or wiretap the phones in Landrieu’s office.

“You’re dealing with kids,” Jordan said. “I don’t think they thought it through that far.”

Landrieu wasn’t impressed with that explanation.

“Attorneys are hired to spin for their clients,” she said Thursday in an interview in Washington. “Good luck.”

Investigators are pressing ahead to see if that was indeed the men’s motive, a senior federal law enforcement official said Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

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