Segretti, Rove, O'Keefe

Dirty tricks against Laundrieu seem Nixonian and Rovian

Boys will be boys, eh, Karl?
Boys will be boys, eh, Karl?

As potential links between conservative think tank the Pelican Group, conservative new media maven Andrew Breitbart and the four operatives that tried to mess with a US Senator's phones become clearer, one thought emerges: A bunch of entitled Republican frat boys doing dirty tricks? How very Nixonian and, let's not forget, Rovian.

What's known so far is that four men, all recent graduates connected to the conservative right – James O'Keefe, Stan Dai, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan – have been arrested by the FBI over allegations that they were planning to tamper with Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's phones. The big question is: Who is surprised by such antics?

Go back to 1972, when Deputy Assistant to President Nixon Dwight L. Chapin brought in an old buddy of his from USC, a former military prosecutor called Donald Segretti. In his autobiography Blind Ambition, White House Counsel John Dean called him Chapin's "campaign saboteur." Segretti called what he did Ratfucking: Childish, frat boy disruption tactics like calling venues for Democratic events and canceling the booking on the day, or ordering a thousand pizzas for delivery to Democratic events, and more serious acts like faking memos on stolen headed notepaper. And where did the term ratfucking come from? It was invented by the USC College Republicans when they were screwing with the USC Democrats.

Segretti was, for some, the light entertainment side of the dirty tricks culture that lead to Watergate (another attempt to mess with a Democrat's phones), but it was still enough to get him six months in jail for distributing forged campaign materials for the Nixon campaign. One of his acolytes was notorious Republican campaign fixer Lee Atwater, who served as campaign manager for Austin resident Karl Rove in 1973 when he ran successfully to be national chair of the College Republicans. That would be Karl Rove who, as documented in Lou Dobose' book Boy Genius, pretended to be a campaign volunteer for Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Allen Dixon and used stolen headed notepaper to send out fake party invites. The same Karl Rove that, as James Moore and Wayne Slater reported in Rove Exposed, was suspected in 1986 of bugging his own suite in the Bill Clements for Governor campaign offices.

Flash forward two decades, and it's a bunch of college conservatives doing the same kind of nonsense. According to reports, Dai was a member of the GW College Republicans in D.C, while Basel has been connected to the University of Minnesota College Republicans. O'Keefe founded the conservative newspaper at Rutgers University The Centurion, and as of the night after his arrest Rutgers University College Republicans was advertising a meet and greet with him. O'Keefe, of course, came to notoriety when he and a female associate played dress-up in order to entrap ACORN operatives. Their sub-Ali G theatrics got lots of media play after O'Keefe's boss Breitbart lead the charge: That ACORN staff called the police on them didn't get so much coverage. That may change now O'Keefe has been caught playing dress-up yet again.

As Talking Points Memo discovered, Dai, O'Keefe and Basel all also have a background in conservative campus media. Breitbart's website even claims that O'Keefe "helped start over a dozen campus newspapers nationwide."

Where this may all be heading right down the rabbit hole is the reporting that Dai was part of the Department of Defense irregular warfare fellowship program and has been a favorite of several conservative groups with intelligence interests. Will he turn out to be the E. Howard Hunt to O'Keefe's Segretti in all this?

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Elections, Dirty Tricks, Karl Rove, Louisiana, James O'Keefe, Stan Dai, Joseph Basel, Robert Flanagan, Senator Mary Landrieu

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