Joe Basel, James O'Keefe, Stan Dai and more: Take the teabugger guide
Federal agents in Louisiana arrested four men in late January for allegedly entering a federal building under false pretenses and tampering with the phone lines of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. The four accused claimed it was a harmless stunt of hidden-camera journalism gone wrong, but the courts saw something more sinister. Collectively, the media dubbed them "teabuggers," though they're quick to say they had no plans to bug the senator's phone.
Joe Basel, the subject of this week's feature, "The Rise and Fall of Joe Basel," is the son of a Lutheran pastor. Basel grew up in Mankato, Minn., a small college town one hour south of the Twin Cities. He attended the University of Minnesota-Morris campus as an undergrad, where he started a right-leaning monthly newspaper called the Counterweight. In college, Basel made a reputation for himself as Morris's loudest conservative presence. His taste for subtle political satire often landed him on the wrong side of an outraged student body and faculty, particularly the time he posted signs around campus that read "End Racism and Sexism Now: Kill All White Males."
Role in the Landrieu stunt: Dressed as a phone repairman, he asked for access to the federal building's main phone closet but was denied.
National ties: Received a grant from The Leadership Institute to start the Counterweight, apprentice of conservative activist Ben Wetmore.
Born in 1984, James O'Keefe grew up in Bergen County, N. J. He attended Westwood High School and was a member of the Eagle Scouts. O'Keefe went to college at Rutgers University, where he became the editor of the campus's conservative magazine, the Centurion. In 2005, he and other Centurion staff members launched a campaign to ban Lucky Charms cereal from the cafeteria on the basis that the Leprechaun mascot was racist - a satirical jab at some perceived hyper-politically correct students on campus. O'Keefe found his way to conservative stardom last year after he released a video of himself posing as a pimp and receiving some creative legal advice from ACORN employees. The stunt earned him praise from ACORN opponents across the country, as well as the nickname "pimp."
Well known for: Playing key role in getting Congress to cut funding to ACORN.
Role in the Landrieu stunt: Waited for Joe Basel and Robert Flanagan in Landrieu's office, filmed it with a cell phone camera.
National ties: Worked for The Leadership Institute, apprentice of Ben Wetmore.
Stan Dai attended college at George Washington University in Washington D.C., where he became editor-in-chief of - you guessed it - the campus's conservative newspaper, the GW Patriot. Dai was extremely active at GWU. His resume includes: member of the College Republicans, founder of Students Defending Democracy, Club 100 Activist of Young America's Foundation.
Well known for: Co-penning a short play called "The Penis Monologues," published in the GW Patriot in 2004. A sample:
It all began when I moved into Crawford Hall... I had a bad feeling about coochie snorchers. In the past, they had been nothing but trouble--big trouble. But then one day, I walked out of my building and met my "neighbor," Joan. Joan is a GIANT COOCHIE SNORCHER, a 5-foot-tall vagina with a black plastic wig on her headRole in Landrieu stunt: Found blocks away with a listening device.
National ties: A Stan Dai is listed as the Assistant Director of the The Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence, which trains young'uns for a career in intelligence gathering.
Robert Flanagan is the son of acting U.S. Attorney William Flanagan and the only accused teabugger actually from Louisiana. Shortly after his arrest, Landrieu told Politico that Flanagan's father ought to be embarrassed of his son's actions. "This isn't a child - this is 24-year-old, I'm sure his parents are terribly disappointed, they most certainly should be," Landrieu said. Flanagan is an avid blogger for The Pelican Post, where his byline appeared above an article criticizing Landrieu's definition of "personal responsibility" only two weeks before his arrest. Flanagan interned for Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., who publicly praised O'Keefe for his ACORN stunt.
Well known for: The only participant in the caper to have his parents chewed out by the senator.
Role in the Landrieu stunt: Dressed up as a phone repairman with Basel.
National ties: Son of an acting U.S. Attorney.
Screengrab from Benwetmore.com.
Ben Wetmore attended high school in Parsons, Kans., according to his Myspace account. While enrolled at American University in Washington, D.C., Wetmore founded and edited a conservative newspaper that competed with The Eagle, a campus paper published twice a week. Wetmore also started a Website called BenLadner.com, which criticized the university's president, Ben Ladner, and his high-roller lifestyle. In 2002, Wetmore was arrested by campus police for filming a Tipper Gore speech. He claims the university paid Gore more than $32,000 for her time, and he felt someone should document it. The school courts convicted him of trying to steal Gore's intellectual property, a stunt that landed him a guest appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor" and a place in right-wing activist pantheon.
Well known for: Mentoring young conservative activists, an oft-controversial blog, Benwetmore.com.
Role in the Landrieu stunt: Wetmore was not arrested along with the above four, but three of the accused stayed at his house while in Louisiana. Basel and O'Keefe have also called Wetmore their mentor.
National ties: Headed up the media faction of The Leadership Institute.