Conservative activist James O'Keefe is accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration of targeting his group with document requests and a subpoena, claiming the Democratic governor's recent comments critical of conservatives "aren't simply words."
O'Keefe, whose Project Veritas is behind a series of hidden-camera investigations against left-leaning groups and causes, made the claims on the heels of the controversy over a recent Cuomo interview. In it, Cuomo blasted "extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay" and said they "have no place" in New York. He later walked back his remarks, and said they were being taken out of context in the media.
But O'Keefe claimed that Cuomo's government is acting on those words, revealing that the Department of Labor has hit his office in Westchester County, N.Y., with demands for financial documents for months. He compared it to IRS targeting of conservative groups nationwide.
Reached for comment, the Department of Labor said it was a routine request and a routine process.
"Every business that files in the State of New York that uses independent contractors is required by law to submit additional information to ensure that all workers are classified appropriately as either employees or independent contractors..." the department said in a statement.
"This helps to ensure workers receive coverage under unemployment law and businesses are not faced with unexpected charges at a future date if an individual files a claim against them.
"In this instance, as we did in 3,500 cases last year alone, the Department of Labor sought this additional information. After receiving no response, DOL issued follow up letters and phone calls. After 6 months of not receiving a response, as a matter of protocol, DOL issued subpoenas to obtain the requested information."
For his part, O'Keefe said in a statement, "Governor Cuomo's shocking words this past week aren't simply words. Governor Cuomo and the New York Department of Labor are on a witch hunt, demanding all documents and financials since our founding. ... His goal, of course, is to harass us and limit our effectiveness by tying us up in court. Just like President Obama used the IRS to target and suppress conservatives, Governor Cuomo is using his Department of Labor to do the same exact thing."
O'Keefe, who repeatedly has been accused of deceptive practices by liberal groups, has built a reputation as a conservative provocateur. His hidden-camera investigations contributed to the downfall of advocacy group ACORN. With Project Veritas, his group continues to expose alleged fraud and misbehavior with the federal health care law, green jobs programs and more.
In accusing New York state of targeting the organization, Project Veritas released a subpoena issued on Jan. 9 from the Department of Labor. The document orders representatives from the organization to show up on Jan. 28 with a slew of documents, ranging from Social Security returns to unemployment insurance returns to check stubs.
The group claims its finances are "meticulously maintained to the penny" and calls the inquiries "meritless." A statement said Project Veritas would be relocating to New Jersey.
Further, the group claimed that it complied with an earlier document request and showed up for a scheduled meeting on Dec. 13, but state labor officers "never showed up."
"Just like the IRS, they are simply intimidating and targeting us," Project Veritas said in a statement, while also trying to raise money off the allegations.