Laura Vozzella, Washington Post
RICHMOND — A conservative group that creates undercover “sting” videos infiltrated the campaign of Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat in a tight race with Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.
The campaign said a young woman working for Project Veritas posed as a Democratic volunteer and spent every day of the past several weeks in Spanberger’s suburban Richmond campaign office, performing basic office tasks — and peppering her officemates with questions that eventually raised red flags.
Campaign staffers on Wednesday confronted her and asked her to leave, according to a video released by the campaign.
“Dirty tricks like these are the worst part of politics, and this is exactly what Abigail is running to change,” Spanberger’s campaign manager, Dana Bye, said in an email. “We are proud of the campaign we have run, and wonder if Congressman Brat and his allies can say the same. While others may scrape the bottom of the barrel out of desperation, Abigail and our campaign will remain focused on talking to our neighbors on their doorsteps about the issues that matter to our community - that’s the campaign voters deserve and it’s the campaign that we believe will carry us to victory.”
Brat spokeswoman Katey Price said the campaign had no involvement.
James O’Keefe, founder of New York-based Project Veritas, said he was traveling and was not immediately available for comment. But he suggested that the undercover work had borne fruit.
“As you know our reporters have been releasing videos in Arizona, Tennessee, Missouri, North Dakota and these videos have had extraordinary reactions from many of the candidates themselves,” he said in an email.
Project Veritas, an organization that targets the mainstream news media and left-leaning groups, uses false cover stories and highly edited covert video recordings meant to produce embarrassing exposes.
Last year, a woman who worked for Project Veritas falsely claimed to The Washington Post that Roy Moore, then the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager in an apparent effort to trick the Post into printing an untrue story.
O’Keefe was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2010 for using a fake identity to enter a federal building during a previous sting.
Spanberger and Brat are locked in a tight race in the district, a one-time GOP stronghold that appears to be up for grabs in the era of President Trump. The 7th is a mix of Richmond suburbs and rural areas stretching from Culpeper County in the north to Nottoway County in the south.
Trump, who has endorsed Brat, is popular in the rural areas, but he has greatly energized Democrats in the suburbs.
The latest poll shows Brat, a former economics professor who won the seat four years ago after a shocking primary upset over then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R), virtually tied with Spanberger, a former CIA agent and federal law enforcement officer.
Brat cruised to a 15-point reelection win two years ago but faces a strong challenger in Spanberger, whose résumé may appeal to swing voters and moderate Republicans turned off by Trump.
Republican strength in the district has been waning, with victory margins shrinking. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the 7th District by 11 percentage points in 2012. Trump won it by six points in 2016. In the 2017 governor’s race, Republican Ed Gillespie beat Democrat Ralph Northam there by less than four points.