As Esquire writer Charles Pierce and others have commented in the wake of Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s sudden notoriety, Sterling’s lady friend V. Stiviano “appears to have James O’Keefe’d him.”

Pierce is referring to the work of imaginative young journalist James O’Keefe. Not yet 30, O’Keefe has pioneered the art of quietly recording the damning words of a range of duplicitous individuals – from ACORN workers to NPR executives to union honchos to campaign officials – and exposing those words to the light.

Pierce, however, does not quite get the verb “O’Keefe.” O’Keefe goes after corrupt and/or hypocritical organizations that have prospered through taxpayer largesse, and he always tries to work within the law, however ambiguous that law sometimes is.

Stiviano apparently sought to subvert the career of her addled old sugar daddy for reasons that are not yet clear and seems fully indifferent to whether she was breaking the law or not.

She probably was. According to the Digital Media Law Project, “California makes it a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation.”

This prohibition applies to all conversations that are considered “private” or “confidential,” as Stiviano’s conversation with Sterling surely seems to have been.

O’Keefe, on the other hand, has largely confined his work to states with one-party consent laws. When working in two-party states like California, he has restricted his targets to public subsidized entities like Planned Parenthood and ACORN.

Yet when O’Keefe first exposed the willingness of multiple ACORN offices to facilitate the criminal schemes he posed, the media turned their guns not on ACORN but on O’Keefe.

To be sure, no good case can be made for Sterling’s confused and confusing remarks about race. But encouraging an individual to traffic in underage sex slaves from El Salvador would seem to be a somewhat graver offense.

The media do not share O’Keefe’s hierarchy of values. On CNN, after O’Keefe released the first video of ACORN office workers abetting his apocryphal scheme, the Washington Post’s Keith Richburg expressed his outrage – about O’Keefe.

“It sounds to me like that’s just entrapment,” Richburg said of O’Keefe’s sting. “You know, let’s go around various offices until we can finally trick somebody.”

On that same CNN show, Salon’s Joe Conason added, “It’s not journalism unless they report everything that happened. It’s propaganda.”

In fact, in just about every ACORN office O’Keefe visited the workers obliged his teenage-prostitution schemes. To prove they did, O’Keefe made a practice of posting the videos unedited to show that the damning quotes were not taken out of context.

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O’Keefe’s attempts to lay out the whole case have gone largely unappreciated. Although he has not once been sued for libel or defamation, he has been called a liar in a hundred different media in a thousand different ways.

Like the Washington Post, the New York Times tried not to notice the ACORN story at all. The paper ran its first staff-written story after the Census Bureau ended its partnership with ACORN, the IRS dropped ACORN from its Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program and Congress voted to cut off all grants to the group.

Still, the most generous headline the Times could conjure was “Conservatives Draw Blood from ACORN.” The Times had to dig for that. O’Keefe had not identified himself as a conservative.

According to the Times, O’Keefe’s was just another effort “to dig up dirt” on individuals and “trumpet” that dirt on talk radio. He even unearthed the inevitable outraged liberal to denounce O’Keefe’s tactics as “McCarthyite.”

In the Public Record, John Wellington Ennis topped the sundae of liberal discontent with its ultimate cherry, adding racism to O’Keefe’s many perceived sins. Read Ennis’ headline, “The Public Lynching of ACORN.”

O’Keefe’s continued success after ACORN did not buy him any grace from the media. Time headlined its piece on O’Keefe’s dazzling NPR sting: “Hatchet Job: The Video Hit Piece that Made Both NPR and Its Critics Look Bad.”

Although O’Keefe’s work in the 2012 election inspired four different states to change their election laws, he kept netting headlines like the following from TPM, “Election Law Experts Say James O’Keefe Allies Could Face Charges Over Voter Fraud Stunt.”

By contrast, there seems to be no more concern in the media about the ethics of the Sterling taping than there was about the surreptitious taping of Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remark.

One gallant exception to the media norm is African-American writer Paul Bright. In a Digital Journal op-ed, Bright offers an opinion he deftly understates as “not-so-popular.”

“The NBA is now on a slippery slope,” says Bright and then asks, “If illegal recordings and accusations without historical basis within the league are enough to get you banned as an owner, who is next?”

Unfortunately, it is not just the NBA that is on that slippery slope. The fact that Sterling was scheduled to receive a lifetime achievement award at an NAACP event honoring Al Sharpton as “man of the year” shows just how corrupt is the Democrat-media-civil rights establishment that condemns Sterling.

The late blue-collar philosopher Eric Hoffer had it all figured out years ago. Said Hoffer for the ages: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

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