AWhen it comes to spy names, “James Fortune” sounds like a good Bond bargain, something of a lazily written pulp novel. So of course, when Project Veritas attempted to infiltrate several progressive groups in North Carolina, the right-wing pseudo-journalism group sent a guy with the most fake they could. War name, only to see Fortune defeated by her own pride – and a deadly bout of seasickness.
Far from being a suave super-spy, Fortune was actually just a mindfulness-loving brother of Crossfit from New York, a longtime member of Project Veritas who was fighting his way through another operation. In this, he was like several “undercover journalists” in recent months, executing James O’Keefe’s vision to undermine confidence in our voting processes and generally do his best to help Donald Trump win re-election. Oh, and do it with the help of white supremacists.
Project Veritas continues to gain attention because they are able to present themselves as old-fashioned journalists – watchdogs who simply want transparency in government. But, as the case of “James Fortune” shows, they are more often than not right-wing partisans, performing awkward bites and producing questionable journalism at best. And yet the Veritas “investigations” are still cited by Republican politicians, right down to the president, more recently to push the conspiracy theory that widespread voter fraud will corrupt the 2020 election. Know who is behind these operations. he infiltration helps the public assess the seriousness – or otherwise – of taking Veritas’ alleged revelations.
As embarrassingly detailed in an NC Policy Watch talk, James Fortune introduced himself as the operator of Equality Gym in New York City. (As if the name wasn’t already a bad liberal revival parody, Equality Gym’s Twitter avatar featured two sweaty men, one white and one black, shaking hands triumphantly.) Fortune claimed he wanted to open a new gym in North Carolina.
Most importantly, he wanted to donate $ 20,000 to worthy local causes. He contacted the Common Cause of North Carolina, the North Carolina Black Alliance, and other progressive and voter education groups. According to people who met him, he asked naive, even leading, questions about what his money could do. He tried to recommend his “protégés” for jobs, and clumsily touted his leftist credentials. He described how fitness had oriented his life and how his ex-girlfriend, a Colombian social worker from Queens, had really helped him understand the plight of Latinxes in the United States.
“This guy seemed strange,” says Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause. “It just came out of nowhere; now he’s talking about giving me $ 10,000, and he wants to start something – a gym – which at the time was banned because of COVID. Philips notes that Fortune never seemed to spend time researching locations for its planned gym.
Fortune’s awkwardness soon made people suspect an ulterior motive. He continued to ask questions about activities that would violate electoral laws; Looking back, his alleged mentees look a lot like potential infiltrators he hoped to place in targeted organizations.
His biggest mistake came when he went on a fishing trip with one of the target groups, claiming to be a hardened deep-sea fisherman. Out on the ocean, he became deeply seasick and was spent the next 12 hours vomiting or sleeping. Shortly after – but not before his activities were reported to authorities – the man himself turned off the ignition. SMS, e-mail, phone on Twitter – nothing.
James Fortune was in the wind.
But the potential super-spy wasn’t hard to find. After receiving photos of him, four people targeted by James Fortune in North Carolina confirmed that it was in fact James Lalino, a 35-year-old man living in New York City. he is active in local republican politics; According to a biography of the Gertrude & Morrison Parker West Side Republican Club, where he is on the board of directors, Lalino “became a Republican at the age of 25 when he realized that progressive policies were leading to decadence. social. (James Lalino did not respond to requests for comment sent by email, phone call, and text. Project Veritas did not respond to requests for comment sent by email.)
Lighting assistant by trade, Lalino’s IMDB credits include Now you see me, the illusionist-caper film by Jesse Eisenberg, and When we were young, Noah Baumbach’s very film about aging, idealism and keeping your dreams alive. In another online biography he describes himself as “a seasoned lighting technician in the film industry by day and political communications by night.”
It’s probably a shy allusion to his long association with Project Veritas. According to internal documents and sources close to the group, Lalino is codenamed “Lefty” and can often be seen in the group’s videos. He’s the one ambushing CNN Jeff Zucker and Steve Brush on the sidewalk at the end of last year; he’s here again, briefly appearing in a beard and sunglasses, staking out a South Carolina parking lot to pounce on members of the Sanders campaign during the Democratic primaries. Documents from Project Veritas show it worked on Gold Mine, the group’s mostly unsuccessful attempt to infiltrate Democratic primary campaigns and produce embarrassing videos about the candidates. (“Lefty” was unlucky enough to be assigned to Beto O’Rourke and Eric Swalwell’s doomed presidential offers.)
Lalino’s thin online trail reveals that, when he isn’t indulging in right-wing silliness, he’s apparently an active Crossfitter, working out at a gym on New York’s Upper East Side; he’s dedicated enough that when he was in Rome in 2017, he switched to a local Crossfit gym.
Far from being just a gym rat, however, the man who would be James Fortune also cultivates a mindful life. A biography published on Community of Mindfulness New York Metro describes Lalino as a solo traveler on a cross-country train through France, when a gentle stranger introduced him to the work of Vietnamese monk and guru Thich Nhat Hahn. mindfulness. He apparently recommended the handy, pocket-sized edition of Hahn’s teachings on Goodreads and attended meetings of a meditation group dedicated to Hahn’s teachings.
Lalino’s politics may not seem like an obvious fit with a meditation group. In fact, according to members of the group, Lalino has kept his mostly silent beliefs while claiming to work as a private investigator or “on the conservative media circuit.” Recently, however, Lalino emailed organizers, concerned that the group had aligned itself with activists surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and a more politically engaged meditation community called ARISE Sangha (Awakening Through Race, l intersectionality and social equity).
After declaring his support for black lives – and “brown lives, immigrants, cops, aborted babies [sic] lives and all religions[,] sexualities[,] and personal beliefs ”- he got to the heart of his complaint. “I just don’t believe [our group] should take the left on radical social justice issues and support groups linked to Antifa and other violent organizations that want to destroy the nuclear family, topple the government and ultimately literally execute the opposition, ”he said. written. “It’s not a good look for the sangha [group or community], again, in my personal opinion. I am not the only one and the others must express themselves.
Lalino may not have found much support for his right-wing beliefs in his sangha, but in his work as a “political communications upstart” he had a lot of well-heeled support. As NC Policy Watch explained, the money Lalino – like James Fortune – paid while in North Carolina came through a Georgian company registered with Jason Boles, Republican political strategist and co-founder. from Audacious Faith Inc., an evangelical Christian church. based in Georgia.
Boles, which is connected to a network of dozens of independent political campaign committees, is a partner of RTA Strategy, founded by Rick Thompson, former executive director and current member of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. In Georgia, donors can give a limited amount to candidates – around $ 17,000 for primary, second-round and general election races combined – but there is no limit on what they can give to committees. independent ”or to the groups that fund them.
One such group, led by Thompson and Boles, called A Georgia for Georgians, contributed $ 83,616 in Georgia’s Republican primaries this summer. It is not known who funded the group. As Thompson noted in the Center for Public Integrity’s 2012 report on Georgia’s Weak Campaign Finance Laws, “he’s ripe for the opportunity for corruption.”
Boles is also linked to Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican from Georgia best known for her support for QAnon and for her hours of Facebook videos spewing out racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Greene and Boles are also both linked to Stefan Passantino, Trump’s former deputy White House attorney, through Greene’s campaign. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has reportedly launched an investigation into James Fortune, including the network of connections that includes so many Republican movers.
As is often the case, pulling a thread of right-wing deception reveals connections with many other players – reaching the highest levels. “James Fortune” was no different, with ties to Project Veritas, the Georgia Republicans establishment, and the Trump White House. Still, many questions remain unanswered, especially if Lalino had ever fished the high seas before the fateful voyage that eventually and completely blew up his cover.
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