Veritas Ex-Project staffers offer harsh portrait of conservative group

The conservative group Project Veritas has for years sought to embarrass political opponents and members of media organizations by surreptitiously recording and publicizing their private communications.

But two lawsuits filed in federal court late Sunday by former employees of the organization aim to expose its own inner workings, describe a work culture that is “highly sexed” where daytime drinking and drug use is common and the group benefits from employees working overtime without getting paid.

Both lawsuits, filed in Manhattan, describe the dedication of a young staff of agents who have drawn the support of powerful political allies and donors. . One suit depicts a corporate apartment the organization keeps that has been used as a “brother home” for drinking, sex and parties.

That lawsuit also revealed the names of more than a dozen employees of the organization and the identities of field workers, information the team took great care to shield.

The lawsuits – triggered in part by a conflict with a former employee, Antonietta Zappier, over the terms of her departure from the organization – come as the group is being investigated by federal prosecutors, who who suggested they had evidence the organization was complicit stole an Ashley Biden diary, a daughter of President Biden; Project Veritas has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge that the diary was stolen.

When contacted on Monday, representatives for Project Veritas did not immediately comment on the lawsuits or their claims.

Although Project Veritas describes its employees as journalists, its practice often differs from standard journalism, with the organization’s employees concealing their true identities or creating identities. forgery.

Project Veritas is continuing to have a defamation lawsuit against The Times, and the publication of articles based on the organization’s legal memos is the subject of litigation.

Ms. Zappier worked as an administrative assistant at Project Veritas from September 2019 to March 2022. One of the lawsuits, filed on her behalf, accuses the organization’s field director, Michael Spadone, of harassment and sexually assaulted her, saying he groped and kissed her. in December 2021.

That lawsuit says Mr. Spadone’s job at the organization was to “recruit, train, and supervise” its employees and that he was involved in the organization’s field work.

Ms. Zappier’s lawsuit also describes how she worked closely with James O’Keefe, the organization’s leader, resolving his parking and laundry ticketing issues and signing him on thousands of books for donors have contributed a minimum of $200 for signed copies.

The suit also states that Mr. O’Keefe made instructions to flag private messages on his social media accounts from attractive women so he could respond to them personally; that he wanted attractive, young female agents he called “beautiful young people” or “PYTs” to be hired on secret dates; and he asked the group’s employees to examine copies of the book and movie “Red Sparrow,” about a Russian intelligence agent trained in “sexual espionage.”

Ms. Zappier’s lawsuit comes two months after the Veritas Project filed a lawsuit against her and her husband, Vincent Zappier. In the lawsuit, the group alleges that she violated the terms of the separation agreement and that her husband harassed company employees.

That lawsuit anticipated Ms. Zappier’s claims against Mr. Spadone, even though it referred to him only by his codename, “Jitsu”. The Veritas Project said in its lawsuit that it investigated Ms. Zappier’s allegations against “Jitsu” but “did not find any corroboration of her claims.”

The second lawsuit against Project Veritas, a proposed class action claim, was filed by Ms. Zappier’s attorney, Arthur Z. Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz is a former advisor to Acorn, a community organizing group that dissolved after a year secret operation performed in part by Mr. O’Keefe.

The plaintiffs in the second lawsuit are Ms. Zappier; two other former employees, Nick Gioia and Dan Schuy, say they are not paid overtime for their jobs; and other “similarly located” employees. Gioia and Schuy are video editors at the Veritas Project, working 10 hours a day and sometimes more, the suit said.

Ms. Zappier’s personal suit is considerably more detailed. It said that drinking and drug use was “endemic” during Project Veritas and that supervisors had sexual relations with subordinates.

Mr. Spadone often complimented Ms. Zappier’s appearance, repeatedly greeting her: “Hey, that’s gorgeous,” according to her outfit. On December 17, 2021, the suit said, Mr. Spadone was soaked in sweat and passionately grabbed Ms Zappier while she was on the dance floor, took her in his arms and started kissing her.

Ms. Zappier talked about the incident with several employees, her lawsuit said, but not to Project Veritas’ head of human resources because she believed doing so would jeopardize her job. .

Ms. Zappier’s lawsuit says she felt pressured to act on behalf of the organization, to the point of disappointing her husband. Her suit depicts a confrontation between Mr. Zappier and one of the agents of Project Veritas.

According to Ms. Zappier’s suit, the agent, Bradley Barkowski, who goes by the code name “Jasper”, wanted to use the shower at Mrs. Zappier’s house. Mrs. Zappier agreed, and Mr. Barkowski arrived at the house to her husband’s displeasure.

After Mr. Barkowski ignored his request to leave, Mr. Zappier retrieved a gun and informed the special forces that he was armed. Ms. Zappier then asked Mr. Barkowski to leave again, which he did, the suit said.

But Ms. Zappier’s lawsuit says the incident happened shortly before she was fired, no matter when she terminated her contract. Instead, she said, the group’s head of human resources attributed the dismissal to an inappropriate voicemail from her a year ago that appeared on the internet.

Ms. Zappier considers her dismissal as “returning” for turning down what she received as an invitation from Mr Spadone six days before being fired to spend a weekend at his home for a romantic relationship. sex.

In its lawsuit, Project Veritas says Ms. Zappier’s husband harassed a Project Veritas employee, alluding to another incident. Mr. Schwartz called the claim “unreal”.

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