Exclusive: Conservative Filmmaker James O'Keefe Goes Undercover to Target Census Bureau

Infamous for ACORN sting, James O'Keefe goes after Census for alleged waste.

May 31, 2010, 7:06 PM

June 1, 2010— -- The conservative filmmaker arrested this year for an undercover attempt to tape staffers at a U.S. senator's office said his next target -- the Census Bureau -- is another example of government waste.

James O'Keefe, fresh off sentencing for his role in the attempted sting on Sen. Mary Landrieu's Louisiana office in January, signed up to work for the Census in hopes of exposing what he alleges is the bureau's waste of taxpayer money.

O'Keefe said in an exclusive interview today with "Good Morning America" that he has no plans to stop his undercover operations.

"You're on notice...if you are doing things behind closed doors, we will find you and we will film you," O'Keefe said.

O'Keefe and friend Shaugn Adeleye signed up in May to work for the Census Bureau in New Jersey and Louisiana, respectively.

They each attended paid training courses: O'Keefe earned $18.25 an hour and Adeleye made $13.25 an hour.

The two quit after a few days and, O'Keefe said, his time with the Census Bureau proved his theory that the government entity was wasting money.

"Over the course of two days I was paid for as many of 3 ½ to 4 hours of work I didn't do," O'Keefe said.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," he said.

When O'Keefe confronted his supervisor about getting paid for hours he didn't work, she told him not to worry about it.

"We all left early," O'Keefe could be heard telling his supervisor on the tape.

"You got paid for two hours more then," his supervisor replied.

"Yeah, so that's all I'm concerned about," O'Keefe told her.

"I would say don't be concerned...you did your best to, you know, to bring it to our attention. I don't, I don't think anyone's going to be questioning it, except for you," she told O'Keefe. "So I would just let it go."When O'Keefe's colleague, Adeleye, approached his supervisor in Louisiana showing that he was paid for hours he did not work, his supervisor said "I'd throw it away. But I mean, you want to keep it for your records, fine."

But the video also shows a supervisor advising trainees to keep careful and accurate records of their mileage.

"This is not a big issue here but when you start doing this enumeration thing you want to make sure you are watching your miles, ok," one supervisor said on the tape. "Set the odometer, and everyday record it, no estimating, no guessing. That's part of their ability to audit you - would be to look at your miles - look at the places you went to, and if it didn't add up..."

O'Keefe said that same supervisor also gave a "70 minute lunch break" while they got paid for much of that time.

The supervisor said, on the tape, going forward they would only get 30 minutes for lunch. They were given the 70 minutes because they were new and may be unfamiliar with their way around the area where the training session was held, he explained.

In a statement released to ABC News, Stephen Buckner, a spokesman for the Census Bureau, said, "After the Census Bureau's stringent background check procedures, Mr. O'Keefe quit before further action could be taken."

O'Keefe's short stint as a Census worker is the latest in a controversial string of attempts to expose alleged government waste or wrongdoing. He said he considers himself an investigative journalist, while critics have labeled him a political activist.

O'Keefe became an overnight sensation last year after he and a friend posed as a pimp and a prostitute to secretly record ACORN workers giving them advice on how to cheat on their taxes. The videos led to a massive political backlash and led to the community organizer's being shut down.

"This is not a left or right thing," he said of his stings. "This is about exposing corruption."

James O'Keefe on Attempted Landrieu Sting: 'I Don't Regret What I Did'

O'Keefe turned his camera on Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat, in January. At the height of the health care debate, O'Keefe and three friends set out to videotape staffers they believed were refusing to field calls from opponents of health care overhaul, after, he says, opponents of the health care bill complained that they could not get through to the Senator's office to criticize her support of the health care reform bill.

Two went undercover dressed as telephone repairmen and O'Keefe carried a camera disguised to look like a cell phone. But before they could film anything, O'Keefe and the three others were arrested Jan. 25 at Landrieu's New Orleans office.

It was an operation some Democrats dubbed "Louisiana Watergate."

"I don't regret what I did...These people have to be investigated," O'Keefe said.

All four pleaded guilty last week to a misdemeanor charge of entering federal property under false pretenses. They were sentenced to community service and probation.

"I'm absolutely going to adjust my tactics so they are a little more careful in the future," he said.

But while O'Keefe has said he is only standing up to power and his mission is to "expose truth and Americans can play judge and jury," critics have said he is a showman and has revised reality for political gain.

O'Keefe has brushed off the criticism, saying he has created a movement of like-minded journalists.

"When you stand up to power, when you stand up to institution, people come after you," he said. "This is not about me. This is about the truth."

Click here to return to the "Good Morning America" Web site.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events