Connecticut philanthropists fund Project Veritas

December 2, 2017 GMT

Hundreds of local charities and nonprofits have reaped the benefits of two generous family foundations.

Stamford’s historic Avon Theatre was saved by one of them. Connecticut Public Broadcasting and countless food banks, hospitals, museums and land trusts have enjoyed their support.

But the foundations, based in Greenwich and Stamford, also support the controversial right-wing watchdog group Project Veritas. The organization tried to trick the Washington Post into writing a story about a woman who claimed she was raped and impregnated by Roy Moore, the scandal-ridden U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama. Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women when they were minors.

The Royce Family Fund and Old Stones Foundation rendered thousands of dollars in financial support to Project Veritas and its founder James O’Keefe, filings with the Internal Revenue Service show.


Project Veritas is based in Mamaroneck, N.Y., just over the border from Connecticut, and Jamie T. Phillips, the operative who tried to cast herself as one of Moore’s victims, lives in North Stamford with at least one roommate and two dogs.

One of the group’s missions is to expose liberal bias in the “mainstream media,” but its status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is being challenged by some critics, including New York’s attorney general.

“If your foundation is good with supporting people who fake such crimes, that tells me a lot about your foundation,” said Richard Hanley, an associate journalism professor at Quinnipiac University in Hamden. “Is this something you want to do, engage in trying to trap reporters and manipulate video for a predetermined outcome? I wonder if they actually knew what Veritas was. It’s not a think tank.”

Venerable foundations

The Old Stones Foundation, which has a Summer Street address in Stamford, contributed $17,000 to Project Veritas from 2012 to 2016, according to the IRS. Its filing for the fiscal year that ended July 30, 2017, is not available yet.

The foundation’s president, Robert Morris Jr., resides in Greenwich. He did not respond to a request for comment, but told the news website BuzzFeed, “I don’t think that was one of Jimmy’s brighter ideas,” in a reference to O’Keefe’a attempted sting of the Washington Post. Morris told the website he plans to keep supporting Project Veritas and estimated that he has donated $22,000 overall to the organization. He is married to Susan Morris, a library media specialist at Greenwich High School.

The Royce Family Fund, which is run by mutual fund maverick Charles “Chuck” Royce, gave $2,500 to Project Veritas in 2014. It did not give in 2015 and its 2016 report is not yet available.

Royce, a Greenwich resident, did not respond to multiple requests for comment, including one left with a spokesman for his mutual funds, which specialize in investing in small companies.


In 2014, Royce contributed $13.2 million to his family’s charitable fund, which donated $5.4 million to more than 250 organizations. Among them was Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Lincoln Center, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and Stamford’s Avon Theatre Film Center, which Royce and his actress wife, Deborah, bought in 2001 and reopened as a nonprofit in 2004.

The couple has been recognized locally on several occasions for its charity work. Chuck Royce was named the “citizen of the year” in 2016 by the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce for his leadership of a $140 million demolition and reconstruction of the landmark Ocean House in Watch Hill, R.I.

Those ventures are a far cry from Project Veritas and its firebrand attacks.

Fake news

O’Keefe, who IRS filings showed was compensated $241,220 by Project Veritas in 2015, defended the group’s activities in a statement.

“We use all sorts of techniques to gain access to people, but we never deceive our audience,” O’Keefe said. “The Washington Post’s issue with us isn’t one of our techniques or methods, their issue is with WHO we aim our hidden-cameras at. When we expose their enemies, we are their friends. But when we expose their friends-or them-we become their enemy.”

In the recent case, Phillips approached two reporters at the Washington Post with a false tale about how Moore, former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, initiated a sexual relationship with her when she was 15 that led to her having an abortion, the newspaper reported.

She further tried befriending their newspaper colleagues at farewell parties and social events for journalists in Washington, D.C. But reporters began to question Phillips’ credibility and followed her from her rental home in Stamford to the Project Veritas office in Mamaroneck. They also found a GoFundMe page for Phillips, saying she needed money to move to New York to join the conservative media movement.

“I will neither confirm nor deny the identify of any of our undercover operatives any more than someone at your paper would disclose the name of a confidential source,” Stephen Gordon, a Project Veritas spokesman, told Hearst.

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano, a frequent media critic who created pie charts of the political coverage for party leaders, said there is a place for journalism watchdogs, but stopped well short of sanctioning Project Veritas.

“When it comes to someone watching the media, I do think that’s necessary,” Romano said. “That’s an entirely separate entity from the Republicans.”

Hanley, the Quinnipiac journalism professor, said Project Veritas has a dubious reputation.

“They’re looked at as an organization of political operatives, not very good ones at that, and are possibly engaged in almost performance art rather than anything else because of the sort of clownish approach to contaminate news,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with fact-checking and asking reporters why stories are covered in such a way as they are. It’s an extreme form of gotcha fact-checking.”;; 203-625-4436