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Here’s The Thing With Toxic Political Bosses



Today @oldrowswig broke that the Project Veritas (PV) board had placed their founder and figurehead, James O’Keefe on leave and are potentially stripping him of his leadership role at PV. Free Press Fail published the basic facts of the various reports surrounding the situation. This is not that. 

Let’s make this extremely clear: James O’Keefe is the only proper head of Project Veritas. I believe James O’Keefe is a genius. I believe he is an extraordinarily hard worker and a disciplined innovator. I think that O’Keefe could have easily walked away from the relentless hassle of federal law enforcement, powerful corporations, lobbyists, and elected officials – all of who are gunning for his head – and gotten a high paying job as a political podcaster or circuit speaker or something a long time ago. He didn’t do that because I think he really, genuinely, passionately cares about radical truth-telling. There is no world where it would be just for PV to remove O’Keefe from a position that he sculpted with his bare hands and for which he has given so much. 

I also believe there is at least some (if not all) truth in the allegations his employees have brought against him in terms of rampant demoralizing abuse. My believing them doesn’t mean I think O’Keefe should be removed by his board or penalized or canceled or anything like it, because he is a genuine genius and there is no PV without him. I want to make it very clear that I support O’Keefe and hope that the board makes the correct decision to keep him at the helm of PV. If I had a vote in it, which I obviously don’t, I’d vote for him. There is not another correct decision for them to make and, frankly, James O’Keefe himself is about 10x more special than the people I’m about to discuss.   

There is a reason I believe the allegations from the 16 staff members… It’s because it sounds so familiar. 

Bosses in the political field are routinely toxic people who treat their staff very badly. They create emotional and inappropriate environments that conflate – intentionally and unintentionally- friendships and family with the workplace. Because of the nature of the deeply held beliefs (nearly religious beliefs) that usually accompany a person working in the political field, it’s very easy for political bosses to make their employees feel like what they’re doing is so important and so big and so core to who they are that it’s okay to suffer humiliations, abuses, and even harassment. 

Deep loyalties are generated for these bosses through shared traumas (caused largely by the boss themselves) and a completely false sense of higher purpose. Employees believe so deeply that they are working toward the betterment of their core ideology (be it republican, democrat, climate, or life) that they can’t comprehend that the particular job at the particular firm or organization they’re at is not the only way they could serve that cause because they’re so deeply ingrained. 

No matter how loyal these employees become, these bosses very often layoff or unfairly fire or replace their loyal employees at the drop of a hat if it will mean an extra dollar toward their own personal gain or simply because they’re unhinged maniacs who throw life altering temper tantrums on a regular basis and are never held accountable. Often these boss men/women have completely lost sight of the passion they once had for the politics they claim to serve. 

This truth is not a popular one to discuss. Many in politics see these behaviors as sort of a litmus test on who can hack it and who can’t. They use these workplace injustices as gatekeeping for the industry. They pride themselves on how much abuse they are able to take. They say things like “if you can’t handle people like him (or her) you can’t cut it in this town.” And I don’t fault them so much as feel deeply sorry for them. 

I do not have a single friend in the industry who has not had something thrown at them by their boss. For me it was a chair. For one it was a full can of soda, for many it’s just a series of pens and various office supplies. You’ll recall the White House whistleblower detailing Hillary Clinton throwing a book at her. You’ll recall the recent allegations against Kamala Harris throwing coffee. Bosses in DC, much like toddlers, really think it’s fine to throw things at human people who have upset them. Bosses in DC have really been allowed to physically harm their employees. 

But the physicality of it isn’t even the worst of it (unbelievably). These bosses are also routinely emotionally and psychologically abusive. They will call at all hours of the night expecting staff to be able to manage impossible and petty tasks and flying off the handle if it can’t be done. Or others will befriend and even forcibly make a “family” of staff by insisting on mandatory socializing off of work hours that isolates people from outside friends and family under the auspices of “bonding.” They will exhaust their team, pump them full of drinks and convince them their relationship is meaningful instead of what it really is: completely transactional.

In reality, it’s just brainwashing. 

It’s the brewing, drinking and spewing of the proverbial kool aid. 

Then when the budgets come down guess what? Not family anymore. When someone does something they don’t like? No more family. And those who survive the moods or the budgets or the scandals feel special. They are the special chosen. The survivors. The true loyals. But the truth of it is that these tyrants feel entitled to the service of their employees and they do not see anything wrong with their behavior, therefore, they do not see anything particularly special about the survivors. 

I have worked in politics my entire career and most of my friends work in politics. We all work in different aspects of the field and yet these truths hold across all of our various political industries. No matter what the specific sector is; Congress, Media, Fundraising, Campaigns, etc. the stories are all the same. 

For many of us it takes a major incident to shake us free of the hold of the toxic powers that be. 

For me specifically, it was that my former boss wouldn’t stand up for me against egregious sexual harassment after I had been so loyal that I had completely lost myself in the awful culture of the office. Since leaving that job, I have spent five years on the path of redemption. Choosing, as best as I can, to be a good person. A kind person. Someone who values other people. Someone who is sincere. Someone who chooses life. I could have stayed on that team and had I done so I might have become more like the boss and those who remained ruthlessly loyal and become more powerful than I am today. But instead I was shaken from that relentless pursuit and now have strengthened my relationship with God and my family and myself. I’m no hero, I don’t fancy myself some Joan of Arc. I just, as dramatically as swallowing the red pill, woke up one day and realized that work is work and life is life. And it doesn’t matter what false idol you serve, be it politics or be it something else, but it is not worth your life. It is not worth your relationship with God.  

God matters in all of it. Kindness matters. God commands us to treat each other well. It is the main thing he asks us to do. Being some ‘can’t be bothered’ ‘rage monster’ ‘bad guy boss’ is not actually acceptable. It’s not admirable. It’s not something we should tolerate. 

Does this mean we should cancel or fire someone every time feelings get hurt? Of course not. But I think what is salient is this, for those in the political field and those outside: know what’s real. Know what matters. Create boundaries for yourself. Never let a transactional relationship, like one where you are paid for labor, seem like it’s a relationship that is worth your life. 

Your work is your work and if your boss is abusive, It is up to you to walk away.  Income can be a cage, so it’s understandable if you can’t just quit. But look for something new or set clear boundaries. Do not take on extra non-work related tasks, and don’t feel pressured to adopt the toxic family culture. Do your absolute best work always, and always give what you can. Care deeply and passionately. But make it work. Don’t make it your life. And then maybe someday we can hold some of these guys accountable and people like us will be the ones in charge. And we will do better.

James O’Keefe should be kept/restored as head of PV absolutely. He is a genius, he is a champion of truth and what he built is his to keep. I do not know him, none of my stories are about him and I have nothing bad to say about him. I have nothing but respect for him and what he has created at PV.  

If the people who say they were hurt by O’Keefe as a boss really want to make a change, they should be brave enough to take their talent elsewhere. I don’t say that as a challenge to them so much as a challenge to us all to make things better by taking our lives back. By letting go of the idea that work could ever be a higher purpose than life. By letting go of the cult of personality and placing our faith back on the mantle of God. And most importantly, by being kind, decent, honest people who work hard, and rise up and eventually find a space to be a better kind of political boss. 

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