A 28-year-old Loyola law school student and conservative activist named Ben Wetmore has emerged as the Fifth Beatle of the Landrieu phone-tampering case.
Wetmore, who hired alleged phone tamperer James O’Keefe at the Leadership Institute a few years back to help launch conservative media outlets on college campuses, this month offered up his New Orleans house as a crash pad for O’Keefe and co-defendants Joseph Basel and Stan Dai, the New York Times reports.
The Leadership Institute is a conservative group dedicated to fostering alternative newspapers on college campuses — including the papers of two of the four defendants in the Landrieu case.
The AP has the details on Wetmore and on how the four defendants spent their days in New Orleans before the Landrieu episode, down to the drinks each ordered while watching the Saints win the NFC Championship on Jan. 24 (“Dai preferred Maker’s Mark bourbon …”).
Among the new details is that Wetmore introduced O’Keefe before the talk he gave at the Pelican Institute think tank a few days before the Landrieu caper. (The fourth defendant, Robert Flanagan, works for Pelican, and his lawyer says he met the other men a few days before the talk.)
Wetmore, who also worked with Basel at the Leadership Institute, has his own history as a campus gadfly during his time at American University. He made headlines for recording a speech by Tipper Gore, in violation of campus rules, and then refusing to give up the tape.
While the AP notes that while Wetmore “used to brag about … how he gave O’Keefe a job, helped him buy equipment used in his video projects and counseled him,” his blog at benwetmore.com was taken down after the Landrieu incident. It
now leads for a few days led to the Web site of News Busters, the organization that aims to expose “liberal media bias.”
O’Keefe, 25, has described Wetmore as a “mentor.” He told the New York Times last year that Wetmore gave him the idea for his mock effort to get Lucky Charms banned at the Rutgers campus dining hall, on the grounds that the leprachaun mascot is offensive to Irish-Americans.
Wetmore has not been accused of wrongdoing in the Landrieu case. He has not responded to our requests for comment.
He e-mailed the Times pictures of disgraced reporter Jayson Blair in response to their requests for comment.