There's a lot we still don't know about the four men implicated in the alleged attempt to bug Sen. Mary Landrieu's phones yesterday, but a little-known organization called the Pelican Institute appears to be key to the story.
Located at 400 Poydras St. in downtown New Orleans -- half a block from Landrieu's office at 500 Poydras St. -- Pelican describes itself as a state policy think tank dedicated to advancing "sound policies based on the principles of free enterprise, individual liberty, and limited government."
James O'Keefe, the conservative filmmaker behind the ACORN stings who has been charged in the Landrieu case, was scheduled to give a talk at Pelican last Thursday on "Exposing Truth: Undercover Video, New Media and Creativity." Tickets were $35; the setting was the posh Plimsoll Club at the World Trade Center. An ad for the luncheon promised attendees insights into O'Keefe's special strain of new media genius:
"James' videos of ACORN employees providing advice on how to break the law created a sensation. Shortly after the videos were released Congress voted to defund ACORN. James has been a pioneer in the use of new media to drive these kinds of important stories. He will discuss the role of new media and provide examples of effective undercover video."
Another of the charged men, Robert Flanagan, works for Pelican, his attorney told the Times-Picayune. Flanagan allegedly dressed up a telephone repairman to infiltrate Landrieu's office.
What appears to be his LinkedIn profile says Flanagan was an intern for Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK) in Washington last year. Fallin spokeswoman Kathryn Bruns tells TPM that Flanagan was a "helpful guy." He attended Rhodes College in Memphis.
The Wall Street Journal opinion page published a glowing profile of Pelican and its leader, Kevin Kane, in August 2008:
A rising leader among them is Kevin Kane, a native New Yorker smitten with Louisiana since attending Tulane University in New Orleans in the 1980s. Confident the state will reverse course with the right help, Mr. Kane moved with his family to the Big Easy this spring to establish the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, a think tank promoting reforms rooted in market solutions and limited government.
"The whole trend of losing good people to other states has forced a reckoning," Mr. Kane explains, and citizens once apathetic or resigned are increasingly civic- and reform-minded. Community rebuilding efforts after Katrina helped foster this sentiment and, crucially, changes on the political scene may sustain it.
In yet another possible connection to the Landrieu case, Kane also blogs at Big Government, the Andrew Breitbart site.
Big Government is where O'Keefe's ACORN sting videos were posted, though Breitbart has said, "We have no knowledge about or connection to any alleged acts and events involving James O'Keefe at Senator Mary Landrieu's office."