A man arrested for his involvement in a bungled Watergate-style phone-tapping of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's office was once the editor of a monthly conservative publication at the University of Minnesota-Morris.
Joseph Basel, 24, was arrested in connection with the bizarre incident, in which he and several accomplices—including James O'Keefe, the filmmaker who dressed up as a pimp for a video exposé of ACORN—masqueraded as a telephone repairmen and gained access to the phone in Landrieu's New Orleans office.
"This is a very unusual situation and somewhat unsettling for me and my staff," Landrieu said in a statement. "I am as interested as everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward."
According to an FBI affidavit, Basel was one of the fake telephone repairmen involved in the strange stunt, and he quickly copped to being a phony as soon as the authorities put the heat on him.
At 11 a.m., Basel entered the Hale Boggs building with his associate, Robert Flanagan, both dressed as telephone repairmen with hard hats and tool belts. They went to Senator Landrieu's 10th-floor office, where they found O'Keefe waiting.
Basel asked for access to the phone, manipulated it, pretended to try to call it from a cell phone, and said he couldn't get through. Basel and Flanagan said they'd have to fix it.
They were directed to the main office. When questioned, they claimed they "had left their credentials in their vehicle." They were subsequently arrested by U.S. Marshals.
Basel and three others were all charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony. The charges carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
For a moment, it looked like Basel might also have a connection to Scott Brown, the Republican Majority of One.
Before Basel changed his privacy settings, the media got hold of a back-and-forth on his Facebook page, where he bragged about landing a date with one of Brown's daughters.
"Having dinner with the younger sister in L.A. next week," Basel boasted in an exchange with a relative, who saluted him with, "That'ah boy!"
Basel was talking about Arianna, who recently appeared in a bikini in a photo with her father and her sister, who was wearing seashells as a top.
This prompted the Brown camp to quickly distance the family.
"Absolutely not true," Brown's spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told the Boston Herald. "No one here knows him and Arianna never heard of the guy. It sounds like he needs a good lawyer."
Is there anything this guy doesn't lie about?
Basel is remembered by his U of M-Morris classmates as an agitator of the oppressed white male variety. The founder of The Counterpoint, a conservative campus publication, Basel and several confederates printed up posters from protestwarrior.com bearing the slogan "End Racism & Sexism Now: Kill All White Males" and hung them around campus.
The provocative posters raised more questions than answers among the student body, and before long administrators had to quiet the rumors.
"Some members of our campus community have assumed the posters saying, 'End Racism & Sexism Now: Kill All White Males' were posted by students of color. They were not," read one email. "These assumptions have been very painful for students of color and others on campus."
The controversy led to a student forum, where Basel and his buddies were forced to address the audience and explain their actions.
"He told everybody about how the posters were there to counteract the far-left lies about racism, and then quoted Dr. Dre lyrics as an example of far-left racism," remembers one U of M classmate. "This caused the entire black student union to storm out in anger. The rest of the night was super awkward, and nothing got solved."
If Basel learned a lesson, it was the wrong one. "In my discussions with Joe after his 'satirical' kill-all-white-men posters, I discovered he was only too happy with the attention he received," recalls one classmate, who sees a direct correlation to Basel's current predicament.
"His latest actions did not surprise me at all, and it is completely in character for Joe to spin his actions as humorous rather than disrespectful and harmful. He never took responsibility for anything and he never will."