The son of 11-term Rep. James P. Moran Jr. resigned from his father’s campaign Wednesday hours after an undercover video showed him discussing possible voter fraud with an activist posing as a campaign worker.
In the video, dated Oct. 8 and posted by conservative activist James O’Keefe, Patrick Moran does not explicitly advocate or condone the worker’s suggestion to cast ballots on behalf of 100 voters he says are unlikely to show up Nov. 6.
Moran, who appears not to know that he is being recorded, attempts to discourage the worker from carrying out the scheme, saying he should instead join get-out-the-vote efforts. But Moran, a campaign field director, also offers guidance on how to possibly skirt Virginia’s new voter identification laws. He also doesn’t tell the worker not to proceed with his plan.
Moran’s campaign issued a statement, calling it “an error in judgment.”
“Patrick is well liked and was a well-respected member of the campaign team,” Moran’s the statement says. “The campaign has accepted Patrick’s resignation, effective immediately.”
In a statement, Patrick Moran, 23, said: “In reference to the ‘O’Keefe’ video, at no point have I, or will I ever endorse any sort of illegal or unethical behavior. At no point did I take this person seriously. He struck me as being unstable and joking, and for only that reason did I humor him.
“In hindsight, I should have immediately walked away, making it clear that there is no place in the electoral process for even the suggestion of illegal behavior: joking or not. In regards to my position on the campaign, I have stepped down because I do not want to be a distraction during this year’s critical election.”
James Moran (D-Va.) was first elected to the House in 1990. The veteran’s district includes Arlington County, Alexandria, Falls Church and portions of Fairfax County.
State Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran, his brother, called the incident “a mistake.”
“Patrick Moran is my nephew and a good kid,” Brian Moran said in a statement. “He has taken responsibility and has stepped down from the Moran campaign. The Democratic Party of Virginia is an organization that stands for free and open participation in our elections and we oppose even the appearance of any effort to undermine those values.”
In the video, posted on the Project Veritas Web site, Patrick Moran suggests using forged utility bills as proof of voter eligibility. But he warns that fake documentation will have to “look good” to pass muster with poll workers. At several turns, Moran attempts to talk down the volunteer, who actually works for Project Veritas, which O’Keefe has said he launched to expose wrongdoing.
The worker pretends to be frustrated with the direction of the election and concerned that President Obama and Democrats might lose.
Moran suggests that it would be easier for the worker to put his energy into legitimate voter turnout.
“That’s tough, man,” Moran says. “I feel like all the energy you’re going to be putting into this, that could be much better suited with the in-place [get-out-the-vote] stuff.”
Moran later offers that the worker could pose as a pollster to determine whether the voters he is considering using actually plan to cast ballots between now and Election Day. Near the end of the video, which lasts about 20 minutes, Moran tells the worker, “I respect your initiative.”
David O’Connell, campaign manager for Republican Patrick Murray, who is running against James Moran, called the video “disgraceful.”
“It’s an embarrassment to the constituents of his district that a sitting congressman would have a staff that would advocate and instruct people on how to commit voter fraud,” O’Connell said.
Voter fraud and vote tampering have come into focus this election. On Tuesday, Moran was one of three Virginia congressmen who asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a probe of alleged voter registration fraud in Virginia and other states.
The request came amid allegations that a Republican Party contract worker tossed eight voter registration forms into the trash behind a business in Rockingham County this month. The worker, Colin Small, was arrested last week and faces 13 counts of voter registration fraud.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) has agreed to a Virginia State Board of Elections request to investigate the worker.
Staff writer Ben Pershing contributed to this report.