When Rep. Jim Moran’s, D-Va., son and field director Pat was caught on video discussing the ways a campaign volunteer might commit voter fraud, the coverage focused on his relationship to his father. It makes some sense, given that he is working for his father’s campaign, but the conversation about voter fraud had nothing to do with Moran’s re-election. It was about turning out the vote for President Obama, outside a party office in Northern Virginia.
Here is the list of questions I arrived at as soon as I heard the audio of the video:
1.) Why is the son of a congressman aware of these kinds of dirty tricks?
2.) Why is the son of a congressman talkingabout these kinds of dirty tricks?
3.) Why is the son of a congressmen talking about these kinds of dirty tricks when his father isn’t in any danger of losing reelection?
4.) Why is the son of a congressman talking about these kinds of dirty tricks with a total stranger that is working in his campaign office in Northern Virginia?
5.) Why is he wearing a scarf in warm weather? [Update: I’ve just received word that it was 47 degrees that day. I’m from Connecticut and went to school in upstate New York, so I still think that’s no excuse, but whatever.]
This is an important distinction: Rep. Moran is in no danger of losing his election in his district, comprised primarily of blue Northern Virginia voters. The last time these people went for a Republican was in support of Sen. John Warner, a moderate, in 1996. Otherwise, this is a part of the state that goes entirely blue.
So why was a field director for a safe congressman giving tips on voter fraud to a campaign volunteer? Because Virginia is currently a toss-up in the presidential, and jacking up turnout in Northern Virginia is crucial. Romney’s currently in the lead.
It’s easy to get distracted when a young woman (Lena Dunham) does a video for a campaign in which she compares voting for the president to her “first time,” but both demonstrate a profound lack of judgment on the part of the campaign, and possibly even desperation. What is shocking is not merely that Pat Moran has helpful suggestions to commit voter fraud — it’s the absolutely cavalier way in which he discusses the issue, as though this is a normal conversation to have, and that this information isn’t all that hard to come by. If it were to happen anywhere, Virginia’s the perfect target.
Opponents of voter ID laws cite lack of evidence of voter fraud as reason enough to dismiss proposed solutions. But this conversation is fairly educational: How can you gather evidence of illicit behavior when the harmful activity is so easy to commit?
Weirder still is Moran’s response to the scandal:
“At no point did I take this person seriously,” Moran said. “He struck me as being unstable and joking, and for only that reason did I humor him.”
“For only that reason did I humor him” by helping to sketch out various ways in which he could commit voter fraud in a battleground state, particularly by forging utility bills? You’d think this advice would be coming from a seasoned political operative with decades of campaign experience. No, it’s coming from the son of a congressman, not typically the guy with whom you’d share Binders Full of Dirty Tricks.
Patch.com put a strange spin on the story too, describing Moran’s conversation as being about “skirting new voter identification laws.” The video itself makes it clear that the discussion was less about skirting voter identification laws than it was voting on behalf of people who were unlikely to go out to vote themselves.
The question isn’t whether Pat Moran has sufficiently apologized. It’s who else is having similar discussions.