Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Moran responded Thursday night to his son's sudden departure from his campaign, saying Patrick Moran is learning a "tough lesson" after being caught on video by a conservative activist.
Patrick Moran has been at the center of a political storm since a video surfaced Wednesday from conservative activist James O'Keefe in which an unseen cameraman repeatedly asks for advice on how to vote for 100 inactive voters, whose names and addresses he had claimed to have obtained.
After telling the man his energy would be better utilized in more traditional, legitimate get-out-the-vote efforts, the younger Moran informs the cameraman that he would need to forge documents to get past new voter identification laws.
Though O'Keefe's methods and productions have been called into question in the past, the video was enough to force Patrick Moran to resign from his father's reelection campaign and spark a criminal investigation by the Arlington County Police Department.
Jim Moran — who faces Republican Patrick Murray, independent Jason Howell and Independent Green Janet Murphy on Nov. 6 — said Thursday night in a statement that his son made "a serious error in judgment."
“I don’t condone the actions of the right wing organization in question, but I recognize that this incident is teaching Patrick a tough lesson early in life. I know that my son's intention was to deflect the line of questioning by this trained political operative bent on goading him into a specific response," Jim Moran stated.
"But the fact remains that the conversation drifted into discussions that reflected a serious error in judgment that Patrick wishes he could take back."
He continued: “In life, if we learn from our mistakes, we move forward stronger, wiser, and committed to ensuring they are not repeated. I know Patrick will come out of this tough situation a better man for it.”
Republicans have pounced on the 11-term congressman over the issue. Arlington County Republican Committee Chairman Charles Hokanson is among those to call on Moran to resign.
Further, the Arlington County Police Department and the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office for Arlington and Falls Church announced a criminal investigation had begun Thursday after being made aware of O'Keefe's video.
Police Capt. Michelle Nuneville told Patch after a community forum Thursday night that the department's digital forensics unit would be examining the video. The department's financial crimes unit, four detectives often assigned to identity theft or credit card theft cases, will also be working on it, she said.
"We have to break it down and find out what we have," Nuneville said. "Do we have a crime?"
The elder Moran said in a statement that his campaign would cooperate with investigators.
"Our campaign welcomes a thorough investigation and we will fully cooperate," Moran stated in an email. "The incident involving Patrick was an unfortunate situation. While clearly lacking good judgment, Patrick's unsolicited interaction with a right wing political operative seeking to trap him in a damaging conversation did not constitute an unlawful action. We are confident this unwelcome chapter in the campaign will be quickly and favorably closed."
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli visited Old Town Alexandria on Thursday to talk about his support of the eminent domain question that will be on the ballot in November.
Cuccinelli would not answer questions about the Moran matter — or anything not related to property rights.
The Attorney General's Office has, at the request of the State Board of Elections, begun investigating an incident in the Shenandoah Valley in which a 31-year-old man working under contract for the state Republican Party allegedly threw away a stack of voter registration forms.
Jim Moran and Reps. Bobby Scott and Gerry Connolly called for the Justice Department to investigate that matter earlier this week.
In the days between, Cuccinelli said he lacked the authority to investigate election matters unless asked to do so by the State Board of Elections, a local commonwealth's attorney or a local electoral board member.