Accused of election fraud, bribing an election official, and obstruction, a former Pennsylvania congressman was recently indicted on federal charges. The former legislator had been expelled from the House of Representatives after undercover FBI agents recorded him accepting a bribe in exchange for political favors.
Serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1976 to 1980, Michael “Ozzie” Myers was removed from office after becoming a target in the Abscam sting investigation. In 1979, Myers accepted a $15,000 bribe from undercover FBI agents claiming to seek political asylum for foreign nationals. Expelled from Congress in 1980, Myers served more than a year in federal prison before his release in 1985.
Working as a political consultant, Myers allegedly conspired with and bribed the former Judge of Elections for the 39th Ward, 36th Division, Domenick Demuro, in order to rig the elections for his clients and other candidates for various federal, state, and local elective offices that Myers favored for a variety of reasons. During primary elections in 2014, 2015, and 2016, Demuro added fraudulent ballots supporting Myers’ candidates in exchange for cash bribes and other gifts.
In May, Demuro pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive persons of civil rights and using interstate facilities in aid of bribery. During his guilty plea hearing, Demuro further admitted that a local political consultant gave him directions and paid him money to add votes for candidates supported by the consultant, including candidates for judicial office whose campaigns actually hired the consultant.
On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that Myers has been charged in an 8-count indictment on federal charges, including conspiring to violate voting rights by fraudulently stuffing the ballot boxes for specific candidates in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 primary elections, bribery of an election official, falsification of records, voting more than once in federal elections, and obstruction of justice. Myers is also accused of directing Demuro to lie about the circumstances of the bribes and the ballot-stuffing scheme to investigators.
“Free and fair elections are the hallmark of our system of government,” stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in a recent press release. “The Department of Justice has zero tolerance for corruption of the electoral process, and we will spare no effort in investigating and prosecuting those who would seek an unfair advantage at the polls by bribing state and local officials responsible for ensuring the fairness of our elections.”
“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. If only one vote has been illegally rung up or fraudulently stuffed into a ballot box, the integrity of that entire election is undermined,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Votes are not things to be purchased and democracy is not for sale. If you are a political consultant, election official, or work with the polling places in any way, I urge you to do your job honestly and faithfully. That is what the public deserves, it is what democracy demands, and it is what my office will enforce.”
“Transparent and fair elections are integral to the proper functioning of our democracy,” noted Special Agent in Charge Michael Driscoll of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Those who seek to corrupt the vote threaten the public’s trust in the process and must be brought to justice.”
Demuro is currently scheduled to be sentenced in September and faces up to 15 years in federal prison for accepting bribes from Myers and stuffing ballot boxes with fraudulent votes.