Trump advisor charged in Georgia fake elector scheme worked on McCormick’s U.S. Senate bid

‘The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and Casey will hold McCormick accountable for the company he keeps,’ Democratic campaign consultant Neil Oxman said

By: - August 21, 2023 6:30 am

Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick speaks to supporters at the Indigo Hotel during a primary election night event on May 17, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

In the weeks before and after his loss in the 2022 race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, Dave McCormick’s campaign paid nearly $40,000 to a special assistant and political operative for former President Donald Trump.

Michael Roman, who reported to former White House counsel Don McGahn and served as Trump’s head poll watcher in 2020,  is now accused with Trump and 17 others of a plot to overturn the results of Georgia’s presidential election.

Public records and published reports show Roman is one of five people with ties to McCormick and his 2022 Senate campaign who played roles in the so-called fake elector plan to disrupt the certification of electoral college votes for President Joe Biden on Jan. 6, 2021 by presenting slates of votes for Trump from seven battleground states. 

McCormick’s association with people involved with the scheme has been cast into the light by dual indictments alleging Trump was at the tip of a criminal conspiracy to subvert the will of voters. 

A U.S. Army veteran and former CEO of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, McCormick is widely considered the most likely Republican to challenge U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., next year.

Political strategists have said such ties will be liabilities for McCormick if he decides to run and wins the Republican nomination.

“The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and Casey will hold McCormick accountable for the company he keeps,” Democratic campaign consultant Neil Oxman told The Capital-Star.

While ties to Trump Republicans would likely lend credibility to a GOP primary campaign, McCormick’s path to victory would require him to swing sharply to the middle to win over moderates in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs, Oxman said.

“If he makes it to the general he will be an underdog,” Oxman said “We’re still a purple state. We’re still more in the middle of the road. ”

A spokesperson for McCormick did not respond to a detailed list of questions emailed last week. Efforts to reach Roman through publicly available phone numbers and email were unsuccessful. It is unclear whether Roman has a lawyer in the Georgia case.

Roman is the only person with ties to McCormick who has been criminally charged but four others associated with McCormick were involved in the fake electors scheme. Allegheny County GOP Chairperson Sam DeMarco III is the head of McCormick’s PAC, Pennsylvania Rising, which has raised just over $1 million that McCormick has said will be used to help other Republican candidates.

DeMarco was one of 20 people in December 2020 who signed a certificate casting electoral votes for Trump in the event that election results in favor of Biden were overturned. 

Two other fake electors, Bill Bachenberg and Suk Smith, and the secretary of the electoral college meeting where the Trump votes were cast, Lisa Vranicar-Patton, also received money for their work or support for the McCormick campaign. 

Federal election commission records show Patton received $1,330.70 from McCormick’s PAC in February 2022 for travel expenses. Patton tweeted a photo of herself with McCormick and U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9th District, at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Bachenberg, who was chairperson of the Trump electoral college meeting, hosted an event for McCormick at his business, Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays, a trap shooting range in Coplay, Lehigh County. The business received $1,060 from the campaign for event catering, federal campaign finance records show. 

Smith, who worked for McCormick’s campaign as a regional field director, was paid about $16,200 in wages between March and June 2020.

Roman, 51, grew up in Philadelphia and became involved in local politics in the early 1990s after dropping out of college, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer

He played a key role in a campaign that foreshadowed Trump’s claims of a stolen election when a Republican state Senate candidate successfully sued to have the results of a special election reversed, contending that dozens of absentee ballots were forgeries or invalid.

Roman went on to lead the intelligence-gathering arm of the conservative Koch brothers’ organization Freedom Partners, where he conducted opposition research on Democratic organizers and donors, Politico reported after he joined the Trump White House.

There, Roman held the title of a special assistant to the president and director of special projects and research but his role in the administration was unclear.

It’s also unclear what services Roman provided to the McCormick campaign in exchange for the $38,716 he received between April and June of 2022. At the time, McCormick was in the homestretch of a primary battle against Dr. Mehmet Oz that stretched into June as McCormick unsuccessfully pursued a recount.

In the indictment handed down by a Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury last week, Roman is charged with seven felonies including violations of the state’s Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations law, forgery; and conspiracies to impersonate a public officer, commit forgery, make false statements, and file false documents.

Georgia grand jury indicts Trump, members of his inner circle

The 98-page indictment alleges that Roman helped organize the slates of fake electors in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by gathering and distributing information on the people nominated as Trump electors.

The final report of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol describes Roman as having a “major operational role in the fake elector effort.”

It states that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani designated Roman, who was the Trump campaign’s chief of election day operations, “as the lead for executing the voting” by the fake electors on Dec. 14, 2020.

“With help from his EDO staff, as well as Giuliani’s team and RNC staffers working alongside the campaign as part of the Trump Victory Committee, Roman ran an improvised ‘Electors Whip Operation,” the report reads. 

Among the actions described in the report and in the Fulton County indictment, Roman directed an aide to create a spreadsheet with tabs for each of the seven states listing contact information, whether they had been contacted, whether they agreed to attend the voting meetings and the names of substitutes to replace anyone who backed out.

The group, which Roman referred to as the “Whip Team,” according to the Select Committee’s report, focused on tracking the nominees and coordinating the ceremonies where the electors cast their votes for Trump and signed certificates to send to Congress.

On Dec. 14, 2022, electors in all seven states met and signed certificates. Electors from five states declared themselves to be “the duly elected and qualified electors,” which was false. The certificates signed by electors in Pennsylvania and New Mexico included language stating that they were participating only in the event that they were later recognized as the official electors.

In Pennsylvania, then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro said this hedge kept the fake electors from crossing the line into criminality and his office determined that the certificate did not meet the legal standard for forgery.

The select committee report said the Jan. 6 committee issued a subpoena to Roman and that he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and did not answer any substantive questions about the fake elector scheme.

Roman’s involvement in the fake elector scheme continued until the day before the attack on the Capitol. The report states that although Roman did not cooperate with the investigation, the committee was able to conclude that Roman’s deputy election day operations director G. Michael Brown hand delivered the fake votes to Congress. 

Among the communications the committee reviewed was a group message from Brown to other campaign staff on Jan. 5. It included a photo of Brown with the Capitol in the background. In the text, Brown alluded to a 19th-century controversy over electoral college votes.

“I should probably buy [Mike] [R]oman a tie or something for sending me on this one. Hasn’t been done since 1876 and it was only 3 states that did it,” the message said.


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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.