Politics

06.11.14

Ethics Office Sees Evidence Republican Congressman Broke the Law

Two of Steve Stockman's staffers gave $7,500 to his campaign, in violation of federal campaign-finance regulations. The Office of Congressional Ethics reports there's good reason to believe he was covering it up.

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) is a grifter and a wingnut, but is he possibly a felon too?

A report released by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) Wednesday states that Stockman may have violated federal law by receiving illegal campaign contributions from congressional employees and then that “there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Stockman made false statements and endeavored to impede the OCE inquiry.” The report unanimously recommended that the House Ethics Committee further review the allegations.

When the OCE first reported Stockman was under investigation in April, Donny Ferguson, a spokesman for Stockman previously employed by a shady Montana PAC, claimed that this was merely a reporting error by an accountant. Based on the OCE’s report, this statement was a baldfaced lie. Instead, the report details an elaborate scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws.

The allegations begin with donations of $7,500 apiece from the mother of Thomas Dodd, Stockman’s special assistant, and the father of James Posey, Stockman’s director of special projects. These were both received on February 21, 2013 and represent the maximum possible donations to Stockman for the three elections he contested during the 2012 election cycle. In October, after being questioned by the Sunlight Foundation, Dodd’s mother claimed she had no memory of making the donations. Several days later, Stockman filed an amended campaign finance report saying that the donations had come from Dodd and Posey, not their parents. The problem is donations to a congressman by an employee violate federal campaign finance law. Shortly thereafter, the campaign refunded the donations.

Once the OCE began investigating in November, Stockman filed a third FEC report that changed the date of the donations from February 21 to Feburary 12. While Stockman initially explained that he thought donations were appropriate because the staff members were not employed by him at the time he was running for office, he then changed his story. In January, he said the staff members resigned on February 12 and presented him checks for $7,500 apiece. They were then promptly rehired on February 13. Forms showing that Dodd and Posey resigned and were then rehired were not filed with the Congressional Office of Payroll and Benefits until December, 10 months later. These forms are the only documentation that they quit or were rehired.  Interestingly, while both Dodd and Posey were able to cut checks for $7,500, their donations represented significant portions of their income. Posey made $60,000 a year and Dodd made $50,000.

Furthermore, throughout the course of the investigation, no one in Stockman’s office cooperated. While Stockman gave two responses and Posey gave one, neither agreed to be interviewed.  They received no response from Dodd and a number of other witnesses.

In its recommendations, not only did the OCE request that Stockman be subpoenaed, it also found substantial reason to believe that Stockman conspired to accept illegal contributions; that he made false statements and endeavored to impede the OCE inquiry; that having been aware of the illegal nature of the contributions failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that they were properly reported.

It’s unclear how vigorously the Ethics Committee will investigate Stockman. After all, the Texas congressman lost his bizarre longshot bid to unseat Sen. John Cornyn in March and will not be returning to Congress next year. However, the raft of potential violations uncovered by the OCE show that while the House Ethics Committee may not take action, there’s plenty of opportunity for federal prosecutors to go after Stockman.

Stockman’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.