A former congressman from Southeast Texas has been accused of conspiring to violate federal election law during his last term in office.
Prosecutors claim former Rep. Steve Stockman illegally funneled money donated to a charity he controlled toward his personal expenses and political campaigns, according to documents filed in federal court in Houston.
He made an initial appearance Thursday before a federal magistrate judge in Houston.
In 2011, Stockman set up a nonprofit called Life Without Limits in Nevada, according to a sworn statement by FBI agent Vanessa Walther. A single, unnamed contributor in Chicago donated $350,000 to the charity for the purpose of renovating a house in Washington, D.C., called the “Freedom House,” which would serve as a meeting place and training facility, according to an affidavit.
Stockman deposited the check into a Life Without Limits account in a Webster bank. Prior to the deposit, the account had a balance of $33.48, according to the affidavit.
“Rather than spending the money on the ‘Freedom House,’ Stockman secretly diverted the funds to pay for a variety of personal expenses and to fund illegal contributions to Stockman’s campaigns for public office,” the affidavit says.
Freedom House was never opened, according to the affidavit.
Stockman then allegedly funneled money back to himself through donations made by his employees, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also says a director for special projects and a special assistant in Stockman’s congressional office were involved in violations of campaign finance rules.
Stockman, a Republican firebrand, served in the U.S. House from 1995 to 1997 and again from 2013 to 2015. He ran in 2014 for U.S. Senate, losing in the GOP primary to incumbent John Cornyn.
He gained national attention for controversial comments. In 2013, for example, he tweeted, “If babies had guns, they wouldn’t be aborted.”
That year he also invited conservative musician Ted Nugent as his guest during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. The address came a couple of months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, when Obama was making a push to expand gun regulation. Stockman and Nugent opposed the Obama administration’s efforts.