Steve Stockman, who improbably made it to Congress for two single terms 18 years apart, was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison and ordered to repay more than $1 million taken in what federal prosecutors called a “white-collar crime spree.”
Stockman, 61, a born-again Christian and former drifter who last represented suburban Houston in Congress in 2013-15, was indicted in 2017 for using charitable contributions to fund not only his political campaigns but for hot air balloon and dolphin-watching excursions and household expenses, The Texas Monitor reported at the time.
A federal jury in Houston convicted Stockman in April on 23 of 24 felony counts connected to his illegal campaign fund spending, including fraud, money laundering, falsifying a tax return and several election law violations.
“You stole money and used it for personal gain and you used it to violate the public trust,” Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal told Stockman before sentencing, according to the Houston Chronicle. “You cheated the American taxpayer.”
At the sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Heberle said, “Mr. Stockman demonstrated that he was not somebody who felt himself bound by the law or by the rules. He lied over and over and over again to people who were in charge of charitable foundations to get money that could have gone to legitimate charitable causes,” according to the Chronicle.
Two aides, Jason Posey and Thomas Dodd, are scheduled to be sentenced in connection with the case on Dec. 12. In his testimony, Posey had described his actions in facilitating Stockman’s crimes as “just doing what I’m told.”
During Stockman’s trial, prosecutors established that the former congressman had filed campaign reports claiming that some large donations had come from Posey and Dodd, then later changed the reports to say the donors were the aides’ parents.
Stockman established dummy nonprofits to launder the donations, which he deposited in bank accounts set up specifically for the funds. The government watchdog group the Sunlight Foundation and the Chronicle unraveled the spending, which led to a federal investigation and Stockman’s arrest.
Conservative voters in East Texas’ Ninth District elected Stockman in an upset of Jack Brooks, a Democrat who had served in Congress for 42 years.
A liberal watchdog group at the time described the pugnacious Stockman as “anti-consumer, anti-education, anti-environment, anti-gay, anti-law enforcement, anti-seniors politician who’s hypocritical on congressional reform, hostile to poor and middle-class families, and a supporter of Internet censorship.”
Texas Monthly called him “Congressman Clueless.”
He lost his first re-election bid then ran for Texas Railroad Commission in 1998 and lost there as well. In 2006 he failed to get his name on the ballot in another bid for Congress.
But when redistricting changed the political makeup of East Texas’ District 36, Stockman took out stranded Democratic U.S. Rep. Max Martin.
Just a year into the term he gave up the seat to offer himself as a more conservative alternative to incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. Much of Washington couldn’t understand the decision.
At his sentencing, Stockman said nothing in his defense. As a U.S. marshal led him out of court in chains, Stockman blew a kiss to his wife, Patti, who told reporters afterward she believed her husband’s conviction was motivated by politics.
“My husband,” she said, “was a very vocal whistleblower about the corruption of the Obama administration.”