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Former Texas congressman accused of diverting charitable donations for personal use
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
HOUSTON (CFP) — Federal prosecutors are blaming former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman and an aide for an ongoing scheme to bilk $1.25 million from charitable foundations and divert it for personal use. But Stockman, in the dock, is blaming the “deep state” for his legal woes.
Stockman, a Republican who served two stints in the House before losing a Senate primary in 2014, is facing charges of mail and wire fraud, money laundering, violating campaign finance laws, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and filing a false tax return with the IRS. The indictment was unsealed March 28.
After his initial court appearance, Stockman proclaimed his innocence and said the “deep state” was trying to exact revenge for his longtime opposition to the IRS as a congressman, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.
“This is part of a deep state that’s continuing to progress,” said Stockman, who was arrested at a Houston airport while trying to board a plane bound for the United Arab Emirates.
“Deep state” refers to a conspiracy theory that holds that unelected bureaucrats secretly run the U.S. government.
The indictment alleges that Stockman and an aide, Jason Posey, solicited donations from charitable foundations that they funneled to a web of non-profit groups they had set up, telling donors the funds would be used for “charitable and educational purposes.” Instead, the money was spent on personal expenses and to further Stockman’s political career, according to the indictment.
In all, $1.25 million in fraudulent donations were solicited between 2010 and 2014, according to the indictment.
Stockman, 60, was elected to Congress from a Houston-area district in 1994, on his third try. After two terms in the House, he left to make an unsuccessful bid for the Texas Railroad Commission in 1998.
He returned to Congress in 2013 but gave up his seat after a single term to make a primary run against Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn.
In that campaign, Stockman tried to make the case that Cornyn, as a member of the Republican Senate leadership, had abandoned his conservative principles. But Cornyn crushed him by 40 points.
According to the indictment, some of the money diverted from the charitable groups was used to help Stockman’s Senate bid.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s weak margin of victory shows other incumbents might be vulnerable
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
The good news for the other four Republican U.S. senators facing Tea Party challenges this year is that Senator John Cornyn won in Texas.
The bad news? Cornyn’s win was hardly impressive.
Facing a primary field that was, to be charitable, less than viable, Cornyn failed to clear 60 percent of the vote. More than four in 10 Texas voters in his own party wanted somebody — anybody — else.
Compare that result with the Republican primary race for governor, where Attorney General Greg Abbott swept almost 92 percent of the vote against three challengers.
Cornyn’s chief Tea Party challenger, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, jumped in at the last minute and ran an erratic campaign. That allowed Cornyn to survive.
But imagine what might have happened if a stronger Tea Party competitor had run. No doubt some Texas conservatives who passed on this race are now kicking themselves over what might have been.
Cornyn was a Tea Party target because he is the minority whip in the Senate. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is also facing a primary challenge from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, who, unlike Stockman, is raising money and has the backing of outside conservative groups.
If the unhappiness with Cornyn seen in Texas is duplicated in Kentucky, McConnell could be in trouble.
Alexander and Graham seem to be holding their own. Cochran, on the other hand, faces State Senator Chris McDaniel, who is also getting a boost from outside conservative groups, which sat on the sidelines in Texas.
And in addition to races with incumbents, the preferred GOP establishment candidates for seats in North Carolina, Louisiana and West Virginia are also battling Tea Party challengers. In Georgia, there’s a free-for-all among five major candidates, at least two of whom are expected to draw from the Tea Party part of the party.
Now that he’s survived the primary, Cornyn is the prohibitive favorite to win the general election. But if Tea Party challengers win in any of the other states where they have a shot, Democrats will be waiting in the wings.
That is causing heartburn in the GOP establishment. Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said as much when he opined recently that a McDaniel win in the Magnolia State could open the door for a Democrat.
Cornyn’s tepid showing in Texas isn’t making that heartburn any better.