Former Republican Rep. Steve Stockman is fighting back against the Swamp. He was targeted by powerful Democrats and wrongly convicted of misusing nonprofit funds. Corrupt, left-leaning prosecutors in the Department of Justice went after him because he called for the arrest of the IRS’ Lois Lerner, was the first to expose Obama’s ransom payment for Bowe Bergdahl and aggressively rooted out corruption under both Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s presidencies. He made the Drudge Report during his most recent term in office more than any other House member.
The reality is, Stockman complied with very complex, technical laws – but prosecutors chose to interpret those laws differently to confuse the jury. Now, Stockman is fighting back from prison, where he is serving a 10-year sentence. His attorneys filed an appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last week.
What happened was Stockman solicited funds for nonprofits with which he was affiliated in order to set up a conservative youth political training program. One of the nonprofits put out a mailer explaining the differences in positions between himself and his opponent while he was running for U.S. Senate in Texas.
Prosecutors claimed the mailer constituted “express advocacy” and so violated campaign finance law since it was put out by a nonprofit. But the mailer never said vote for Stockman. It merely laid out, educationally, the differences between the two candidates. The well-known 1976 campaign case Buckley v. Valeo states that express advocacy must contain words like “vote for,” “elect,” “support,” “vote against,” etc. The mailer contained none of those words.
The prosecution cleverly referred to Stockman’s nonprofits as “sham nonprofits” to taint the jury. They didn’t bother telling the jury that nonprofits could send out educational mailers. The IRS states about nonprofits, “Certain ‘voter education’ activities conducted in a non-partisan manner may not constitute prohibited political activity under section 501(c)(3) of the Code.”
The prosecution also said Stockman was guilty of “materially misrepresenting” what he was soliciting funds for. But they never identified any material misrepresentations. So there was no fraud. The donors knew what their money was going for. Unfortunately for Stockman, one of the two donors in question died before the trial started so he could not be questioned. The prosecution used that to their advantage.
Prosecutors also threw in the vague counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Those are commonly alleged when prosecutors don’t have a good case against someone and need to throw in some catchalls. They merely mean that someone used the mail or telephone/internet while they were committing a crime, and money transferred places while a crime was being committed. The problem with those counts is Stockman did not commit any crimes, so those counts are meaningless.
Prosecutors confused the jury by giving them incorrect jury instructions. They gave them the impression that any activity that could be considered “political” in nature was illegal. They also made it appear that any money spent by a nonprofit that benefited an individual was illegal. They tricked the jury.
Stockman was also convicted of filing a false tax return. But similar to campaign finance filings, usually there is an opportunity for the filer to amend it; the government doesn’t go into full prosecution mode. Stockman failed to report as income money given to his nonprofit for the youth education center. But he wasn’t receiving any income. It certainly doesn’t fit the definition of income, and he had no reason to think it was required to be included, so his actions weren’t willful and consequently didn’t fit the definition of filing a false tax return.
This comes down to the First Amendment. Congressman Stockman had a free speech right to raise and spend money for nonprofit organizations and political campaigns. Campaign finance and related laws were distorted and used against him to destroy his career and stop him. If corrupt DOJ prosecutors can get away with taking him down, who’s next? There are plenty of conservative activist members of Congress. This can now happen to any of them if it’s not corrected.
Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump need to thoroughly clean out the DOJ from top to bottom. Hopefully, the appeals court will see through this witch hunt, reverse the conviction and punish the prosecutors. Maybe if some prosecutors go to jail this kind of abuse will finally stop.