Former Texas Congressman Steve Stockman was convicted of financial crimes and sent to prison, so the case is all wrapped up, right?
A new friend-of-the-court brief, filed with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where his conviction is being challenged, explains that using the precedents the government set during its prosecution of Stockman will make it easy to attack people if they are engaged in “ideological, political, or even religious education, discourse, advocacy, and missions.”
But what about the First Amendment speech protections?
That appears not to be of consequence to prosecutors of Stockman, contends the brief.
“The government’s position would not only severely impede the First Amendment rights of tax-exempt organizations to educate the public and promote their missions, it would smother and extinguish many organizations,” the brief says.
Stockman, whose defenders claim he was targeted because he promised to go after the “Deep State” when he was elected to represent the 36th congressional district just east of Houston, is appealing his conviction and sentence.
His conviction was for misusing funds donated to non-profits he worked with. The counts primarily related to how checks from two donors totaling about $950,000 were used.
The new brief, prepared by American Target Advertising, was joined by former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, L. Brent Bozell III of the Media Research Center, Floyd Brown of American Fight Back, former U.S. Office of Personnel Management chief Donald Devine, historian William Federer, Dolin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots Action, Colby May of the American Center for Law & Justice, U.S. Rep. Bob McEwen, R-Ohio, Rick Scarborough of Rick Scarborough Ministries and Richard Viguerie of American Target Advertising.
He was prosecuted by the Justice Department after the scandal erupted at the IRS regarding the agency’s targeting of Christian and conservative organizations when Barack Obama was being re-elected.
In settlement agreements with tea party groups, the IRS admitted “its treatment of the organizations was ‘wrong.'” But IRS executive Lois Lerner refused to cooperate and Stockman filed a bill to arrest her.
An FBI official testified during the trial that the investigation into Stockman was begun the same time he filed the bill to arrest Lerner.
Stockman’s record was one of a conservative warrior. He investigated the misdeeds of the Whitewater Development Corp., opposed Hillarycare in the ’90s, stood against the Mexican bailout, pursued the impeachment of Eric Holder, blocked immigration and gun bills the left demanded, called for the arrest of Lerner, worked to eliminate automatic citizenship for “anchor babies,” attacked the systematic sexual abuse of children in schools, pushed to sanction China for its abortion agenda, coordinated demands for a special investigation into Benghazi and much more.
At Stockman’s conviction, supporters cited a similar case against former conservative Texas congressman Tom DeLay, whose conviction and prison sentence for election law conspiracy later was thrown out because an appeals court because of a lack of evidence.
The new brief explains to the court that fundraising for both nonprofits and for political committees is protected by the First Amendment.
“Stockman’s conviction based on fundraising communications involving his associates cascaded into charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and failures to report or file informational and tax returns with the government,” the brief states. “The predicate act of fundraising in fact cascaded into a sentence of 120 months in jail.
“To reach a conviction and this draconian sentence for the outspoken former Congressman Stockman, the government confused the law governing nonprofit fundraising and campaign finance, and presented its case in a manner that confused the jury.”
Further, the jury instructions from the government “were wrong as a matter of law,” and using those standards in future cases “may make them and others engaged in ideological, political, or even religious education, discourse, advocacy, and missions easier marks for, and vulnerable to, selective, discriminatory, or politically motivated investigations and prosecutions.”
The checks totaling about $950,000, on which the case was based, “were raised legally and without fraud,” the brief charges.
“The cascading charges therefore must fall.”
It points out that the issue involves complex laws, and “the government’s case relied on that complexity to confuse the jury.”
The only donor who testified at trial confirmed that the government “confused the standard of what constitutes fraud in the solicitation of donations for tax-exempt causes, confused the law applicable … and misstated the law governing ‘express advocacy.'”
“The government may not take the position, whether for the alleged ‘independent expenditure’ or other projects at issue in the Stockman case, that everyday flexibility of how nonprofits spend their money on projects, everyday logistics of direct mail, or even common failures in nonprofit projects, are the equivalent of ‘intentionally misleading statements designed to deceive the listener.'”
It continues: “Under the theory of fraud used by the government, few if any charitable endeavors – particularly start-ups – could proceed. They would need to put donations in a lockbox while not being able to use those donations for administrative overhead (including even regulatory compliance costs), the costs of conducting more fundraising, or costs of promoting and marketing their missions in ways to educate the public about causes, which has innate benefits and attracts more donations,” the groups argued.
“The government’s position would not only severely impede the First Amendment rights of tax-exempt organizations to education the public and promote their missions, it would smother and extinguish many organizations.”
The bottom line is that the government “unlawfully treated lawful fundraising as predicate acts for other criminal charges. Stockman’s conviction should be reversed,” it says.
Commentator Rachel Alexander noted Stockman’s appeal to the 5th Circuit.
“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.”
She said Stockman complied with very complex, technical laws, but the case against him developed because “prosecutors chose to interpret those laws differently to confuse the jury.”
The conflict came when Stockman solicited funds for nonprofits with which he was affiliated in order to set up a conservative youth political training program.
Then 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,” she wrote.
And that’s legal.
Essentially, she said, the government “tricked” the jury.
She urged the president to clean house at the DOJ.
“Maybe if some prosecutors go to jail this kind of abuse will finally stop.”