Former Rep. Steve Stockman is unfairly serving a 10-year prison term for supposedly misusing nonprofit funds. The popular Texas conservative was convicted due to an improper trial against him, with prosecutors presenting incorrect information to the jury and getting the judge to agree to prohibit him from producing helpful evidence. They claimed he misused funds from two nonprofits he worked with – but the money went for voter education and youth training, as promised.
This is not fraud but a drive-by political hit by Andrew Weismann, chief of the criminal fraud section of the U.S. Justice Department, and Andrew McCabe, formerly of the FBI. This corrupt cabal went after President Obama's and Hillary Clinton's political opponents – standard operating process for the DOJ. What the prosecution won't tell you is that Stockman signed on to impeach their boss at the time, Attorney General Eric Holder, and called for the arrest of Lois Lerner of the IRS. So the cabal would stop at nothing to indict Stockman. It was an indictment looking for a crime. This is why it took four years, probably millions of dollars and four grand juries to get one.
Stockman appealed the decision earlier this year, and prosecutors responded. They said the nonprofit he worked with to provide voter education did not provide actual education. But they admit Stockman both wrote a book and published a newspaper with voter information. So prosecutors created a new definition and requirement – that because the book was not also mailed out, it didn't constitute voter education. They stretched the bounds of the interpretation of fraud. The donor who contributed the money for the book, Stanley Rothschild, knew he did not include enough money for postage;, he was not defrauded. The prosecution tries to portray Rothschild as an elderly naive donor, but he was an active successful investor in many conservative causes and well aware of his actions. He became sick two years after the donation and passed away, but he was of sound mind when he made the donation. The prosecutors act like they know better than the donor on how the donor should have spent his money.
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Stockman wrote in his reply brief, "Under the standard proffered by the Government, anyone who raises seed money for a non-profit project but cannot raise the entire budget is in danger of finding themselves accused of several federal felonies."
Also, bizarrely, the prosecution claimed that Stockman shouldn't have been paid for his work on the book. The prosecution used Stockman's personal credit card expenses as evidence that he abused Rothschild. This is another new, made-up standard – that authors should not be paid, and if they are, they should not spend it for personal use.
The prosecution frequently refers to the two nonprofits at issue as "sham nonprofits." This is meant to wrongly taint the nonprofits. In reality, the nonprofits were in good standing with the IRS and active at the time of the trial.
Powerful conservatives associated with nonprofits nationwide were so alarmed by what happened to Stockman that 27 of them filed an amicus curiae brief in his appeal. After seeing the prosecution's response, they have also submitted to the court a reply brief and requested that the court accept it. They called out the prosecution for falsely claiming that Stockman illegally coordinated communications between a nonprofit and his campaign. The prosecution relied upon a court opinion that prohibits "electioneering communications" within 30 to 60 days of an election. But electioneering communications are defined as broadcast TV ads, not the printed voter education materials at issue in Stockman's case. As long as the voter education mailer sent out in the election in which Stockman was running did not include "express advocacy" words, like "vote for" or "support," it didn't violate campaign finance law as established by numerous legal precedents.
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The amicus curiae also challenged a motion by the prosecution, which the court had granted, prohibiting Stockman from mentioning Lois Lerner at trial. If Stockman had been able to show the IRS' "scandalous, unlawful targeting of outspoken, politically active conservatives like him – that could have provided the reasonable doubt for the jury to acquit."
The amicus curiae's reply characterizes this as a case where "the Government misused innocent acts of Appellant and his colleagues to spin fantastical tales of guilt that confused and misled the jury." If allowed to stand, this sets a terrifying precedent, that the courts will not uphold Americans' First Amendment right to criticize public officials. It also puts nonprofits in grave danger of malicious prosecution – if the prosecution gets to define what constitutes legally permissible activities by a nonprofit, they could sink anyone by claiming a higher standard than required by law.