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Stockman campaign flouts the Federal Election Commission

by and
Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas
Steve Stockman. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

(Updated 5:20 p.m. 1/7/2014 with comment from Stockman spokesman, table updated 1/13/14)

Obama barf bags? Guns lubricated with liberal tears? While Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, has solidified his reputation as a political provocateur time and again with his incendiary campaign rhetoric, the hardline conservative has proven that he's just as willing to buck federal campaign finance disclosure rules as he is his political opponents.

A Sunlight Foundation analysis of 2012 and 2013 campaign filings from the Texas Republican — who has recently shifted his sights to John Cornyn's Senate seat — finds that his committee has had longstanding difficulties accurately accounting for all of the contributions it has received. We found at least $16,000 in contributions that political action committees reported giving to Stockman during the past two years but that his campaign didn't report getting. It's just the most recent snafu for a committee that has faced a litany of questions over its finances.

The Federal Election Commission — and the Code of Federal Regulations — require that "the treasurer [of a campaign committee] must make sure that the committee receipts are deposited in the designated campaign depository ... within 10 days of receipt." But examining the disbursement records of political action committees, Sunlight found instances of reported contributions to the Friends of Steve Stockman campaign that the Stockman committee has failed to report for months. That's in addition to contributions that Stockman never reported at all. We ignored any contributions received after Sept. 1 — a month before the end of the last reporting period.

See the unaccounted for contributions below (table updated to include contributions from the political committees of the American Chiropractic Association and the Comcast corporation):

In other cases, Stockman's congressional campaign reported the receipt of a donation weeks after the contributor claimed to have given. A $300 dollar contribution from the American Principles Project given on June 20 of this year was listed as being received on July 22 by the Stockman campaign.

Citizens United Political Victory Fund reported giving Stockman two separate contributions of $5,000 on Mar. 22 and Mar. 25 of 2013. Stockman's PAC only reported receiving one contribution of $5,000 — and gave the date as June 28.

Sunlight made numerous attempts to contact Stockman about the discrepancies, through his congressional office as well as through his House and Senate campaigns. So far, we have received no response.

Update: Donny Ferguson, Stockman's Communications Director, responded to Sunlight following publication of our story. He denied the campaign having received all but one of the contributions: "As far as I know those checks were never received by the treasurer and deposited." He acknowledged the receipt of the $1,000 contribution from the Republican Party of Washington State, which "was deposited 12 months later and should be on that report." Ferguson appears to be referring to the committee's fourth quarter report, which is not due at the Federal Election Commission until Jan. 31. The Friends of Congressman Steve Stockman committee, like most congressional committees, has not yet filed.

But one group behind an AWOL contribution insists it wrote a check to Stockman's campaign: Ben Fishel, media relations manager of the Credit Union National Association, confirmed in an e-mail to Sunlight that his organization made a $1,000 contribution to the Stockman committee in July. A representative from the political action committees of Comcast/NBCUniversal could not be immediately reached for comment, while a spokesman for the NADA's Dealers Election Action Committee would not comment on the organization's political contributions.

The treasurer for Stockman's House campaign committee, Jason Posey, also served on Stockman's congressional staff until November, when he was fired along with Thomas Dodd after Sunlight found they had made improper contributions to their boss' campaign in family members' names.

Stockman's congressional committee still has more than $150,000 in debts and loans left over from the candidate's successful 2012 bid. However, his debt retirement efforts have not been helped by revelations of potentially illegal campaign contributions from his staffers and lingering questions about the sources of his personal finances.

The discovery of these tardy or missing disclosures of campaign receipts comes just days after the FEC sent a public "Request for Additional Information" to the Friends of Steve Stockman requesting an explanation for two potentially excessive contributions, which the Houston Chronicle reports were given by Indian casino rights activists in response to the congressman's support of an East Texas tribe's efforts to acquire gaming rights. His tangles with the nation's campaign finance watchdog haven't ended there.

In his fledgling Senate campaign, the controversial House member is again bucking the FEC with his fundraising tactics. Stockman has announced he will accept donations to his campaign in bitcoins, a practice which the FEC so far has refused to OK. In a much-publicized ruling on the matter, the commission deadlocked about whether to approve use of the Internet currency. Democratic members worried its anonymous nature could spell trouble for disclosure efforts.

All the financial difficulties suggest that Stockman's campaign will be singled out for an audit by the FEC, Brett Kappel, a campaign finance law expert with Arent Fox, told the Chronicle. They also seem ironic given the credentials of the candidate. Stockman's college degree, according to the official bio on his congressional website? A B.S. in accounting.