In debt and under fire, Stockman eyes Senate race

Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, eyes the Senate race.
Photo credit: Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, had more than $160,000 in campaign debt and just $32,000 in his war chest as of his most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission but that hasn’t stopped the conservative firebrand from aspiring to higher office.

Monday’s last-minute decision by Stockman to enter the Senate race came as a surprise not only because it pits him against fellow Republican (and No. 2 Republican Senate leader) John Cornyn — a proven money raiser — in next year’s Texas Senate primary but because it comes in the midst of unanswered questions about the congressman’s personal and political finances.

As first reported by Sunlight, family members of two of Stockman’s congressional staffers — who also worked for his campaign — were listed as contributors to his campaign. One of the named contributors denied making the donation. Subsequently, Stockman amended his filing to list the staffers — one of whom, Jason Posey, was also Stockman’s longtime business partner and campaign treasurer — as the donors. When Sunlight pointed out that it is illegal for congressional staffers to give to their boss’ campaigns, Stockman refunded the contributions.

Stockman released a statement saying that both staffers were fired after he learned of the improper contributions, but it is unclear whether Posey is still on the campaign payroll. Campaign filings received by the Federal Election Committee on Nov. 20 still bore his signature, though it was dated Sept. 30.

No hasty leap into a Senate race would be complete without a campaign Twitter account; Stockman’s old campaign account, “@ReElectStockman,” is now “@StockmanSenate.”

Sunlight’s Politwoops project that tracks deletions from politicians also captures such Twitter handle changes and we’ve already got his account in the system. Stockman’s Politwoops archive is replete with deletions such as “Suspect thought he could escape in backyard boat after hearing Gore speak on global warming” and “Chavez nationalized oil companies, censored opposition media and banned guns. Democrats lost a true believer.”

The Texan’s new Twitter account for his Senate campaign points users to “yell @DonnyFerguson,” the congressman’s senior communications adviser and another Stockman staffer who pulled double duty on both the campaign and congressional payrolls. But Ferguson has been less than welcoming to reporters and did not respond to repeated requests for comment from Sunlight.

Stockman and his staff have been uncharacteristically tight-lipped with the press concerning his incomplete personal finance disclosure, which the Houston Chronicle noted still leaves questions as to the source of his claimed $315,000 in personal income.

Revelations of improper contributions were the first in a bizarre series of events concerning the congressman’s campaign committee.

The Chronicle reported that the Webster, Texas fire marshal had condemned a building in which members of Stockman’s campaign committee were apparently living and working. The structure was formerly used as a motorcycle shop and is owned by a friend of the congressman. More recently, the paper found that Stockman had failed to adequately account for his claimed assets and past business ventures in disclosures made to the House Clerk’s Office.

Meanwhile, Stockman’s spokesman has also run into legal controversy. Ferguson previously headed the Western Tradition Partnership, a 501(c)4 nonprofit group that published newspaper-like campaign materials, and faced allegations of improperly coordinating with political campaigns. Last December, a federal grand jury in Montana subpoenaed documents from the group, ProPublica and Frontline reported.

Stockman has a serious financial hole to get out of if the campaign intends to mount a threat to Cornyn. As of its most recent filing at the FEC, the campaign’s more than $160,000 in debts and obligations included nearly $70,000 in back pay to campaign staff and more than $90,000 in loans from the candidate himself.