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Steve Stockman may leave Congress but his stench will linger

Steve Stockman, ladies and gentlemen.

Steve Stockman doing his best Joe Cocker impersonation

When Rep. Steve Stockman won a long-shot bid in 2012 to return to the House of Representatives, he credited a dream team of tech-savvy volunteers who worked long hours and slept on the floor of a cluttered Webster motorcycle-repair shop that was eventually shut down for building-code violations.

At the end of his two-year term, Stockman is retiring from Congress in the midst of a different kind of mess. He and three of his congressional staffers have been served with subpoenas from a federal grand jury conducting a criminal inquiry.

Stockman also is the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation, although the committee will lose jurisdiction over him when he leaves Congress at year’s end.

Earlier this year, the Office of Congressional Ethics, a separate investigative body, had questioned whether Stockman conspired with two other staffers to accept contributions from them in violation of federal law and House rules.

The Federal Election Commission has repeatedly threatened to audit Stockman for more than a dozen irregularities in his campaign accounting. It could investigate, take civil action or issue fines even after Stockman leaves Congress, campaign finance experts said.

Stockman and his spokesman, Donny Ferguson, did not comment. Nor has the congressman ever explained the source of $350,000 he reported earning in a congressional financial disclosure in 2013 – filed a full year late.

The subject of the grand jury inquiry is not public information.

But there’s enough in the public record to interest federal prosecutors, who could use the power of subpoenas and of a grand jury to dig deeper, said Peter Zeidenberg, a partner in the law firm Arent Fox and a former U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor.

“I think it would justify a major investigation, and I can see definitely why it would interest a prosecutor to ask questions. … It depends on what the answers are before you can decide whether it would justify a real case,” Zeidenberg said.

See here, here, and here for the background. I have to hand it to the guy, I wasn’t sure if 20 years after his first performance art piece in Congress he’d be able to distinguish himself in a body filled with Louie Gohmerts and Michele Bachmanns, but he exceeded my expectations. After all this time I still can’t tell if he’s just the natural evolution of the wingnut id, or if he’s a grifter operating at a higher level than any of us suspect. I do hope we get that audit and some further investigation out of this, if only to help me decide which one.

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