HOUSTON (CN) — Federal prosecutors piled on the evidence Wednesday in the corruption case against former Texas Congressman Steve Stockman, whose defense team claimed that a conservative donor he’s accused of ripping off also violated campaign finance rules.
Stockman, 61, sat with a somber expression at the defense table Wednesday, the seventh day of his trial in the Houston federal courthouse, intermittently taking notes and resting his chin on his hand.
In a 28-count superseding indictment, a federal grand jury charged Stockman in March 2017 with mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, money laundering and filing a false tax return.
The government claims he fraudulently solicited $1.2 million in charitable donations and diverted it to pay his own and two congressional staffers’ personal expenses and to finance his campaigns.
Stockman pointedly avoided looking up at the numerous emails, letters and checks that prosecutors projected on a screen Wednesday as they questioned a witness who told how Stockman and his aide got her former boss, the late Stanford Z. Rothschild Jr., to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to Stockman’s charitable organizations, which the government claims were shell entities for his scam.
Stockman, a Republican, represented Texas’ 9th Congressional District, which at the time included Galveston, parts of Houston and Beaumont, from 1995 to 1997. From 2013 to 2015, he represented the state’s 36th Congressional District, which stretches from East Houston northeast to the Louisiana border.
Rothschild, a Baltimore money manager, philanthropist and supporter of Republican politicians, died in February 2017 at 91.
Jean Dellman, Rothschild’s secretary from June 2005 to July 2017, testified Wednesday that Stockman and his aide, Thomas Dodd, repeatedly solicited Rothschild from 2010 to 2012 and persuaded him to donate $450,000 from his own charities, the bulk of which went to Stockman’s tax-exempt charity The Ross Center. Stockman incorporated the nonprofit as a drug-treatment center.
Under federal law, political campaigns cannot receive money from charities.
Dellman said she always made sure the entities to which Rothschild donated were in fact tax-exempt charities by asking for documentation from them, and that Dodd sent her a form showing The Ross Center is a charitable foundation.
Dellman, her voice wavering in flashes of apparent grief as she recalled working with Rothschild, said that after Rothschild started cutting checks from his charities to The Ross Center in 2010, Dodd asked her if Rothschild had given her a list.
She said Rothschild had a list of members of Congress whom he wanted his donations to The Ross Center to support. “These are people that he liked,” Dellman said.
She said Rothschild wanted to help the politicians on his list by getting voter education material to people “who may be supporters of their policies and philosophies” and she sent Dodd the list in 2010.
Federal prosecutor Robert Heberle walked Dellman through numerous emails she exchanged with Dodd and Stockman, which the government displayed for the jury and six people in the gallery.