(CN) – A former lawmaker from southeast Texas is accused of diverting charitable funds to his campaigns for public office and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission in an attempt to hide the sources of the cash.
Former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman was arrested Wednesday while boarding a plane at Bush Intercontinental Airport on his way to the United Arab Emirates, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Republican politician was released on a $25,000 unsecured appearance bond Thursday. The charge of conspiracy to violate federal election laws was unsealed Friday.
In 2013, Stockman solicited a $350,000 donation for the purpose of renovating a house in Washington, D.C., called the Freedom House, which was supposed to serve as a meeting place and training facility, according to an affidavit by FBI special agent Vanessa Walther.
Stockman deposited the check at a bank in Webster, Texas, into an account of a charitable foundation called Life Without Limits, which he set up in 2011, according to the affidavit filed in Houston federal court.
Rather than using the funds to build the Freedom House, Stockman “secretly diverted the funds to pay for a variety of personal expenses and to fund illegal contributions to [his] campaigns for public office,” the affidavit states.
The Freedom House was never opened. Stockman allegedly funneled funds for the project to his campaign through donations made by his employees.
A director of special projects and a special assistant in Stockman’s congressional office were involved in the campaign finance violations, according to the affidavit.
Stockman, who served in the U.S. House twice and unsuccessfully ran against John Cornyn for the incumbent’s Senate seat in 2014, told the Chronicle after a court hearing Thursday that he had been arrested on trumped-up charges in retaliation for speaking out against the IRS.
He blamed his arrest on a conspiracy theory that contends bureaucrats are secretly manipulating and controlling the U.S. government.
“This is part of a deep state that’s continuing to progress,” Stockman said.
Stockman wanted to have Lois Lerner, the former director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division, arrested for contempt of Congress in July 2014 after she refused to answer questions at a House committee hearing about allegations that her agency targeted the Tea Party and other conservative groups.
He told the Chronicle that he has since been targeted, and has been investigated by at least three grand juries.
During his time in office, Stockman garnered national attention after accusing the Clinton administration of staging the Branch Davidian raid in Waco in order to justify a ban on assault weapons. In 2013, he invited Ted Nugent to attend then-President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.