As a Newt Gingrich revolutionary in 1995–1996, freshman Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) earned the moniker “Congressman Clueless” from Texas Monthly. The magazine noted that his “harebrained ideas and headline-making gaffes have made him the laughingstock of his own party.” After losing re-election, he returned to Congress in 2013 and proceeded to again provide a non-stop barrage of extremist comments. Still, business PACs showered him with tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.
On Thursday, Stockman was arraigned in federal court on felony charges of conspiring to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable donations for his own personal use. Told by the presiding judge that he would need to have counsel by 2 p.m. on Friday, Stockman observed, “I’ll have to hustle with that.”
“Yeah, you will,” the judge responded. “These are serious charges.”
Stockman’s first term in Congress was notable for his headline-grabbing claim that the federal government “executed” Branch Davidian cult members who actually died after cult leader David Koresh set his compound ablaze rather than surrendering to the FBI. “These men, women and children were burned to death because they owned guns that the government did not wish them to have,” Stockman wrote in Guns and Ammo magazine. He also authored a 1995 bill to force an investigation into whether Alfred Kinsey’s landmark 1948 and 1953 reports on human sexuality “are erroneous, wrongfully obtained by reason of fraud or criminal wrongdoing… or both.”
When he ran again in 2012, he had not moderated at all. He boasted of endorsements from some of the most far-right fringe members of the GOP and the Constitution Party including Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), the Gun Owners of America, Ted Nugent, and Citizens United — but also “mainstream” organizations like the National Rifle Association. The National Federation of Independent Business even spent a few hundred dollars in support of his candidacy.
Once again, his extremism was on immediate display after he was re-elected. He brought Ted Nugent as his guest to the president’s State of the Union address. He mocked climate science as “global wobbling” and “the new fad thing.” He mocked a female colleague’s outfit. He said that people on food stamps are too self-indulgent to buy healthy meals, told a reporter that if he admitted he likes ceramics the public would “think I’m a fag for sure,” and tweeted that the Boston Marathon bomber “though [sic] he could escape in a backyard boat after hearing Gore speak on global warming.” He claimed that Obama was “trying to flood Texas with illegals to make it into a blue state.”
Though he again became a national laughingstock over his second term in the House, that didn’t stop Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, and Phillips 66, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers, the National Association of Realtors, AT&T, Comcast, Bayer, Boeing and Lockeed Martin, Altria, and a host of other corporations from kicking in $1,000 or more in PAC contributions toward what they likely assumed was his re-election.
In December 2013, he unexpectedly opted against seeking re-election and challenged Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in a quixotic and unsuccessful GOP primary.
Since his overwhelming 2014 defeat, Stockman has continued to demonstrate his judgment in full view of the world:
Release your emails bit*h
— Steve Stockman (@SteveWorks4You) September 27, 2016
Now, if convicted, he could face time in federal prison. And the corporate PACs that bankrolled his political career will likely take no responsibility for their role in putting him and many more who share his fringe ideology into public office.