Stockman ditching troubled campaign committee

Congressman forms new fundraising entity to battle Cornyn in U.S. Senate primary

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Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, is ditching his existing — and troubled — campaign committee as he wages a long-shot bid to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in a Republican primary.

Federal records show Stockman on Dec. 30 registered a new committee, Steve Stockman for Senate, naming conservative lawyer Dan Backer its treasurer. 

Stockman's other campaign committee, the still-operational Friends of Congressman Steve Stockman, is mired in $163,000 worth of debt, federal records show.

Furthermore, the old committee has amended its federal campaign finance disclosures 35 times since 2012 to correct various errors or irregularities, federal records show, including amendments attempting to explain whether it received money from a pair of Stockman's congressional staffers. Such donations aren't legal.

Then, on Dec. 20, Federal Election Commission Campaign Finance Analyst Ryan Furman informed the committee it had accepted "contributions that appear to exceed the limits" of federal law.

An article by the Houston Chronicle in November details numerous other Stockman campaign finance problems.

Backer, treasurer of the Steve Stockman for Senate committee, referred questions to Stockman's campaign staff. 

In an email to the Center for Public Integrity, Stockman spokesman Donny Ferguson wrote that the two Stockman committees "are two distinct legal entities serving different purposes, with different teams and vendors involved." He continued: "It just made more sense to have separate committees so the House committee could wind down as the Senate committee winds up."

Typically, House candidates who run for Senate seats just repurpose their existing campaign committees. But there's nothing in the law that stops Stockman from starting another one.

Still, Stockman faces restrictions. Donors who've contributed the legal maximum this election cycle to Friends of Congressman Steve Stockman are prohibited by law from donating to the Steve Stockman for Senate committee, said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

If Stockman were to raise surplus money following his Senate campaign, he could, however, legally transfer that cash to his old committee to pay down its debts, Ryan added.

"He's had a lot of campaign finance drama going on," Ryan said. "So from a PR perspective, this allows him to tell donors who might be concerned about that, 'Hey, I've got a new team. Hey, I have a clean slate. Have no fear.'" 

Stockman recently announced his campaign would begin accepting bitcoins — an online currency — although the FEC in November deadlocked on whether campaign committees may do so. Backer, Stockman's treasurer, brought the bitcoin case to the FEC.