At the end of every year, TPM awards the Golden Dukes. Named in honor of the scandal-plagued former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the awards recognize a politician who has distinguished themselves with an attention-grabbing display of corruption, abuse of power, or risible behavior. (Here are 2017’s winners.)
In 2018, however, it appears we need to increase the frequency with which the award is given. We’ll now be giving a “Duke of the Week” each weekend.
This week’s winner is former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), who hit the ball out of the park this week when he was found guilty of 23 felony charges involving misspending $1.25 million in political donations. That’s a healthy sum for a member of Congress to receive, let alone misspend. Stockman was arrested while attempting to board a flight to the United Arab Emirates; he later said his 28-count indictment was the work of the “deep state.” Because he is considered a flight risk, Stockman will be in federal custody until he is sentenced in August.
During his trial, prosecutors laid out the story of a white-collar crime spree, funded by two conservative donors, Illinois-based Dick Uihlein of shipping container fame and Baltimore money manager Stanford Rothschild Jr. Uihlein testified that he thought the money was going toward helping Stockman mount a primary challenge to Texas Senator John Cornyn and a house for Republican interns — the “Freedom House” — on Capitol Hill.
Stockman, however, found other uses for the money.
As Allegra Kirkland reported for TPM last month, Stockman spent some of the money surveilling three members of the Texas legislature who he considered opponents, including an African-American state representative who he feared would mount a primary challenge against him. “Republicans love black conservatives,” he texted the political operative he hired to conduct the spy operation.
He also used some of the donors’ money to travel to Egypt in a failed attempt to collect fresh donations from an international cement company, a scheme for which he enlisted the help of officials in the Egyptian defense ministry.
And then there were the mundane personal expenses. Stockman, The Houston Chronicle reports, spent $450,000 in donations from Rothschild on tanning salons, a kennel bill, a new dishwasher, airline tickets to Sudan, and a bulk purchase of 500 pop-up Advent books that his brother made. Oh, and a boat ride to see dolphins.
For putting conservative millionaires’ money to such creative uses, Stockman is our Duke of the Week.