The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) says there's "substantial reason" to conclude Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) conspired to receive illegal campaign contributions and made false statements to impede the office's investigation.
After publishing the OCE findings Wednesday, the House Ethics Committee announced it was extending its review into the matter in order to gather additional information. The independent OCE forwarded the report to the Ethics Committee earlier this year.
After questions were raised, the congressman claimed the two actually made the donations during a small one-day window, when the staffers had resigned but before they were hired back the next day.
The OCE found Stockman's account "less than credible” because of inconsistencies in his explanation.
The report also finds reason to believe the two staffers were classified as full-time employees while only working part-time in Stockman's official office.
The allegations surround two former staffers to the congressman, Jason Posey, director of special projects for his congressional office, and Thomas Dodd, a special assistant.
In early 2013, Stockman's campaign received donations that were allegedly from Posey's mother and Dodd's father. After the Sunlight Foundation looked into the donations, Stockman's campaign amended its Federal Election Commission report to reflect that the two staff members had actually made the donations.
The campaign later refunded the donations after reports that the donations could have violated the law.
In November 2013, the OCE announced it was looking into the matter. The Stockman campaign then amended its report a third time to change the date that the donations were received — to reflect the dates the staffers allegedly resigned.
Stockman's campaign concluded that the donations from Posey and Dodd were lawful because the two staffers were technically not working for the congressman at the time of the donations.
According to Stockman, both men resigned from his office on Feb. 12, 2013, so they could donate to the campaign. They were then hired back the next day, Stockman said.
"I thanked them for their contributions and dedication, but told both that it would be my preference that they agree to return to federal service in my congressional office," Stockman explained in a letter to the OCE. "I pointed out that since both had made the contributions at a time when they were not employees, the contributions were completely lawful."
However, Stockman did not file termination or reappointment forms reflecting the move until after the OCE began looking into the allegations.
"The OCE did not identify any other person present for the February 12, 2013 exchange in which Mr. Posey and Mr. Dodd purportedly resigned from the congressional office," the report says.
Stockman, Posey and Dodd all declined interviews with the OCE. The congressman has said he expects to be fully cleared of any wrongdoing.
"[I] am confident the Ethics Committee will ultimately dismiss the matter after it completes a careful review," Stockman said in April when the ethics review was first made public.
In a 47-page response also released Wednesday, Stockman's attorney said the OCE review lacked objectivity.
"The Ethics Committee should recognize the unanimity of the evidence in support of the eyewitness accounts of Stockman, Dodd, and Posey, and immediately dismiss all allegations asserted by the OCE in this review," Jonathan Noltie writes in the response.
The Ethics Committee said its review does not imply wrongdoing. According to committee rules, the committee will gather additional information “unless and until an investigative subcommittee has been established.” The chairman and ranking member of the committee can also choose to resolve the issue on their own.