Ex-lawmaker gets 10 years for using charity cash for dolphin-watching, hot-air balloon rides

A former congressman from Texas was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison for pocketing at least $775,000 in donations intended for charity and spying on a potential GOP rival, authorities said.

Steve Stockman, 61, a former Tea Party stalwart, was ordered to pay $1 million in restitution at his sentencing, where he wore an orange jumpsuit and beige rubber clogs chained together at his ankles, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"You stole money and used it for personal gain and you used it to violate the public trust," Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal told Stockman, according to the paper. "You cheated the American taxpayer."

"You stole money and used it for personal gain and you used it to violate the public trust. You cheated the American taxpayer."

— Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal

Stockman was convicted in April on 23 of 24 counts, including mail and wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

Prosecutors said Stockman misused donations from conservative foundations for personal and political use that included his brother's homemade Advent books and a dolphin-watching trip, the Chronicle reported. The Texas Tribune reported he bought a new dishwasher and hot-air balloon rides.

A conservative operative said during the trial that Stockman hired people to spy on three Republican state lawmakers, including Texas Rep. James White of Woodville, a perceived rival.

However, Stockman’s wife Patti told the Chronicle that she believes the criminal case was political, saying her husband was "a very vocal whistleblower about the corruption of the Obama administration."

Stockman served in the U.S. House for two non-consecutive terms, from 1995 until 1997, and from 2013 until 2015. He lost in his 2014 bid for the U.S. Senate to incumbent Sen. John Cornyn, who went on to win re-election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.