Longform

THE STEALTH CONGRESSMAN

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Stump is indeed a rarity. He doesn't pontificate on the floor, doesn't dress in Washington power suits. Even at events where he's the scheduled keynote speaker, he seldom says more than a dozen words. He doesn't employ a press secretary, rarely sends out press releases and has held just one official news conference while in Congress--when he switched parties.

But if asked, he'll recite his accomplishments. As one of the members involved in placing Republicans on House committees, Stump says he's been able to get Arizonans Jon Kyl and Jim Kolbe assignments on the influential Armed Services and Appropriations committees, respectively.

The lion's share of his time on the Hill is devoted to the Veterans Affairs Committee, where, as ranking Republican, he and Montgomery call the shots. In the minds of "every veteran in this country . . . the names Stump and Montgomery go together," says Dick Armey, a Republican representative from Texas who heads the House Minority Caucus.

One of Stump's favorite arenas is foreign affairs, particularly when it involves cloak-and-dagger operations. He served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 1981 to 1987, the last two years as the ranking Republican member.

Stump takes special satisfaction in the "Stump-Pepper Angola Amendment," which he sponsored with the late Claude Pepper, a Florida Democrat, in 1986. The measure deleted a section from that year's intelligence authorization bill that would have made aid to Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi and his guerilla forces subject to a joint resolution of Congress. To this day, the White House can offer covert aid to the Angolan rebels.

The amendment was so controversial that the Reagan administration had given up on any hope of passage, Stump recalls. He helped coax more than 60 Democrats over to his side.

At the time, the national press quoted Stump: "It's a tough world, and some things must be done in secret to be successful." There is some evidence that Stump and three other congressmen were in the loop during the Iran-contra affair, although many members of Congress expressed outrage that they were not informed of the covert funding plan.

According to Colonel Oliver North's notebooks--obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C.--Stump and representatives Bill McCollum, Henry Hyde and Bob Livingston met with North and then-national security adviser Robert McFarlane on March 4, 1985. The notes make clear that a private covert funding plan for the contras was discussed. At the time, North's private fund-raising efforts were at the center of congressional and criminal investigations of Iran-contra. Stump made no public disclosure of his meeting with North and McFarlane. At least one national publication, the New Republic, accused Stump of a "failure of responsibility toward the institution of Congress." The magazine also called for an ethics investigation, which never materialized.

When New Times reminds him of the episode, Stump says, "That involved intelligence and I cannot comment on it."

In 1982, Pat Bosch criticized Stump for his involvement in the Western Goals Foundation, an anti-Communist organization founded by Larry McDonald, a conservative Democrat from Georgia. Bosch says today that it was Stump's affiliation with the group that prompted her to run against him; she worried that Stump would share classified information with the WGF.

According to a 1981 article in the Atlanta Journal, the organization had offices in Virginia and West Germany, and at the time was creating a database "into which is fed information on terrorist activities and groups and individuals he [McDonald] considers to be subversive."

The Journal listed that Stump was a member of the WGF's board of directors. Stump doesn't recall that, but says he was involved. Stump says that involvement ended in 1983, after McDonald died in the Soviets' downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007.

Years later, some of the organizers of the WGF were linked with the National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty, a "charity" that was part of North's Byzantine money-and-arms operation, often known as "The Enterprise." Stump doesn't welcome questions about the Western Goals Foundation. "I don't understand why in the hell somebody would go back 10 or 12 or 14 years ago," he says. @rule:

@body:As a kid growing up in Tolleson, Stump never considered public office, though his father, Jess Stump, served for many years on a local school board and spent three years in the state legislature. Bob wanted to go to medical school, his interest sparked by duty as a medic in the Pacific during World War II.

"I guess the desire really wasn't there, or I would have done a little better" in premed, he admits. Stump transferred his science credits at Arizona State University to the agriculture department, got his degree and joined his father in the family's fields. He was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist--you don't get any stricter than that"--and remains deeply religious today.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.