GOP Rep. Schock Resigns Due to Alleged Unethical Activities

GOP Rep. Schock Resigns Due to Alleged Unethical Activities

Brace yourself for a flood of stories with the pun “Schocking” in their headlines: Representative Aaron Schock, the “first Millennial in Congress,” announced his resignation this week. The 33-year-old fourth term Republican from Illinois’ 18th District will be vacating his infamous “Downton Abbey-inspired” red-walled office by March 31st, “after House Republicans have handled their annual budget outline and another key domestic policy vote.” (Frankly, the set designers on Downton Abbey should be horrified and appalled that this over-the-top Nouveau Bordello decorating job is being compared to the elegant and tasteful Jabobethan décor in Highclere Castle.)

The Washington Post’s style guru Ben Terris shared photographs of Schock’s new crimson and gold offices on February 2nd, quipping that they “stood out” a bit in the Rayburn House Office Building which “is a labyrinth of beige offices.” Understatement!

The images of lipstick red walls, decorative plumes of pheasant feathers in vases, golden Lincoln busts, golden eagle-topped bullseye mirrors complementing a table propped up with two more eagles, a “drippy” crystal chandelier, and golden wall sconces topped with black candles quickly inspired other curious parties, namely journalists and ethics watchdog groups, to turn laser-eyed scrutiny his way. What they found was profligate spending and a lavish lifestyle with fashionable clothing, snuggly selfies with popstar Ariana Grande, and exotic travel, much of it paid for by taxpayers, although few of his comped luxury items appeared to be actually relevant to serving the needs and concerns of his constituents back home (in decidedly non-exotic Peoria). It did not help matters that Schock blithely dismissed criticism about his extravagant new digs by quoting “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift: “Haters are gonna hate.” He also told Politico that he wasn’t sure if he could “definitively say whether he broke federal campaign laws” because he is not a lawyer. Alrighty then.

Politico, which doggedly latched on to Rep. Schock’s spendy behavior and dug deeper, summed it up: “[As] his prominence grew Schock adopted an expensive lifestyle — stays in luxury hotels, dining at pricey restaurants, flights on private jets. Mounting questions about how he paid for it eventually caught up with him.”” After Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times and Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer, and John Bresnahan from Politico began asking some more pointed questions about his spending, notably “about tens of thousands of dollars in mileage reimbursements he received for his personal vehicle,” Schock announced his resignation 12 hours later. “[T]he constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself. I have always sought to do what’s best for my constituents, and I thank them for the opportunity to serve,” Schock said.

Chevy Tahoe Hybrid
Chevy Tahoe Hybrid 2010.
Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

In short, Schock purchased a Chevy Tahoe in January 2010 with only four miles on its odometer and when he sold it in July 2014, it had clocked a little over 80,000 miles. He billed the federal government and his campaign for reimbursement of 170,000 miles, which was 90,000 miles more than the car had actually been driven. Per Politico: “Schock sought reimbursement for 172,520 miles on his car, despite the fact that he signed documents [obtained under Illinois open records laws] that certified the vehicle traveled less than half that distance.”

It wasn’t just his Mustang Ranch meets Lulu White’s Mahogany Hall decorating taste and how he paid for it, (originally claiming it was a gift from interior decorator Annie Brahler, whose company is rather appropriately called Euro Trash), or fudging mileage records that got Schock in hot water. Vox helpfully outlined the other scandals plaguing the congressman, which included stays at expensive five-star hotels, (including two in San Francisco and Las Vegas where less extravagant lodging options abound), “private flights he took on donors’ planes [exposed by AP reporters Jack Gillum and Stephen Braun], and his sale of an Illinois home to a campaign donor [Ali Bahaj, a campaign donor and former Caterpillar executive] for a curiously high price.” BlueNationReview’s Jimmy Williams notes that “that $925,000 is hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than the sale prices for similar homes in that area at that time” and Schock “reported a profit of $500,000 to $1 million from the sale on a House disclosure form.”

Schock’s Instagram account is full of photos from many exotic and/or expensive vacation locations like Argentina, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Vail, Aspen, Bangalore and New Delhi in India, the Antilles and Athens, Greece.

“Schock’s travel expenses are unusually high: USA Today’s Singer found that only 11 members of the House spent more on travel in 2013, and most of those members are in much geographically larger districts,” Vox explains. “Gillum and Braun noted that his use of the donors’ aircraft was “a technical violation: the plane in question is also available for charter flights, which would’ve been allowed, but because Schock booked it as a private plane he appears to have fallen on the wrong side of the line.”

It was also found that Schock charged his political action committee (PAC) “more than $24,000 for tickets and festivals, including $13,000 to country music events,” like the time he brought his interns to a Katy Perry show in DC, which he appears to have expensed as a “PAC fundraising event.” How many 12-year-old girls lined up to donate their allowance money to Schock that night?

_81221613_schock_ariana_grande
From Schock’s Instagram account

Because he financed these perks through his campaign committee, these expenditures are technically legal, thanks to lax federal regulations about how campaign money can be spent, (allegedly, almost anything is allowed as long as you are not literally making checks out to yourself or to “cash” and pocketing the money outright). Watchdog groups like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) believed that Schock had transgressed even these permissive boundaries and asked the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to investigate. The OCE has also called for an investigation into Schock’s alleged fundraising violation: “In 2012, Schock solicited a $25,000 donation from then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to a Super PAC supporting Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who was in the middle of a primary battle with Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL) after redistricting placed them in the same district. The FEC doesn’t allow a ‘federal candidate or officeholder’ to solicit checks above $5,000 for super PACs.” The investigation by the House Ethics Committee remains ongoing.

Facebook page GOP – The Party of Mean remarks: “The GOP wunderkind obviously knows he will be unable to withstand the scrutiny of the investigation opened by the Office of Congressional Ethics. Upon his resignation, that investigation will cease. Schock chose this escape path… the same one Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Senator John Ensign took to avoid accountability. Now we’ll have to wait and see if the federal investigation goes forward or will this be another GOPer getting to skate on being held accountable for wrongdoing.”

Vox notes that Schock was actually known for his fundraising acumen, (so maybe Katy Perry fans are far more generous than we knew). A Linked-In profile in his name lists his area of expertise as “accounting.” Apparently many of our elected Republicans will forgive a lot of your personal peccadilloes and eccentric behavior as long as you show them the money. Already the whitewashing and diminishing have begun, with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), chair of the House Republican Conference, popping up on Morning Joe to chat with Mika Brzezinski about Schock’s resignation.

Rep. Schock was not a chair on any committees or subcommittees, Vox reports, but he did “have a seat on Ways and Means, which, owing to its role crafting tax, safety net, and trade policy, is arguably the most powerful committee in the House.” He also towed the ideological line, backing new House majority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) when Scalise’s extensive history of racist comments, speaking at racist meetings and palling around with racists, (e.g. former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke), was exposed. This should not be a huge surprise, given that Schock himself had a racist staffer: his communication director, Benjamin Cole. As Cole was trying to smooth over the public’s negative response to Schock’s brothel-chic office decor with unhelpful missing-the-point comments like, “I’m really sorry and want you to know this is not fun for me,” and “I don’t even know if he watches [Downton Abbey]; I don’t know what shows he watches, but I don’t think he watches much TV,” ThinkProgress and Buzzfeed busily unearthed a bunch of offensive comments on Cole’s social media accounts, namely comparing a black woman having a disagreement on a public sidewalk to “mating rituals” of zoo animals, suggesting President Obama install a personal mosque in the White House, and referring to blacks in his neighborhood as “criminals” and immigrants as “deportables.” To his credit, Schock did recognize that these comments were “inexcusable and offensive.” Cole resigned.

Rep. Schock voted in lock-step with many senior Republicans: against the stimulus, (a.k.a. the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which economists agree worked), against Obamacare (which, despite being hobbled as much as possible by conservatives on both a federal and state level, has succeeded beyond even Obama’s expectations, against Dodd-Frank (the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act or Pub.L. 111–203, H.R. 4173, was signed into federal law by President Barack Obama on July 21, 2010, “an Act to promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end ‘too big to fail,’ to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices”), and he signed never-elected controversial conservative gadfly Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge not to vote for new or increased taxes. He has received 0% scores from Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign and perfect scores from the pro-bankster Financial Executives International and the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform. The American Conservative Union rates him at a lifetime score of 75%.

We are noticing Schock’s downfall not because he is particularly important or powerful compared to his colleagues, but because he enjoys being photographed and, like Paul Ryan (R-WI), he has posed to show off a gym-rat physique (even showing up bare-chested on the cover of Men’s Health).

His public image means so much to him that he hired a Dallas-area wedding photographer, Johnathon “with-an-O” Link. As gossipy Wonkette waggishly dishes: “You can tell Jonathon is his personal photographer, because personal photographers pose next to their bosses, in pictures. This is the man Aaron bought with tax moneys to travel all over the place with him. They make for a cute duo, of a Congressman and a Jonathon. Aaron’s remaining, presumably non-racist spokesgoons say it’s totally normal to do this, because Aaron is the biggest fundraiser ever, and apparently having a Jonathon around helps him bring in the big bucks.” Obviously Wonkette is hinting that Schock and Link might be very, very close friends, wink wink nudge nudge, say no more, a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind man, etc., and whereas you or I might not care about it, (I know I am not bothered one bit), and it might not even be true, conservative Republican Rep. Schock might be justifiably concerned about the very different attitude many of the conservative folks back home in Illinois and his homophobic political party mates are likely to hold on the subject of two gentlemen even looking like they might be considering dating each other. Case in point: Schock’s possible non-heterosexuality has already become an issue with the far-right-wing scolds at World Net Daily, who are busily scrutinizing Schock’s Instagram account for any “suspicious” photos. If it is true that the Representative is a closeted gay man, that is sad, and it also doesn’t look great that Schock has been anything but an ally to the LGBT folks.

As pundit John Aravosis at Americablog puts it: “The problem for Schock is that he’d be an anti-gay gay Republican with a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign. [He] opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, opposes marriage equality, opposes the repeal of DOMA, opposes ENDA (barring job discrimination against gay and trans people), opposed adding sexual orientation to the hate crimes bill, and until recently supported adding language to the US Constitution banning gay marriage and potentially repealing most gay civil rights laws [which means] Aaron Schock thinks it’s okay for people to lose their jobs because they’re gay. [His] defenders want gay people to accord Congressman Schock the very protections, societal and otherwise, that Schock refuses to accord gay people in return.  And that’s a bit queer.” Hypocrisy looks bad on everyone, even if they have a bangin’ wardrobe and rad abs. Time will tell if he’s resigning over some dishonest mileage billing discrepancies or something else far more personal.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App