MARCH 13, 2015
A popular Illinois congressman once considered a rising star in the Republican party is in deep trouble for reportedly using taxpayer money to fund an extravagant lifestyle that includes stays at luxurious hotels, world travel, expensive cars and private jet rides to concerts and pro sporting events.
The lawmaker’s name is Aaron Schock and he’s only 33, but he’s a seasoned politician who should have known better than to use public funds as a personal piggy bank. For six years he’s represented a working-class district in Peoria, Illinois in the U.S. House. One national media report says he had a meteoric rise from a local school board to one of the top fundraisers in the House Republican Conference. But this month the congressman was forced to hire a “crisis communications firm” and two prominent defense attorneys. In a biting editorial, his hometown newspaper blasts him for ripping off taxpayers to fund “five-star lodging and fancy dining with celebrities across the globe, from London to Saudi Arabia to an exclusive golf course in Maryland…”
Schock also blew $40,000 from public coffers to redecorate his office, sold his home to a wealthy donor for a price well above market rate, failed to report gifts from a lavish European trip and spent more than $10,000 on a weekend getaway to New York with a few staffers, according to recent news reports. The congressman and his staff didn’t perform many official duties on the costly New York jaunt, according to a Chicago newspaper that broke the story. Instead, they schmoozed it up with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Schock shamelessly used the occasion to “raise his profile.” At least 10 Schock House staffers were on the taxpayer-funded New York trip, the story says.
It seems like every day another Schock transgression gets uncovered. At the very least he has committed a number of serious ethical lapses that should draw congressional scrutiny and negatively impact his 2016 reelection campaign. His district is solidly Republican and some conservatives are already calling for his ouster. This week a conservative news magazine called Schock a “crook” and wrote that his “penchant for taxpayer-financed luxury hotels and private aircraft” is “flatly incompatible with both his conservative rhetoric and the political presumptions of a free nation.” The lashing goes on: “If his behavior is any guide, the man believes that the people of Illinois’s 18th congressional district have hired him to serve not as a dull public servant but as their very own nationalized celebrity. They have not.”
In another hard-hitting piece, the editor of a well-known conservative Capitol Hill news site lambasts the congressman: “Rep. Aaron Schock has proven himself incapable of handling his own money, the money of his donors, and taxpayer money. He has lived excessively off the backs of taxpayers who must be reimbursed and off of donors to whom he is now a servant.” Dismissing Schock as a “celebrity” who “lack[s] the necessary integrity to handle the power of the purse,” Erickson suggested his next career move: “Perhaps Downton Abbey needs someone else to fill the role of an American playboy chasing a Crawley.”
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