February 09, 2015

Lifestyle of the Young & Elected: Rep. Schock’s Campaign Taste & Caviar Dreams

By John Morgan

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL)For campaign finance reformers and ethics watchdogs, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) is the gift that keeps on giving.  Last week, the Washington Post reported that Rep. Schock recently finished an extravagant renovation of his House office, modeling it after the hit PBS show “Downton Abbey.”  The office’s new look comes replete with gold sconces, fancy mirrors and a crystal chandelier.  Following the news, CREW filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, requesting an investigation into whether Rep. Schock broke House rules by accepting free interior decoration services and improperly using campaign funds to pay for furniture in his congressional office.

This isn’t Rep. Schock’s first time running afoul of campaign finance laws and ethics rules.  He made CREW’s Most Corrupt list in 2012 for illegally soliciting a $25,000 donation for a super PAC.  He was also included in CREW’s 2012 Family Affair report for making campaign payments to himself and his family as well as spending campaign money on questionable items such as P90X workout DVDs.

In addition to demonstrating how members of Congress can cross ethical lines, Rep. Schock is a perfect example of how lawmakers can use campaign funds to bankroll a lavish lifestyle.  A review of Rep. Schock’s campaign expenditures for the 2014 election cycle tells a tale of a congressman who loves living the high life, largely paid for by campaign donors. 

For instance, Rep. Schock appears to have a taste for upscale luxury hotels. In the 2014 election cycle, his campaign, PAC and joint fundraising committee (JFC) spent $64,123 on lodging at four and five-star hotels such as the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, The Fontainebleau in Miami, and the Moana Surfrider in Waikiki Beach.  Rep. Schock’s committees also spent a jaw-dropping $89,768 on private planes.  In 2013 and 2014, his committees also spent money on massages, cigars, and gourmet chocolates all in the name of “fundraising” or “gifts.” 

Rep. Schock appears to travel frequently to vacation spots, particularly ski resorts, on his campaigns’ dime.  In the eight month period between July 2013 and February 2014, Rep. Schock’s congressional campaign paid for “lodging” three times at the Four Seasons in Vail, CO, costing a total of $8,555.  In November 2014, his JFC paid $8,000 for “lodging” at the Little Nell, a five-star hotel in Aspen, CO.  Las Vegas appears to be another favorite destination. His PAC and congressional campaign spent more than $20,000 on “lodging” in the gambling hub, including five separate payments to Wynn Hotels.

Rep. Schock’s committees regularly spend big on event tickets as well.  In 2013 and 2014, Rep. Schock’s JFC paid more than $3,000 to the Country Music Association for “event tickets.”  Rep. Schock’s PAC paid $3,320 to the Academy of Country Music for “event tickets” in 2013 as well.  On January 31, 2014, his JFC paid $10,025 to the NFL, possibly for tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII, which took place two days later at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium.  In addition, his committees spent thousands on “event tickets” with StubHub, Live Nation, and VIP Seats for unnamed events.

Rep. Schock doesn’t just spend campaign cash in the United States either.  Last year, his JFC spent $800 at the duty free shop in Rio de Janeiro’s Galeao International Airport for “JFC Event Supplies” and his PAC spent $218 at a restaurant in New Delhi, India for “PAC Fundraising Meeting Expense.”  In 2009, as CREW has previously pointed out, Rep. Schock’s campaign committee paid for a stay at the five-star Grande Bretagne Hotel in Athens, Greece, for which he later repaid the campaign.

When ABC News asked Rep. Schock what his constituents “back home in Peoria” thought of his elaborate office remodeling, the congressman didn’t think they would mind because he’s “never been an old crusty white guy.”  He explained, “So when I post an Instagram photo with me with my friends, as Taylor Swift said, ‘Haters are gonna hate.’”  And now, the investigators are gonna investigate.

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