From 'Downton Abbey' to Downfall: Spend-Happy GOP Lawmaker Resigns

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From 'Downton Abbey' to Downfall: Spend-Happy GOP Lawmaker Resigns

Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois 'regretfully' steps down amid questions over lavish expenses and improper acceptance of gifts

An image from his Instagram account shows Congressman Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) jumping for joy on a glacier in Patagonia, Chile late last year. In addition to his 'Downton Abbey'-inspired office on Capitol Hilll, Schock faced numerous and growing questions about his spending habits and possible ethics violations. (Image: Instagram/@aaronschock/with overlay)

Following a wave of questions over lavish spending and financial impropriety, including new allegations this week about major inconsistencies with his congressional and campaign expense reports, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Illinois) issued a statement on Tuesday saying he will resign from the U.S. Congress effective March 31.

Schock, who quickly rose to prominence within the GOP for his ability to raise money for the party, was highlighted in series of media stories earlier this year after it it came to light that his congressional office had been re-decorated in the style of the aristocratic manor featured in the popular PBS series 'Downton Abbey.' Following the publicity around the lavish $40,000 renovation, it was learned the decorator was not, in fact, paid for the project – a revelation that prompted an ethics complaint and seemed a clear violation of congressional rules.

According to Politico, Shock's resignation announcement on Tuesday, comes less than 12 hours after the newspaper raised new "questions about tens of thousands of dollars in mileage reimbursements" Schock had received for his personal vehicle: 

Schock billed the federal government and his campaign for logging roughly 170,000 miles on his personal car between January 2010 and July 2014. But when he sold that Chevrolet Tahoe in July 2014, it had only roughly 80,000 miles on the odometer, according to public records obtained by POLITICO under Illinois open records laws. The documents, in other words, indicate he was reimbursed for 90,000 miles more than his car was ever driven.

The discrepancy added to a growing wave of ethical and legal problems the 33-year-old politician faces.

In his resignation statement, released to Politico, Schock said he will leave office with "a heavy heart" but that "the 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."

As the Huffington Post chronicles, Schock has become much more notable for his lavish spending than "the high standards" to which he might also subscribe:

[Reports have] detailed a taxpayer funded weekend in New York for his staffers, a dozen charter flights worth over $40,000 on donors' planes and $24,000 in campaign funds spent on concerts and events, including a sold-out Katy Perry concert.

Other reports raised questions over Schock's relationships with donors. In February, a complaint was filed against Schock over the alleged sale of his home to a campaign donor for a significant profit. And earlier this week, the Chicago Tribune reported that multiple Schock donors were directly involved in a 2014 property deal in which the congressman paid one donor for a commercial property, and then took out out a mortgage for that property from a bank run by other donors.

Schock's documented exploits and spending habits led journalist Michael Winship, lead writer for BillMoyers.com, to pen an expansive op-ed which explored how the culture of big money in Washington, D.C. has made life "awesome" for lawmakers like Schock who not only spend big, but raise big. In February, Winship wrote, Schock's lifestyle isn't just about spending money, it's also "about raising money for his party and fellow Republican members – and to pull in that kind of cash perceived wisdom says you have to spend a bundle to attract it. That translates into lots of trips, expensive meals, private jets and time in lavish hotels and resorts. It’s a burden but someone has to do it."

Winship continued:

It’s also about providing playtime for deep-pocketed contributors. [A]ccording to Politico, “… Schock is constantly fundraising, and he has repeatedly attended high-profile events. On Jan. 31, 2014, Schock cut a check to the NFL for more than $10,000 to cover the cost of Super Bowl tickets. In April 2013, Schock spent $3,320 on tickets to the CMA Country Music Awards. Instead of holding fundraisers at golf courses — as dozens of other Republicans do — Schock insiders say he prefers sporting and music events.” And you wonder why so little attention is paid to the poor and middle class?

Like one of the characters from “Downton Abbey,” Aaron Schock has made quite a climb, from public servant downstairs to pampered upstairs aristocrat. Meanwhile, when he’s not jetting to and fro, raising and spending cash, perhaps Congressman Aaron Schock can dream up new ways of raking in money — and spending it — as he sits in his ornate new office.

Now, it seems, Schock will be climbing down instead of up. And, it goes without saying, someone is going to love their new office.

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