If Washington Post reporter Ben Terris hadn’t been sidetracked by the bright red walls in Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R-IL) new Capitol Hill office, the congressman’s questionable financial habits may not have come to light so quickly, if at all.
Schock announced with a “heavy heart” on Tuesday afternoon that he would resign from Congress effective March 31, citing questions that had been raised about his finances as “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.”
News stories about Schock’s potential misuse of taxpayer and campaign funds have been cropping up with increasing frequency since the Washington Post published photos of Schock’s allegedly “Downton Abbey”-inspired office six weeks ago.
But the tone of Schock’s resignation announcement contrasted starkly with the rising Republican star’s earlier, flippant attitude toward inquiries into his finances. He previously brushed off criticism of his opulent office decor by shrugging “haters are gonna hate,” a quote from Taylor Swift’s hit song “Shake It Off.” He also told a Politico reporter that he couldn’t definitively say whether he broke federal campaign laws because “Well, I’m not an attorney.”
Amid the onslaught of negative news stories — and a reported probe into his finances — something made Schock decide to cave to the “haters.” While it’s unclear what exactly prompted the resignation, here are the five most damaging revelations about the congressman’s spending habits and jet-setting lifestyle that preceded his resignation.
He spent $40,000 on ‘Downton Abbey’-inspired office decor
Pheasant feathers, gilded mirrors, elaborate wall sconces: Schock’s new digs in the Rayburn House Office Building were surely a cut above the average congressional office. A staffer told Terris, the Washington Post reporter, that the red-walled room was inspired by the British period drama “Downton Abbey.”
— Ben Terris (@bterris) February 3, 2015
People want more photos from Schock’s office. Here are pheasant feathers.
— Ben Terris (@bterris) February 3, 2015
Schock waved away the fuss over his choice of decor by promising that he’d pay the interior designer who worked on the space as soon as he got an invoice. The final tally: $40,000, for which he reimbursed his official House expense account from his own personal funds.
A group tied to him spent $24,000 on tickets to concerts and shows — including Katy Perry’s
The Associated Press noted that a political action committee affiliated with Schock, GOP Generation Y, paid more than $24,000 for tickets to various shows and concerts in 2014. That amount included a $1,928 expense from the ticket service StubHub.com, which the report suggested was for the purchase of tickets to a sold-out Katy Perry show.
The report traced Schock’s spending in part through Instagram, a photo service that the congressman liberally used to document his travels. “You can’t say no when your boss invites you. Danced my butt off,” a former Schock intern posted on his Instagram account alongside a picture of Perry at her June 2014 concert, according to the AP.
Schock turned a profit on his home by selling it to a donor
Schock sold his Peoria, Illinois-area home to a donor shortly before the 2012 election. The liberal website Blue Nation Review reported that while Schock sold the home to Caterpillar executive Ali Bahaj for $925,000 after having purchased it in 2003 for about $128,000.
The sale prompted Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, to file a complaint against Schock.
He had a near-replica of President Obama’s lectern
Buzzfeed noted that Schock appeared to use a lectern modeled after “The Falcon,” one of President Barack Obama’s (and George W. Bush’s) official lecterns. Schock’s model, a custom-made lectern called “The Presidential,” cost roughly $5,000.
Taxpayers reimbursed him for 90,000 more miles car than he actually drove in his personal car
The same day Schock resigned, Politico reported that he’d billed his campaign and the federal government for approximately 170,000 miles that he logged while driving his Chevrolet Tahoe from January 2010 through July 2014.
The catch: when Schock sold that car last summer, it only had about 80,000 miles on its odometer, according to the report.
A spokesman for the congressman later told Politico that Schock had reimbursed all money he received for official mileage since he was elected to Congress “out of an abundance of caution.”
Dishonorable mention: Schock’s spokesman resigned over offensive Facebook posts
Soon after Benjamin Cole, Schock’s communications director, ran afoul of the Washington Post reporter who discovered the congressman’s lavish new office, news outlets dug up a few skeletons in Cole’s own closet that led to his resignation.
Cole allegedly mocked black people in Facebook posts and videos dating back to October 2013 and compared them to zoo animals. In an earlier Facebook post, Cole allegedly wrote “they should build a mosque on White House grounds” for President Obama.
The spokesman’s resignation on Feb. 5, then, was a harbinger of the tumult to come for Schock’s office over the following weeks.