Aaron Schock is one of the youngest members of the House of Representatives.? Specifically, the Illinois Republican is the third-youngest member of the chamber. He was elected in 2008 from a Peoria-area district, but his star has really been on the rise since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010. However, that rise may have come to a screeching halt. The Associated Press and USA Today have discovered that Schock has done a lot of flying over the last few years–and effectively stuck taxpayers with the bill.
The AP tracked pictures Schock posted on Instagram, and discovered that many of them were taken aboard private planes owned by some of his biggest donors. Reporters extracted geodata from the pictures, and were able to correlate the data to flights that were later billed to Schock’s congressional and campaign accounts. Between 2011 and 2012, Schock billed his House account $24,000 for eight flights on a Cessna owned by D&B Jet, a corporate aviation firm owned by major Schock donor and agribusiness consultant Darren Frye. Although D&B sometimes flies with Jet Air, a Galesburg-based charter service, records show that Schock’s office paid D&B and not Jet Air for the flights. Under House rules of the time, Schock would only have been allowed to use his House account to pay for a commercial or charter flight, not a flight on a private plane.
USA Today found that Schock has flown several times on a plane owned by Peoria car dealer Mike Miller since 2011. His House office paid Lobair, a company owned by Miller, $8,000 for the flights. Lobair is not registered as a charter service. The House changed its rules in 2013 to allow lawmakers to take private flights, provided that they pay for only their share of the flight–the same rules that apply to flying commercial or charter. However, some of the flights Schock has taken since then are still problematic. Since 2013, Schock has flown four times on a Cessna owned by two other major donors, auto dealer Michael Miller and janitorial firm owner Matthew Vonachen. There’s no indication that Schock’s office picked up only his share of the flight.
Schock is also under fire for his spending in other areas. Schock’s leadership PAC, GOP Generation Y, spent another $5,800 on Lobair flights over the same period–which would appear to violate a 2007 rule that bars congressional candidates from spending campaign money on private flights. That same rule raises questions about several flights that Schock took last year. The AP found that Schock traveled to several Eastern and Midwestern cities last October to meet with candidates ahead of the midterms. He made those flights on a plane owned by Springfield car dealer Todd Green; Schock is a longtime friend of Green’s brother, Jeff. GOP Generation Y picked up the $12,560 tab for those flights. Last summer, he took his interns to Katy Perry’s concert in Washington–and GOP Generation Y paid a total of $1,928 for the tickets. Last October, the PAC paid $1,440 to a massage parlor. Earlier this month, Schock got slammed for his lavish spending on office renovations and furniture over the years. Just last month, he redecorated his office in a way that aped “Downton Abbey.” However, he has promised to review his office’s spending procedures.
Don’t count on Schock being held to account at the ballot box–at least at a general election–for his high living. His district was one of only three in Illinois that did not vote for Barack Obama in 2008. It was made even redder in the 2010 round of redistricting, when some of the more Democratic parts of Peoria were cut out. With a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+11, it’s the second most Republican district in Illinois. He is, however, facing a House Ethics Committee investigation into charges that he inappropriately solicited donations for fellow Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger in 2012. It’s hard to believe that the committee won’t review Schock’s spending as well. Still, you have to think that this wouldn’t have happened if Schock’s district wasn’t drawn in a way that it would elect a comatose Republican. Both parties are guilty of gaming the redistricting process in their favor, and it’s past time for politicians to get out of the redistricting business. This episode only proves it.