WBEZ | Aaron Schock http://www.wbez.org/tags/aaron-schock Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en LaHood to replace ex-US Rep Schock of Illinois http://www.wbez.org/news/lahood-replace-ex-us-rep-schock-illinois-112898 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/darinlahood.png" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Darin LaHood, a Republican state senator and son of former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, easily won a special election Thursday to replace disgraced former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, sending a familiar name to Washington, D.C., from Illinois.</p><div><p>The younger LaHood&#39;s victory brings the number of U.S. House members back to 435 and comes after Schock resigned in the middle of a spending scandal that included redecorating his congressional office in the style of television drama &quot;Downton Abbey.&quot;</p><p>LaHood, a former prosecutor, had an overwhelming advantage over Democratic high school teacher Rob Mellon in the reliably Republican territory that touches 19 counties in central Illinois. Along with name recognition, LaHood had party backing, key endorsements and amassed roughly $1.2 million, compared with Mellon&#39;s approximately $10,700, according to campaign finance records.</p><p>LaHood, 47, played up his area roots while trying to distinguish himself as more conservative than his father, a longtime congressman who worked in Obama&#39;s Cabinet from 2009 to 2013 and was known for his bipartisan approach.</p><p>&quot;I have my own record in public service. He has his own record,&quot; the senator told The Associated Press by phone ahead of his victory speech. &quot;I&#39;m proud of my record of being a state and federal prosecutor. ... I&#39;m going to take the same approach I took in the Illinois state Senate and be a constructive member of the Republican conference.&quot;</p><p>He said he plans to take office next week, a process that includes resigning from the Illinois Senate and taking the oath in Washington.</p><p>Much of the shortened campaign season, with a handful of debates, focused on the economy. Voters also expressed frustration with inaction in Washington and the Schock scandal.</p><p>Schock, once a rising star Republican, stepped down after reports questioning his spending, including global travels documented on social media and concert tickets for employees. Federal authorities have since subpoenaed records, and former employees have testified before a grand jury. He&#39;s kept a low-profile since leaving office &mdash; aside from attending a swanky Navy Seal Foundation fundraiser in&nbsp;Chicagothis week &mdash; and declined interview requests.</p><p>Turnout was light Thursday, with some county clerks predicting the number of voters wouldn&#39;t reach the level of the primary. In July, roughly 11 percent of eligible voters districtwide cast ballots.</p><p>Joyce Schmidt, a retiree in Springfield, voted for LaHood.</p><p>&quot;He will help stir things up in Washington. I&#39;d like to see some action on the Republican side,&quot; she said. &quot;Many have been there too long, they&#39;re too comfortable.&quot;</p><p>Mellon said he tried to tap into the frustration in the district, going after union votes and possibly disgruntled Republicans.</p><p>&quot;I always knew it would be a challenge to get those types of voters,&quot; Mellon said. &quot;Maybe I opened the door a little bit for someone else.&quot;</p><p>Liam McDonnell, a retired state worker and union member who registered Republican last year, said he voted for Mellon because &quot;the Republicans are not for working people anymore.&quot;</p><p>Mellon, a U.S. history teacher and Army veteran, said his major themes included income inequality and campaign finance. He vowed not to take in more than $150,000, though acknowledged he&#39;d have a hard time getting there anyway.</p><p>He said the way the district was drawn hurt him. Mellon, 44, said he was ready to take some time off to rest.</p><p>LaHood said he had his work cut out for him in assembling a staff in Illinois and Washington. Though he&#39;s expected to miss this week&#39;s votes on resolutions in the Republican-controlled House aimed at derailing the international nuclear deal with Iran, LaHood said he planned to read the agreement and ask more questions. Republicans have vowed to continue their efforts.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s an awful lot that I need to learn,&quot; he said.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 10 Sep 2015 22:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lahood-replace-ex-us-rep-schock-illinois-112898 LaHood wins Illinois GOP race to replace ex-US Rep. Schock http://www.wbez.org/news/lahood-wins-illinois-gop-race-replace-ex-us-rep-schock-112343 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 5.57.53 AM.png" alt="" /><p><style type="text/css"> .eln-subhed-table { background-color: #fff; color:#333; font-family: ""Raleway"",Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; font-weight: bold; } .eln-bodyregular, .eln-bodyreg-bar { color:#333; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; } .eln-bodyreg-bar { background-color: #f8f8f8; } .eln-office-name { font-family: ""Raleway"",Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 16px; color:#444444; } .eln-date { color:#999; font-family: ""Raleway"",Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 11px; } span.eln-bodyregular { font-size: 12px; }</style> <script language="JavaScript" src="http://hosted.ap.org/elections/2015/by_race/IL_14039.js?SITE=2015ELECTIONS&SECTION=POLITICS"></script><p>&nbsp;</p><script language="JavaScript" src="http://hosted.ap.org/elections/2015/by_race/IL_16127.js?SITE=2015ELECTIONS&SECTION=POLITICS"></script><p>SHERMAN, Ill. &mdash; State Sen. Darin LaHood won the GOP nod in Tuesday&#39;s primary to replace disgraced ex-U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, setting up the son of the former U.S. transportation secretary as the likely next congressman in this heavily Republican swath of central Illinois.</p><p>LaHood heads into the Sept. 10 special general election heavily favored to succeed Schock after defeating anti-establishment conservative writer Michael Flynn.</p><p>During the classic Republican primary race, LaHood portrayed himself as far more conservative than his father, former congressman and Cabinet member Ray LaHood. He received early backing from the state GOP, raised more than the other candidates and earned key endorsements, including from the National Rifle Association.</p><p>But Flynn, who was closely aligned with the late commentator Andrew Breitbart, rallied against the GOP &quot;establishment,&quot; saying seats in Congress weren&#39;t meant to be handed down.</p><p>LaHood said he spent more time on the campaign trail talking about his record as a state senator and former prosecutor than his father. He said residents in the area were frustrated and looking for someone connected to the district.</p><p>&quot;People feel there&#39;s a disconnect with what goes on in Washington, D.C.,&quot; he told The Associated Press in a phone interview before addressing supporters in Peoria. &quot;They don&#39;t want someone who is going to make the same mistakes as the previous congressman.&quot;</p><p>Schock, once a rising GOP star, resigned in March amid intensifying questions about his use of campaign and taxpayer funds. Multiple news reports chronicled the redecoration of his congressional office in the style of the TV show &quot;Downton Abbey,&quot; along with questions about his spending on concert tickets and trips for employees and mileage expenses.</p><p>A third Republican, Donald Rients, who works for State Farm, trailed in the balloting. On the Democratic side, high school teacher Robert Mellon won the party nomination over Springfield school board member Adam Lopez.</p><p>However, any Democrat will have a tough road in the sprawling GOP district that touches or includes 19 Illinois counties.</p><p>Mellon said he was ready for the challenge.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve always kind of associated myself with being the underdog,&quot; he said. &quot;I always felt more of a kinship to David. I&#39;m ready to go after Goliath.&quot;</p><p>Turnout was dismal for the special primary scheduled in peak summer vacation season, at roughly 11 percent across the district.</p><p>Still, the Schock scandal and voter frustration was on voters&#39; minds as they headed to the polls.</p><p>Nancy Norville, a registered nurse, voted for Flynn at a Springfield polling place where there was steady voter traffic during the lunch hour.</p><p>&quot;I feel LaHood is a cookie cutter of his dad,&quot; said the 58-year-old. &quot;He&#39;s connected to a lot of lobbyists already and I want a fresh perspective, someone who will fight and listen, more grassroots, versus saying, &#39;I&#39;m going to listen,&#39; and when they get to Washington, they listen to the special interests.&quot;</p><p>But retired legislative researcher Sherwin Swartz of Springfield disagreed.</p><p>&quot;I admired his father very much, and I&#39;m hoping the apple doesn&#39;t fall far from the tree,&quot; Swartz said.</p></p> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 05:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lahood-wins-illinois-gop-race-replace-ex-us-rep-schock-112343 Low turnout as primary voters head to polls for Schock seat http://www.wbez.org/news/low-turnout-primary-voters-head-polls-schock-seat-112339 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/shock_2_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SHERMAN, Ill. &mdash; Voters in central Illinois headed to the polls Tuesday to narrow the list of candidates to replace ex-U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, once a rising Republican star who resigned amid questions about his spending for travel and the &quot;Downton Abbey&quot;-styled redecoration of his congressional office.</p><p>Much of the campaign in the Republican-leaning district shaped up as a classic GOP primary battle between the son of a former congressman and U.S. transportation secretary and a conservative writer with strong tea party support.</p><p>State Sen. Darin LaHood has been treated like the incumbent with high name recognition, early state GOP backing, hefty fundraising and key endorsements, including from the National Rifle Association. But Michael Flynn, who helped start a news website with late blogger Andrew Breitbart, has said no candidate should be hand-picked for Congress and has railed against establishment Republicans.</p><p>During the truncated campaign season, Flynn has tried to play up Ray LaHood&#39;s work in President Barack Obama&#39;s first administration, while the younger LaHood has said he&#39;s &quot;much more conservative&quot; than his father.</p><p>Both ideas resonated with voters who cast ballots Tuesday, though turnout was light throughout the sprawling district that touches 19 counties.</p><p>Nancy Norville, a registered nurse, voted for Flynn at a Springfield polling place where there was steady voter traffic during the lunch hour.</p><p>&quot;I feel LaHood is a cookie cutter of his dad,&quot; said the 58-year-old. &quot;He&#39;s connected to a lot of lobbyists already and I want a fresh perspective, someone who will fight and listen, more grassroots, versus saying, &#39;I&#39;m going to listen,&#39; and when they get to Washington, they listen to the special interests.&quot;</p><p>But retired legislative researcher Sherwin Swartz of Springfield disagreed.</p><p>&quot;I admired his father very much, and I&#39;m hoping the apple doesn&#39;t fall far from the tree,&quot; Swartz said.</p><p>County clerks&#39; estimates for turnout early in the day throughout the region ranged from 2 percent to nearly 10 percent. The special primary &mdash; with just one race on the ballot in a nonpresidential election year &mdash; comes in peak summer vacation season.</p><p>Light turnout typically benefits the party-backed candidate with loyal voters motivated to cast ballots, but that&#39;s not always the case. Tea party activists said their on-the-ground support would be tough to predict, while Republican party officials have said LaHood&#39;s familiarity with voters will be tough to beat.</p><p>All candidates have tried to differentiate themselves from Schock during candidate forums, home visits and on social media, saying the district needs a fresh face.</p><p>Republican Donald Rients, who works for State Farm, is also running, along with two candidates in the Democratic race: Springfield school board member Adam Lopez and high school teacher Robert Mellon.</p><p>The road to the Sept. 10 special general election will be tough for any Democrat in the GOP territory, but that didn&#39;t keep Democratic voters at home.</p><p>Maria Ferraro, 67, retired state worker, of Sherman, voted for Lopez.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t want another Republican in Congress,&quot; she said. &quot;I knew Schock would do a terrible job, and he did, and this was before all the scandal.&quot;</p><p>Schock left office in March after mounting questions and news reports about his spending. Since then, a grand jury has been hearing testimony and the FBI has collected records from a campaign office.</p></p> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 13:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/low-turnout-primary-voters-head-polls-schock-seat-112339 Race to replace ex-Rep. Schock a classic GOP primary contest http://www.wbez.org/news/race-replace-ex-rep-schock-classic-gop-primary-contest-112316 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/shock_2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; The race to replace former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock has shaped up as a classic Republican primary, pitting the son of a longtime Illinois congressman and Cabinet member against a conservative writer who has railed at what he sees as the &quot;establishment&quot; GOP hand-picking the disgraced lawmaker&#39;s successor.</p><p>Three Republicans and two Democrats will appear on Tuesday&#39;s ballots, but most eyes have been on State Sen. Darin LaHood, the son of former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and Michael Flynn, who helped found the late blogger and commentator Andrew Breitbart&#39;s BigGovernment.com.</p><p>Candidates in the deeply Republican territory say Schock&#39;s resignation after mounting scrutiny of his extravagant spending, and the lingering scandal &mdash; including grand jury and FBI investigations &mdash; has left voters disillusioned. The former Republican representative enjoyed strong support and visibility beyond his central Illinois district until questions surfaced about his use of taxpayer funds, like for ornate office decor in the style of &quot;Downton Abbey&quot; or worldwide travels plastered on Instagram.</p><p>The five candidates hail from diverse work backgrounds and political ideologies, but they all argue one point in common: They&#39;re nothing like Schock. Here&#39;s a look at the race:</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Republican Faceoff</span></p><p>LaHood, a former state and federal prosecutor, has the most name recognition and received early support from the Illinois GOP. He&#39;s raised roughly $1 million and picked up key endorsements, including from the National Rifle Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.</p><p>He describes himself as &quot;much more conservative&quot; than his father, who worked in President Barack Obama&#39;s first administration, and notes his 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union. But LaHood was critical of GOP leaders, saying the party needs to be more proactive by laying out alternatives to the Affordable Care Act and a clear plan for the economy, and by reducing the national debt.</p><p>&quot;(Republicans) have to lead with conservative ideas and they&#39;re not doing that,&quot; said LaHood, 46. &quot;They&#39;re not passing any bills and putting them on the president&#39;s desk.&quot;</p><p>Flynn says people are fed up with party politics, and he was motivated to run after it appeared the GOP had cleared the field for LaHood.</p><p>He claims candidate forums hosted by Republican county organizations have been tightly controlled &mdash; when it comes to allowing news media coverage and when candidates speak &mdash; and says there should be fuller debates on health care and tax structures. Flynn has raised about $63,000, but the conservative Person to Person PAC announced support of him this week and praised his writing, saying others &quot;were too timid to stand up to power brokers.&quot;</p><p>Flynn, 47, a central Illinois native who also lived in Washington, has worked on local legislative campaigns.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Shaking Schock</span></p><p>Candidates say the circumstances of Schock&#39;s resignation in March have reverberated throughout the campaign.</p><p>&quot;What happened to Schock is a parable,&quot; Flynn said. &quot;People with a lot of promise and a lot of energy and a lot of opportunity and get so immersed in the system there, they feel they are above the law and are different.&quot;</p><p>LaHood said voters want someone who won&#39;t get &quot;sucked in by Washington, D.C.&quot; He talked about staying &quot;grounded&quot; and said during the legislative session he drives more than an hour back and forth to Springfield each day so he can spend the night with his family.</p><p>Republican Donald Rients, who works for State Farm, and the Democratic candidates &mdash; high school teacher and veteran Robert Mellon and Springfield school board member Adam Lopez &mdash; all say the Schock situation levels the playing field because voters are frustrated with scandal, regardless of party, and want change.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The district and turnout</span></p><p>Illinois&#39; 18th district comprises acres of rolling farmland to global manufacturers like Caterpillar Inc. The region includes at least part of 19 counties, and portions of Peoria, the state capital, Springfield, and the Mississippi River town of Quincy.</p><p>The geography presents problems for candidates, who have to travel wide to reach voters.</p><p>Turnout is expected to be low, considering it&#39;s a special election in peak summer vacation season. That puts pressure on the candidates to reach loyal party voters who are more likely to come vote.</p><p>The general special election is Sept. 10.</p></p> Sun, 05 Jul 2015 06:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/race-replace-ex-rep-schock-classic-gop-primary-contest-112316 Where is Aaron Schock? Lawsuit lawyer says he doesn't know http://www.wbez.org/news/where-aaron-schock-lawsuit-lawyer-says-he-doesnt-know-111967 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/schock_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Where is Aaron Schock? An attorney for a campaign donor suing the former Illinois congressman told a federal judge he has been unable to locate the Republican, who resigned amid questions about his spending, to serve him notice about the lawsuit, a Chicago newspaper reported Thursday.</p><p>Daniel Kurowski filed the lawsuit on April 15 on behalf of Howard Foster, of Chicago, who donated $500 to Schock&#39;s campaign in 2012.</p><p>The suit seeks repayment of millions of campaign dollars to Foster and other contributors on grounds the 33-year-old from Peoria tricked them into believing and supporting him.</p><p>The <a href="http://bit.ly/1JbTV8C"><em>Chicago Sun-Times</em> reports</a> that Kurowski said Wednesday in court in Chicago that he can&#39;t find Schock to serve him with the lawsuit, a legal formality in such civil cases. Kurowski said he tried a Peoria address for Schock, but the property is now vacant.</p><p>No lawyer representing Schock was present at the hearing, and an email message seeking comment Thursday from a Schock spokesman was not returned.</p><p>U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood said Schock is &quot;certainly aware of the lawsuit, from what I can tell,&quot; according to the <em>Sun-Times</em>. She didn&#39;t elaborate.</p><p>Schock&#39;s spending &mdash; including redecorating his Washington office in the style of <em>Downton Abbey</em> &mdash; came under scrutiny in February. After further media reports about how he financed and reported travel, he resigned from his U.S. House seat in March and a federal criminal investigation began.</p><p>A status hearing in the civil case is scheduled for June 23.</p></p> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 14:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/where-aaron-schock-lawsuit-lawyer-says-he-doesnt-know-111967 After spending scandals, Rep. Aaron Schock says goodbye http://www.wbez.org/news/after-spending-scandals-rep-aaron-schock-says-goodbye-111780 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/aaronshocklast.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Once a fast-rising star in the Republican Party, Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock gave his final speech on the House floor Thursday.</p><p>Schock, who was elected to Congress in 2008, will resign his House seat at the end of the month. His resignation comes after weeks of questions about his judgment, lavish lifestyle and spending.</p><p>Little of the scandal that plagued Schock&#39;s final weeks on Capitol Hill was evident Thursday though, as his farewell speech focused less on his quick fall and more on his rise.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve done my best to contribute constructively to the process and to serve the people of my district and my country,&quot; Schock said. &quot;My guiding principle has always been rooted in the belief that Washington should only do what people cannot do for themselves.&quot;</p><p>Over the last few weeks, a series of reports by Politico, the The Washington Post, and other news organizations raised questions about Schock&#39;s financial practices. Reports indicate that Schock spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on office renovations, used both taxpayer and campaign funds on private jets and concerts and did not report lavish gifts on financial disclosure funds as required by House ethics guidelines. His resignation ultimately came on March 17 as Politico raised questions about tens of thousands of dollars in mileage reimbursements Schock claimed for his personal vehicle.</p><p>Schock, 33, was elected to Congress as a 27-year-old. He said he was never more excited than the day he stepped onto Capitol Hill for the first time. He was a youthful face in the chamber who posted shirtless photos of himself on Instagram and posed for a photo showing his abs on the cover of the fitness magazine Men&#39;s Health.</p><p>&quot;I leave here with sadness and humility,&quot; he said. &quot;For those whom I&#39;ve let down, I will work tirelessly to make it up to you.&quot;</p><p>Even in his final floor speech, Schock seemed to leave the door open for a future &mdash; though he didn&#39;t specify what kind &mdash; comparing himself to former President Abraham Lincoln, who Shock has a bust of in his office.</p><p>&quot;Abraham Lincoln held this seat in Congress for one term but few faced as many defeats in his personal, business and public life as he did,&quot; Schock said. &quot;His continual perseverance in the face of these trials, never giving up is something all of us Americans should be inspired by, especially when going through a valley in life.&quot;</p><p>Only the two situations aren&#39;t exactly parallel. Lincoln did, as Schock noted, serve just one term in Congress. In fact, he promised while campaigning in 1846 that he would serve just one term if elected. He won, did just that, and declined to run for re-election in 1848.</p><p>Schock&#39;s troubles on Capitol Hill began after The Washington Post published an article last month about his lavish office renovations, which were inspired by the popular PBS drama &quot;Downton Abbey.&quot;</p><p>In an unrelated coincidence, PBS announced today that the show&#39;s upcoming sixth season will be its last.</p><p>&mdash; <em>via <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2015/03/26/395580527/after-spending-scandals-rep-aaron-schock-says-goodbye">NPR&#39;s It&#39;s All Politics</a></em></p></p> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 09:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/after-spending-scandals-rep-aaron-schock-says-goodbye-111780 Schock, Jackson: Congressional resignation deja vu? http://www.wbez.org/news/schock-jackson-congressional-resignation-deja-vu-111732 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/schockjackson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois residents may be having deja vu after U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock announced he&rsquo;s resigning his congressional seat over ethics questions.<br /><br />It comes just over two years after another Illinois U.S. representative, Jesse Jackson, Jr., left Congress. The Chicago U.S. Rep. resigned shortly before he was charged with improper use of campaign money.<br /><br />But the similarities between the two may be less about their cases - and more about their personalities.<br /><br />Jackson pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds. He spent it on everything from groceries to fur coats. Aaron Schock has not been charged with wrongdoing, but the Better Government Association&rsquo;s Andy Shaw says the two politicians had a sense of entitlement that brought a negative spotlight.<br /><br />&ldquo;Aaron Schock and Jesse Jackson, Jr. were both full of themselves,&rdquo; Shaw said. &ldquo;They were arrogant. They had a sense of empowerment and entitlement and, perhaps worst of all, a sense of invincibility that the rules didn&rsquo;t apply to them.&rdquo;<br /><br />In Schock&rsquo;s case, what started with a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/hes-got-a-downton-abbey-inspired-office-but-rep-aaron-schock-wont-talk-about-it/2015/02/02/1d3f1466-ab1f-11e4-abe8-e1ef60ca26de_story.html">lavish office decor</a> led to questions about <a href="http://www.sj-r.com/article/20150316/NEWS/150319602">his real estate deals</a> and about <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/aaron-schock-resigns-116153.html">overblown expense reports</a>. With his resignation, Schock avoids a congressional ethics investigation, and no criminal charges have been filed.<br />One Chicago defense attorney watching it all is Victor Henderson, who said even though Schock has not been charged, it&rsquo;s still a possibility.<br /><br />&ldquo;You never know what&rsquo;s going on behind the scenes,&rdquo; Henderson said. &ldquo;As I recall, I think the same thing happened with Congressman Jackson that prior to the time that he was indicted, or not long thereafter, there were negotiations between his lawyers and the lawyers for the government.&rdquo;<br /><br />Henderson is quick to add, though, that people will be watching to see how Schock&rsquo;s situation is handled by any investigators.<br />&ldquo;If at some point there&rsquo;s no action taken then I certainly think a lot of people will question what the difference is,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />&ldquo;The cases are different. The allegations are different,&rdquo; Shaw with the BGA said of the resignations of Jackson and Schock. &ldquo;But a lot of the traits, a lot of the personality characteristics that got them both in hot water are similar.&rdquo;<br /><br />Shaw said one of the ways to keep those kinds of personalities in check is more stringent campaign finance laws, as well as election boards with real authority to conduct investigations of improper spending.<br /><br />That way, maybe Illinois residents could stop being drawn so often into the dramas of troubled politicians.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 15:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/schock-jackson-congressional-resignation-deja-vu-111732 State Sen. LaHood announces he'll seek Schock's seat http://www.wbez.org/news/state-sen-lahood-announces-hell-seek-schocks-seat-111717 <p><p>PEORIA, Ill. &mdash; Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood has announced his candidacy for U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock&#39;s soon-to-be-vacant congressional seat.</p><p>The Republican from Dunlap made the announcement Wednesday on WMBD radio in Peoria.</p><p>LaHood says he has received &quot;a lot encouragement&quot; to run and that he&#39;ll campaign on his state Senate record, which includes being a strong advocate for ethics reform.</p><p>LaHood has served in the Senate since 2011. His father is former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Congressman Ray LaHood, who preceded Schock in Congress.</p><p>A special election will be held to replace Schock, who announced Tuesday will resign at the end of the month.</p><p>State Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington is also considering a bid for Schock&#39;s seat.</p><p>State Sen. Bill Brady had considered running but said Wednesday he will not.</p></p> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 08:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-sen-lahood-announces-hell-seek-schocks-seat-111717 Illinois Rep. Schock defends $10K NYC trip with staff http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-rep-schock-defends-10k-nyc-trip-staff-111678 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/schock.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock again was forced to defend his travel and spending habits Monday after a report emerged that he spent more than $10,000 of taxpayer money to have his staff accompany him on a trip to New York City.</p><p>The spending habits of Schock, a Peoria Republican, were already under intense scrutiny, including for using $40,000 in taxpayer funds to redecorate his Washington office in the style of the &quot;Downtown Abbey&quot; television show, which he ultimately paid back.</p><p>In the latest development, The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Schock made a September trip to New York with at least 10 staffers for events connected to a U.S. visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.</p><p>The newspaper reported that the Schock staffers did almost no government work there. About 20 tickets to a Global Citizen Festival concert &mdash; where performers included Jay Z and Carrie Underwood &mdash; were purchased using $3,000 from a Schock campaign fund.</p><p>The Sun-Times reported that House disbursement records show Schock received the $10,053 for &quot;travel subsistence&quot; between Sept. 26 and 29. The events with the Indian prime minister were Sept. 27 and 28.</p><p>Schock, at an event Monday in Chicago, told reporters the New York trip was official business and he was honored his staff could attend.</p><p>Schock said about a dozen world leaders including President Barack Obama spoke. His spokesman has said that Schock wanted to play a &quot;constructive role&quot; in Modi&#39;s visit to further economic ties between the U.S. and India. Schock has traveled to India twice.</p><p>&quot;It was a very legitimate trip on official business,&quot; he told reporters. &quot;I&#39;m glad that I played such a significant role in it. And I&#39;m honored that my staff was able to be there with me as well.&quot;</p><p>Schock would not address questions about why he took so many staff members. Other Illinois congressmen made the same trip but without staff members and some paid for the trip out of personal funds.</p><p>Schock on Monday also defended his frequent Illinois travel as his way of reaching constituents. He noted that his central Illinois district is geographically expansive, including parts of Peoria, Bloomington and Springfield, and says he has fewer district offices than other congress members.</p><p>&quot;Some people spend more on direct mail pieces that they send out,&quot; he told reporters. &quot;I spend more to get around my district.&quot;</p><p>An Associated Press review found Schock used his congressional account or campaign funds for at least a dozen flights worth $40,000 aboard planes owned by donors. Other official expenses that have been made by Schock include concert tickets to a sold-out Katy Perry show last year and a Bears game.</p><p>Schock has said that he&#39;s hired a firm to review his spending. He&#39;s reimbursed the government $40,000 for the office decorations and $1,200 for the Bears game flight.</p></p> Tue, 10 Mar 2015 08:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-rep-schock-defends-10k-nyc-trip-staff-111678 AP: Lawmaker Aaron Schock billed private planes, concerts to taxpayers http://www.wbez.org/news/ap-lawmaker-aaron-schock-billed-private-planes-concerts-taxpayers-111608 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/shock.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, a rising Republican star already facing an ethics inquiry, has spent taxpayer and campaign funds on flights aboard private planes owned by some of his key donors, The Associated Press has found. There also have been other expensive travel and entertainment charges, including for a massage company and music concerts.</p><p>The expenses highlight the relationships that lawmakers sometimes have with donors who fund their political ambitions, an unwelcome message for a congressman billed as a fresh face of the GOP. The AP identified at least one dozen flights worth more than $40,000 on donors&#39; planes since mid-2011.</p><p>The AP tracked Schock&#39;s reliance on the aircraft partly through the congressman&#39;s penchant for uploading pictures and videos of himself to his Instagram account. The AP extracted location data associated with each image then correlated it with flight records showing airport stopovers and expenses later billed for air travel against Schock&#39;s office and campaign records.</p><p>Asked for comment, Schock responded in an email on Monday that he travels frequently throughout his Peoria-area district &quot;to stay connected with my constituents&quot; and also travels to raise money for his campaign committee and congressional colleagues.</p><p>He said he takes compliance with congressional funding rules seriously and has begun a review of his office&#39;s procedures &quot;concerning this issue and others to determine whether they can be improved.&quot; The AP had been seeking comment from Schock&#39;s office since mid-February to explain some of his expenses.</p><p>Donors who owned planes on which travel was paid for by Schock&#39;s House and political accounts did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment Monday.</p><p>Schock&#39;s high-flying lifestyle, combined with questions about expenses decorating his office after the TV show &quot;Downton Abbey,&quot; add to awkward perceptions on top of allegations he illegally solicited donations in 2012.</p><p>The Office of Congressional Ethics said in a 2013 report that there was reason to believe Schock violated House rules by soliciting campaign contributions for a committee that backed Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., in a 2012 primary. The House Ethics Committee has said that query remains open.</p><p>&quot;Haters are gonna hate,&quot; Schock, 33, told ABC News after the &quot;Downton Abbey&quot; story broke in The Washington Post, brushing off the controversy by invoking a line from one of pop singer Taylor Swift&#39;s songs.</p><p>Lawmakers can use office funds for private flights as long as payments cover their share of the costs. But most of the flights Schock covered with office funds occurred before the House changed its rules in January 2013. The earlier rules prohibited lawmakers from using those accounts to pay for flights on private aircraft, allowing payments only for federally licensed charter and commercial flights.</p><p>Schock&#39;s House account paid more than $24,000 directly to a Peoria aviation firm for eight flights provided by one of Schock&#39;s donor&#39;s planes in 2011 and 2012. While the aircraft flies as part of an Illinois charter service, the owner of the service told the AP on Monday that any payments made directly to the donor&#39;s aviation company would not have been for charter flights.</p><p>Beyond air travel, Schock spent thousands more on tickets for concerts, car mileage reimbursements &mdash; among the highest in Congress &mdash; and took his interns to a sold-out Katy Perry concert in Washington last June.</p><p>The donor planes include an Italian-made Piaggio twin-engine turboprop owned by Todd Green of Springfield, Illinois, who runs car dealerships in Schock&#39;s district with his brother, Jeff. Todd Green told a Springfield newspaper that Jeff &mdash; a pilot and campaign contributor &mdash; and Schock have been friends for a long time.</p><p>The AP found that Green&#39;s plane traveled to at least eight cities last October in the Midwest and East Coast, cities where Schock met with political candidates ahead of the midterm elections. His Instagram account&#39;s location data and information from the service FlightAware even pinpointed Schock&#39;s location on a stretch of road near one airport before Green&#39;s plane departed.</p><p>Campaign records show a $12,560 expense later that month to Jeff Green from a political action committee associated with Schock, called the &quot;GOP Generation Y Fund.&quot; That same month, the PAC paid $1,440 to a massage parlor for a fundraising event.</p><p>In November 2013, Schock cast votes in the Capitol just after Green&#39;s plane landed at nearby Reagan National Airport. Shortly after Green&#39;s return to Peoria, Schock posted a photo from his &quot;Schocktoberfest&quot; fundraising event at a brewery in his district. Schock billed his office account $11,433 for commercial transportation during that same, four-day period to a Peoria flight company, Byerly Aviation.</p><p>The AP&#39;s review covered Schock&#39;s travel and entertainment expenses in his taxpayer-funded House account, in his campaign committee and the GOP Generation Y Fund. Records show more than $1.5 million in contributions to the Generation Y Fund since he took office in 2009.</p><p>Schock used House office expenses to pay more than $24,000 for eight flights between May 2011 and December 2012 on a six-passenger Cessna Golden Eagle owned by D&amp;B Jet Inc., run by Peoria agribusiness consultant and major Schock donor Darren Frye. While D&amp;B is a private corporate aviation firm, it also flies with Jet Air Inc., an Illinois-based aviation firm licensed by the FAA for charter service.</p><p>Records show Schock used House funds to directly pay D&amp;B instead of Jet Air for the eight flights. Under the old rules that previously allowed House funds to pay only for charter or commercial aircraft, Schock&#39;s office would likely not have been authorized to pay for private flights unless the House Ethics Committee approved it.</p><p>Harrel W. Timmons, Jet Air&#39;s owner, said in a telephone interview that any charter flights D&amp;B flies through his firm are paid directly to Jet Air. &quot;They&#39;ve got their own corporate jet and pilot,&quot; he said.</p><p>House records also show that, since 2013, Schock has flown four times on a Cessna owned by Peoria auto dealer Michael J. Miller and businessman Matthew Vonachen, who heads a janitorial firm, Vonachen Services Inc. Schock&#39;s House office account paid nearly $6,000 total for the four flights, according to federal data published online by the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation.</p><p>Under current House rules, the payments for the private flights would be authorized if they paid for Schock&#39;s portion of each flight. It is not clear from records how many other passengers flew on the same flights. USA Today on Friday first reported potential issues with House ethics rules in revealing some of the flights.</p><p>Vonachen and his family donated at least $27,000 to Schock&#39;s campaigns, while Miller contributed $10,000 to the Automotive Free International Trade PAC. Schock has supported recent free trade agreements with South Korea and with several other countries, which the Automotive PAC &mdash; a Schock contributor &mdash; lauded.</p><p>Schock&#39;s reliance on donor-owned planes is the most recent example of lawmaker use of donors&#39; planes for transportation. After Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. took two 2010 flights on a private jet owned by a wealthy eye doctor and major donor, a 2013 ethics investigation prompted his $58,500 personal reimbursement to the donor for the flights. His office noted Monday that Menendez did not use taxpayer funds to pay for the flights.</p><p>GOP Generation Y paid more than $24,000 for tickets and festivals, including $13,000 to country music events, $4,700 in expenses to Chicago ticket broker SitClose.com, and $3,000 for a &quot;fundraising event&quot; to an organization that runs the Global Citizen Festival in New York.</p><p>&quot;You can&#39;t say no when your boss invites you. Danced my butt off,&quot; one former intern posted on his Instagram account with a picture of Perry at her June 2014 show. PAC records show a $1,928 expense for the ticket service StubHub.com two months later, listing it only as a &quot;PAC fundraising event.&quot;</p><p>Records show Schock also requested more than $18,000 in mileage reimbursements since 2013, among the highest in Congress. His office has previously said it was reviewing those expenses.</p></p> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 22:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/ap-lawmaker-aaron-schock-billed-private-planes-concerts-taxpayers-111608