Schock, Jackson: Congressional resignation deja vu?
Illinois residents may be having deja vu after U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock announced he’s resigning his congressional seat over ethics questions.
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.
But the similarities between the two may be less about their cases - and more about their personalities.
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’s Andy Shaw says the two politicians had a sense of entitlement that brought a negative spotlight.
“Aaron Schock and Jesse Jackson, Jr. were both full of themselves,” Shaw said. “They were arrogant. They had a sense of empowerment and entitlement and, perhaps worst of all, a sense of invincibility that the rules didn’t apply to them.”
In Schock’s case, what started with a lavish office decor led to questions about his real estate deals and about overblown expense reports. With his resignation, Schock avoids a congressional ethics investigation, and no criminal charges have been filed.
One Chicago defense attorney watching it all is Victor Henderson, who said even though Schock has not been charged, it’s still a possibility.
“You never know what’s going on behind the scenes,” Henderson said. “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.”
Henderson is quick to add, though, that people will be watching to see how Schock’s situation is handled by any investigators.
“If at some point there’s no action taken then I certainly think a lot of people will question what the difference is,” he said.
“The cases are different. The allegations are different,” Shaw with the BGA said of the resignations of Jackson and Schock. “But a lot of the traits, a lot of the personality characteristics that got them both in hot water are similar.”
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.
That way, maybe Illinois residents could stop being drawn so often into the dramas of troubled politicians.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him @tonyjarnold.