Washington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) again asked the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to investigate whether Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) violated federal law and House rules by selling his house to a campaign contributor for a price well above its market value. Rep. Schock’s 2012 home sale appears to have violated House gift rules.
Click here to read CREW's complaint against Rep. Schock.
In October 2012, Rep. Schock sold his home in Dunlap, Ill. to former Caterpillar executive Ali Bahaj for $925,000. Rep. Schock bought the house in 2003 for $128,250. Records from Peoria County listed the property’s tax-assessed value at the time of sale as $255,240, and the value of the house in October 2012 according to Zillow was $695,000. Rep. Schock’s house was located in Augusta Estates, where comparable homes sold for between $580,000 and $791,500. Even at today’s prices, Rep. Schock’s $925,000 sale price far exceeds fair market value.
“Buying a house from someone for much more than it’s worth is no different than buying someone an expensive gift,” said CREW Interim Executive Director Anne Weismann. “Given that the buyer in this case was a campaign donor to Rep. Schock whose former employer has also backed his campaigns, the public needs to know what Mr. Bahaj expected in return for his generosity.”
Mr. Bahaj, then a recently retired executive at Caterpillar, Inc., donated $2,300 to Rep. Schock’s campaign in 2008 and $1,000 to his joint fundraising committee. He has also contributed to Caterpillar PAC, which has given $10,000 to Rep. Schock in every election cycle since he first ran for Congress. Mr. Bahaj’s wife also donated $2,300 to Rep. Schock’s campaign.
Rep. Schock’s home sale is reminiscent of conduct by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who purchased a home in Queens, N.Y. from a campaign donor in 2006 for a price substantially lower than its market value. Notably, CREW’s complaint to the OCE comes less than a week after the group asked the OCE to investigate Rep. Schock for accepting free interior decoration and using campaign funds to pay for office furniture.
“It seems that the crystal chandelier was just the tip of the iceberg for Rep. Schock,” continued Ms. Weismann. “His disregard for House rules when redecorating his congressional office was hardly an isolated incident. The OCE needs to take a thorough look at Rep. Schock’s shoddy finances to fully account for all the laws he’s broken.”