Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) violated House rules by accepting free interior decoration services and improperly using campaign funds to pay for furniture in his congressional offices.
Click here to read the OCE complaint against Rep. Schock.
A story in the Washington Post revealed Rep. Schock recently redesigned his suite in the Rayburn House Office Building in an homage to the hit British period drama “Downton Abbey.” The redesign featured lavish accoutrements, including a crystal chandelier, a gold wall sconce, and arrangements of pheasant feathers. The redesign was provided by Anne Brahler, an interior decorator from Illinois, and her firm, Euro Trash. A member of Rep. Schock’s staff told the Post Ms. Brahler “offered her services for free.” Ms. Brahler also redesigned Rep. Schock’s previous congressional office.
“Perhaps it’s not totally surprising that the same congressman who spent campaign money on P90X workout DVDs wanted to create a more picturesque setting in which to be photographed, but the rules clearly require him to pay for those renovations himself,” said Anne Weismann, CREW’s Interim Executive Director. “Again and again, Rep. Schock’s seeming obsession with his image impedes his ability to conduct himself in ethical manner.”
House rules broadly prohibit members of Congress from accepting gifts, which are defined in the rules as any “item having monetary value,” including “gifts of services.” The rules explicitly prohibit members from using “outside private donations, funds, or in-kind goods and services” to pay for their congressional office expenses. Only appropriated funds or a member’s personal funds may be used for these purposes.
The Post’s story also suggests Rep. Schock may have improperly used campaign funds to pay for the furniture in his office. CREW reported in 2012 that Rep. Schock’s campaign paid $5,522 to Ms. Brahler’s company for what it described as “office equipment.” Today’s revelation that Ms. Brahler redecorated Rep. Schock’s previous suite strongly suggests Rep. Schock used campaign funds to pay for the furniture in that office — a violation of House rules — and raises questions about whether he used campaign funds to pay for the furniture in his new office.
Rep. Schock, a two-time Dishonorable Mention on CREW’s Most Corrupt Members of Congress, has frequently run afoul of campaign finance laws in the past. He improperly spent campaign funds on P90X workout DVDs and a stay at a five-star luxury hotel in Athens, Greece unrelated to campaign or official travel. He also violated federal law in 2012 by soliciting a $25,000 donation to a super PAC from former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).
“Rep. Schock may wish he could escape to an earlier era, but the Office of Congressional Ethics needs to ensure he doesn’t outrun the rules of this one,” Ms. Weismann continued.