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Sleazy politicians come and go, but politicians as shamelessly corrupt and goofily narcissistic as Rep. Aaron Schock are hard to come by. File this one under “stuff you can’t make up” — it’s the absurd details that really put this story over the top.
It’s been a rough couple of months for Representative Aaron Schock.
If that name sounds familiar to you, you’re either a subscriber to Men’s Health — that’s the Congressman on the cover there, showing off his bodacious abs — or you caught this little story on the news:
[CLIP] “We are getting word that Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock is resigning from Congress. Resigning. Facing big, big, questions about his spending habits.”
Until about a month ago, Schock’s star was actually on the rise. He was one of the youngest Members of Congress with a totally hip, diggity dope social media presence, as evidenced by his Instagram account which features him, a sitting united states congressman, showing off his sweet muscles and drinking extreme young person sodas.
He was really, really good at raising money, which is tragically a thing that puts you on the fast track to success in today’s Washington, and, let’s be real here: He’s kind of a babe. Seriously, you could grate cheese on those abs.
… What were we talking about again?
Weirdly enough, the scandal that destroyed Aaron Schock’s career started when a writer for the Washington Post style section stopped by his DC office and found he had done something a little unusual with the decor.
[CLIP] “$40,000 dollars, reportedly in taxpayer funds he spent overhauling his Congressional office to look like an English manor. Inspired by the tv show; Downton Abbey.”
Naturally, the whole “acting like a suspicious crazy person” routine led to more question from the press, which started digging up all kinds of additional shady spending activity.
[CLIP] “Using Taxpayer money to be on private jets”
[CLIP] “Doing the tango in Argentina to partying with pop star Ariana Grande”
[CLIP] “P90x Workout Videos, a stay at a five star greek hotel, and a professional photographer to capture his life on the go”
Wow… that’s… pretty unbelievable. What’s really…
[CLIP] “Indoor skydiving, surfing shirtless and taking his staff to a Katy Perry concert… A $10,000 junket for his staff to New York City”
That’s. A lot of things. Now the…
[CLIP] “Group dinners and massages and the possibility that he may have gotten a couple sweetheart deals on private real estate transactions from a couple of donors”
Ok you know what, it would probably be faster to list the non-corrupt things he did.
With all those sins weighing heavy in the back of your mind, the last thing you’d want to do is something catastrophically tone-deaf like, say, trying to wave off initial questions with a taylor swift quote or something
[CLIP] “So when I post an instagram photo of me and my friends… you know… uh… Taylor Swift said ‘Haters gonna hate’”
Hater’s Gonna Hate. Motherf*cker, you are a united state congressman. I realize that stopped carrying a certain level of gravitas around the time Congress starting polling below headlice and Nickelback, but you did serve in the legislative branch of the most powerful government on the face of the earth, so just a little bit of dignity might be in order.
The craziest thing about all of this is that aside from a few of the more irredeemably stupid misuses of taxpayer money, Aaron Schock could have done most of the things he’s in trouble for without actually breaking a single law.
For example, Aaron Schock used taxpayer money for a private flight to a Bear’s Game. Which you’re supposed to do. Members of Congress partying at NFL games… Where have I heard that before?
[CLIP] “New York Congressman Gregory Meeks prefers football. He spent $35,000 on NFL games. All of which was paid for with political contributions. All in the name of ‘Democracy’”
So Gregory Meeks also resigned in disgrace, right? Nah, he’s been around for 17 years, and is still in office today.
Aaron Schock also got into some hot water for using campaign money on lavish travel and hotels. You know that’s also ringing a bell…
[CLIP] “Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss likes golf. So much so that he spent more than $100 thousand the past two years entertaining at some of the finest courses in the world. Republican Congressman Andrew Crenshaw from Florida, spent $32,000 hosting a tour of CA wineries for a group of contributors from the defense industry, which he has some oversight over.”
Remember those scandals? Of course you don’t — Andrew Crenshaw has been a congressman for 14 years, and Saxby Chambliss retired in January after two scandal-free terms. So what’s their secret?
[CLIP] “While election funds of members of Congress are tightly regulated, Congressmen can also establish what are called leadership pacs and rake in large donations from big-money contributors. Congressional leaders quietly invented something called Leadership PACs, political action committees that were not technically campaign funds, and thus exempt from the personal use prohibition. This is a loophole? —- “Right… That’s correct” “
Now here’s the kicker… Guess who else got some sweet, legal milage out of his leadership PAC?
[CLIP] Take the Generation Y PAC set up by Peoria Republican Aaron Schock; In two years he raised and spent more than half a million dollars. $56,000 spent the last two years just on hotels. Then there are the restaurants; $36,000 worth in two years. $26,000 for private planes, plus ski trips. The most Schock’s office would offer was this rather terse written statement: ‘Gen Y conducts its activities within all applicable rules and regulations.’ A spokesman said. ‘All activity is properly disclosed and the committee is in full compliance with federal campaign finance laws.’
That clip is from one year ago, and that was the end of it. Most of Aaron Schock’s leadership PAC bonanza was 100% legal.
Because when it comes to the rules Aaron Schock actually broke, his biggest problem wasn’t the corruption, It was screwing up the paperwork.
[CLIP] “…His spending under the microscope, and it turns out that wasn’t even the issue. The issue was the, as I said, they did not have good record keeping. A lot of these members of congress, they’re not record keepers, they’re not bookkeepers. They rely on staff to do things properly, and that clearly did not happen here.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Aaron Schock’s party yet — he’s a Republican, by the way — Because if history is any guide, this story stands a very good chance of become another partisan football.
Democrats will point to this as an example of how corrupt those evil Republicans are, Republicans will point to the laundry list of Democrats who have done the same damn thing, and the politicians who know how to work the system — that is, almost all of them, will go on living the good life by selling out their constituents to special interests.
Almost every member of congress, Democrat and Republican, has a Leadership PAC, and uses it to do the exact same things Aaron Schock is about to get busted for because unlike him, they have lawyers and consultants who know how to keep their corruption on the right side of the law.
The problem in Washington isn’t that Aaron Schock broke the law. The problem is that he didn’t have to.
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I’m Mansur for RepresentUs, and I’ll see you next time.