The indictment of a 35-year-old disgraced former Republican congressman jolted residents of his central Illinois district, shaken by prosecutors’ claims that Aaron Schock illegally dipped into campaign and government coffers to subsidize a lavish lifestyle, including his Capitol Hill office done up in the style of “Downton Abbey.”
Perhaps more stunning was an allegation found on page 34 of the charging document: Schock’s apparent willingness to pocket thousands of constituents’ dollars by arranging annual Washington tours combined with meet-and-greets.
“I know that some people feel very hurt, angered and betrayed,” said Quincy insurance agent Jack Freiburg, who attended such an event in 2014.
State political observers say the alleged scheme stands out — even with Illinois’ long-established reputation for corruption, including a former governor’s attempt to sell President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. House rules require excess fees from such visits be returned to constituents or donated to charity, according to the indictment.
“That’s a new one on me,” said David Melton of Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “I have never heard of anything quite that audacious.”
The three-day extravaganza attended by Freiburg and about 50 others in July 2014 included bus rides to the National Zoo and a reception at the Japanese ambassador’s residence. Freiburg paid a $785 “Fly-in Conference Fee” to Schock’s office — meant to cover meals, transportation and other hosting costs — on top of $2,000 to $3,000 for a plane ticket, hotel room and other expenses.
Schock, the once-rising GOP star and prodigious party fundraiser, secretly kept at least $11,000 from that event, the indictment said.
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