Congressman Aaron Schock (R-Instagram) revels in media attention. And in recent weeks, the Illinoisan has been receiving an abundance of press -- but he's rapidly finding out that, contra Mae West, there is such a thing as bad publicity.
After the Washington Post's Ben Terris published a cheeky story earlier this month on the flamboyant congressman's Downton Abbey-themed office, Schock came under scrutiny for his use of taxpayer funds to decorate the office, and a string of unflattering revelations followed. Schock had sold his home to a donor for an above-market price; his chief aide had authored Facebook posts referring to black people as zoo animals; and, the Associated Press reported this week, Schock has spent tens of thousands in taxpayer and campaign funds on private flights, Katy Perry concerts, and other perks.
The congressman's mess got deeper on Thursday, as Politico revealed that Schock accepted lavish gifts and meals in London and hosted a $125,000 golf course fundraiser, without reporting the gifts and payments on his financial disclosure and campaign finance forms, as required.
In June 2011, Schock and longtime friend Shea Ledford attended several posh meals hosted by the Prince of Wales Foundation, including one dinner at which Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, were present. A spokeswoman for the foundation told Politico that Schock was "a guest of a guest of the Prince of Wales, so he has no involvement with the foundation and therefore wasn’t in any way, shape or form involved other than attending a dinner as a guest of a guest.”
"We don’t cover any travel, plans, cost, anything for any of our patrons, so that would have been done on his own or in correlation with his guest,” the spokeswoman added. Schock's then-scheduler Jeannie Etchart, who joined Schock and Ledford's London junket, is a former employee of the Prince of Wales Foundation.
The trip also included "dinner and dancing" at the members-only Annabel's restaurant, according to Politico.
House ethics rules prohibit members from accepting gifts, including meals, worth more than $50, while personal friends' gifts worth more than $250 must be cleared by the House Ethics Committee. Any gifts must be reported on members' annual financial disclosure forms.
Additionally, Schock confronts questions surrounding the September 2014 golf fundraiser:
Within weeks of the Sept. 23 golf event, Schock paid for other amenities he treated donors to during the fundraiser — including course-side masseuses, a personal cigar roller complete with his initials on the band and monogrammed shirts — according to campaign reports.
The fundraiser, on a private course in Harwood, Maryland, collected at least $125,000, according to a LinkedIn post by Elizabeth Stone, the daughter of the course’s owner and a former intern for Schock. However, nearly five months after the event, Schock’s political committees showed no payment or in-kind donation in their filings for use of the facility and the course.
Schock's office told Politico that it is conducting an audit of the congressman's accounts.
The 33-year-old Schock, first elected in 2008, is also the subject of an ongoing probe into potential campaign finance violations in 2012.
Amid mounting allegations of ethical improprieties, the embattled congressman has hired public relations experts and retained two high-profile defense attorneys.