What began as an inquiry into Rep. Aaron Schock's opulent scarlet-painted office has quickly spun into a weeklong media probe of the congressman's lavish travel accommodations and real-estate dealings. Now, the looming question is: How serious are the allegations against Schock and what could they mean for the man who had been a rising star for the Republican Party?
Any penalty could have dire political ramifications for Schock, a hot-shot fundraiser for Republicans who is often-viewed as the embodiment of the party's youth outreach. Schock's Instagram feed is littered with photographs to be envied by any 30-something: hikes in Patagonia, dancing on the streets of Buenos Aires, resting poolside in Phoenix. Any public ethics probe could shatter the new-generation GOP image Schock has carefully crafted for himself.
Over the last week, the Illinois Republican endured a media firestorm, partly adding to a narrative of a young congressman who enjoys the perks of the job. Reports of his "Downton Abbey"-style office were just the beginning. His communications director resigned after old, racially charged statements on social media were dug up, and news stories have detailed Schock's preference for five-star resort stays in Aspen and privately chartered flights. Politico reports Schock tends to wow donors with sport outings while making his fundraising pitch. And now his office is reviewing reimbursments the congressman received for driving his personal vehicle. While some might question the congressman's judgement on those trips, traveling in style is not in itself a crime.