Another Bad Trip for Schock

He took a non-staffer on an official trip to India, and didn't disclose it.

Add another trip to Rep. Aaron Schock's list of potential headaches.

Schock appears to have improperly accepted money from an outside group to cover travel expenses for a companion on a trip to India and failed to disclose it in a possible violation of House rules, according to a National Journal review of public records.

Schock traveled to India on official business in August 2014, a trip during which he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Global Poverty Project, an advocacy organization that seeks to alleviate extreme poverty internationally, footed the bill, according to a spokesman for the group.

But Schock's photographer and videographer, Jonathon Link, traveled with him on the trip, which was well-documented on Schock's Instagram account. The organization offered to pay for the costs of one staffer to accompany Schock as long as the staffer flew economy class, according to the spokesman. Another aide was originally going to come, but the organization noted they were looking for a photographer, and Schock suggested Link, with whom he has worked in the past, the spokesman said. The photos Link took were made available to both Schock and the Global Poverty Project.

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The problem is House rules allow a member to accept private money for a companion's travel expenses only if the companion is a staffer, spouse or child. Link was none of those; he didn't appear on Schock's official or campaign payroll until September 2014.

Furthermore, Schock never disclosed that Link accompanied him on the trip, according to a review of public records. Members are allowed to accept money from private sources for some travel as long as they disclose it, and they also are required by law to disclose in writing when someone accompanies them on a trip paid for by an outside organization. Members have to seek a waiver from the Ethics Committee to bring someone other than a staffer or family member. Otherwise, they must pay for the companion's trip out of pocket.

Instead, a disclosure form filed by Schock after his return gives no indication that he was accompanied by Link. The Global Poverty Project paid $5,000 for travel, $525 for lodging, $300 for meals, $289 for travel insurance and $100 for ground transportation for Schock's travel. The trip took place August 24-29, with a round trip flight from Chicago to New Delhi and a visit to Mumbai, as well.

The Global Poverty Project separately paid some $4,000 to fly Link from Dallas to New Delhi, and lodge and feed him, according to the group's spokesman.

In recent weeks, Schock has been hounded by accusations that he misreported a private flight as a software expense and inappropriately spent taxpayer money to take staffers to New York City and to fly himself on a private jet to Chicago to attend an NFL game.

The public scrutiny of Schock's spending habits accelerated after a report he spent tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money and improperly accepted free interior decorating services to redecorate his Washington office to resemble a scene from the PBS show "Downton Abbey." Schock reimbursed the Treasury $1,200 for the private jet ride and paid the decorator $40,000 out of his own pocket after the reports became public.

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But the most recent lack of disclosure was not previously made public. In India, Schock stayed in luxury hotels in both New Delhi and Mumbai. Schock's disclosure form noted that the Global Poverty Project booked rooms at the Radisson Blu Plaza in New Delhi and the Grand Hyatt Mumbai, at a cost of $152.03 and $159 per night, respectively.

A Schock spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of the trip to India, but noted Schock has enlisted attorneys at the law firm Jones Day to lead a review of his compliance procedures.

"After questions were first raised in the press, Congressman Schock took the proactive step of assembling a team to review the compliance procedures in his official office, campaign and leadership PAC to determine whether they can be improved," the spokesman said. "Congressman Schock takes his compliance obligations seriously which is why he took this proactive step to review these procedures. Congressman Schock has a well-deserved outstanding reputation for constituent service and remains steadfastly focused on serving the people in Illinois' 18th congressional district during this review."

Link, a former Dallas-area wedding photographer, did not return a call seeking comment.

There could be some nuance to the House rules, said Stan Brand, a former House general counsel. He said the infraction seems hypertechnical and if investigated, the Ethics Committee could find that while Link was not on the payroll, he was assisting in official duties, making payment for his travel aboveboard. That his work was used by both Schock and the Global Poverty Project appears to further cloud whether there was any violation.

Nevertheless, Schock's not reporting it could be an infraction, Brand noted. Compiled with the other allegations of misrepresenting and misspending on travel, the sin of omission could be harder to explain.

In February, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint against Schock with the Office of Congressional Ethics regarding his office renovations. A spokeswoman for the OCE, the independent group that probes members of Congress and makes recommendations to the Ethics Committee on whether to further investigation, could not comment on whether there is an ongoing case.

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Shane Goldmacher contributed to this article