The rapid arc of Aaron Schock’s congressional career came to an end yesterday. There had been one story after another about Schock’s big spending ways and rather lavish seeming, “that’s how we roll” approach to his office. How much of that was valid criticism and how much was inflated a bit for purposes of good click-bait will have to be sorted out later, but the final nail in the coffin somewhat ironically seems to have had nothing to do with Downton Abby furnishings or high roller accoutrements. It all came down to mileage reimbursements.
Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock resigned Tuesday, less than 12 hours after POLITICO raised questions about tens of thousands of dollars in mileage reimbursements he received for his personal vehicle.
Schock billed the federal government and his campaign for logging roughly 170,000 miles on his personal car from January 2010 through July 2014. But when he sold that Chevrolet Tahoe in July 2014, it had roughly 80,000 miles on the odometer, according to public records obtained by POLITICO under Illinois open records laws. The documents, in other words, indicate he was reimbursed for 90,000 miles more than his car was driven.
Schock has been an exciting, youthful presence in a GOP caucus which is frequently attacked for being nothing but a bunch of stodgy, old rich boys. And for a while there I was honestly hoping that his problems came from some minor, honest mistakes made by someone new to the scene. The furnishings were poor judgement, but nothing remotely close to “hidden” money deals or corruption. Had his troubles remained confined to those few, initial items it sounded like he could have weathered the storm after paying back any questionable expenditures, kept his head down and gotten on with the job.
But this latest story was clearly a bridge too far. Assuming that there’s anything remotely factual in Politico’s findings, this mileage reimbursement story points to something blatantly illegal, even if it was just a math error on the part of an accountant. Charging the taxpayers for more mileage than is on your vehicle adds up to theft and no member of Congress is going to get past that.
Schock’s office has already released a statement saying that he has reimbursed the taxpayers for all mileage expenses submitted for his entire term “out of an abundance of caution.” That’s a smart move, but I seriously doubt it will end the questions for him even after he returns home. In the end, though, Schock has done the right thing. His constituents don’t need a representative who is constantly distracted and dogged by stories such as this even if it turns out there was no intentional malfeasance going on. And on the larger scale, the rest of the party didn’t need somebody on the bench with these sorts of stories hanging around their neck every week. It’s difficult to point to the actions of somebody like Charlie Rangel when your opponents immediately turn around and say, “Yeah? Well what about Schock?”
As to the future, this happened early enough in the cycle that Illinois will move forward with a special election to replace Schock. (Costing the taxpayers even more money, sadly.) It’s expected to remain a safe GOP seat.