Rep. Aaron Schock, embroiled in an investigation over his travel and entertainment expenses, has personally repaid $35,000 to the government for lavish "Downton Abbey"-style decorations to his Washington, D.C. office.
The Illinois Republican's high-flying lifestyle has come under close scrutiny since he brushed off a recent report that he had redecorated his office with décor and furniture similar to the hit British TV show.
The Washington Post story maintained that Schock's decorator, Annie Brahler of Euro Trash in Jacksonville, Ill., offered her services for free, and that the rising GOP star was only billed for the cost of the furnishings.
But USA Today revealed
on Friday that Schock's office had already paid Brahler $35,000 for her services through December. Now Schock, 33, who says he's never watched "Downton Abbey," has repaid that money from his personal account to the U.S. Treasury, along apparently with another $5,000.
"As he said he would, Congressman Schock has fulfilled his commitment to pay for all the renovation costs of the 18th Congressional District office in Washington," said a statement released by Schock's office on Friday.
"Even though office expenses are often covered by the Member Representational Allowance, the Congressman believed it appropriate to pay these costs himself as part of the office review process."
USA Today has alleged that Schock had spent $100,000 of his taxpayer-funded account on office renovations in recent years, including new leather furniture, hardwood floors and marble countertops.
After the Post story emerged, The Associated Press examined Schock's finances
and allegedly found that he had used taxpayer money and campaign funds for flights aboard private planes owned by key political donors, which may have violated House rules and federal law.
There have also been other questionable travel and entertainment charges paid for by taxpayers, including for a massage company and music concerts, according to the AP report, which noted Schock had taken at least a dozen flights, costing $40,000, on donors' planes since 2011.
His allegedly excessive car mileage claims for his personal vehicle have also come under close examination.
Politico noted that Schock made an expensive trip in June 2011 to London, where he's said to have stayed at Claridge's, a posh five-star hotel where rooms cost at least $500 per night.
Schock has also hired a public relations firm to field questions about how he paid for his elaborate lifestyle, and also enlisted two leading ethics lawyers to conduct an internal investigation into his office and campaign spending procedures.
The liberal-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics has filed numerous complaints with ethics investigators demanding a probe into Schock's spending, USA Today added.
Schock has also been the subject of scrutiny by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which said in a report he may have violated House rules by soliciting campaign contributions for a committee that backed Illinois GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger in a 2012 primary. The House Ethics Committee has said that inquiry is still ongoing.
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