Rising Republican Rep. Aaron Schock has launched an internal investigation into his office and campaign spending procedures after it was alleged that taxpayers had paid for his travel and entertainment expenses.
The 33-year-old Illinois congressman, who is already facing a 2013 ethics probe, has hired two lawyers to conduct the inquiry, according to the Chicago Tribune
, citing a statement made by his office.
Schock's high-flying lifestyle has come under the microscope ever since he attempted to brush off a Washington Post report that he had redecorated his office with furniture in the style of the hit British TV show "Downton Abbey," the newspaper reported.
The six-year House member from Peoria told ABC News that he planned to pay for the upgrade with his own money, although his office also reported that the designer, Euro Trash of Jacksonville, Ill., had offered its services for free.
"Haters are gonna hate," Schock told ABC News, invoking a line from one of pop singer Taylor Swift's songs. But the controversy led to a watchdog group to call for a review into whether Schock had taken an improper gift, the Tribune stated.
The Associated Press has since examined Schock's finances and alleged that he had spent taxpayer and campaign funds
on flights aboard private planes owned by key political donors.
There also have been other expensive travel and entertainment charges, 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 car mileage claims have also come under close examination.
Schock has also hired a public relations firm to field questions about how he paid for his lavish lifestyle, according to Politico
, which noted that Schock made an expensive trip to London in June 2011. He stayed at Claridge's, a five-star hotel where rooms cost at least $500 per night.
The PR team consists of veteran GOP communications operatives Ron Bonjean and Brian Walsh, according to Politico sources.
The congressman defended himself by saying that he often travels to his district "to stay connected with my constituents" and that he also takes trips to raise money for his campaign committee and congressional colleagues.
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.
In announcing the internal audit, Schock's office said: "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.
"To lead the review, he hired William McGinley and Don McGahn of Jones Day. Congressman Schock takes his compliance obligations seriously which is why he took this proactive step to review these procedures."
The statement added, "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."
According to the Tribune, McGahn is a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, which enforces campaign finance laws.
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