Disgraced Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said last week that if reporters aggressively dug through the spending records of his colleagues, they would “find a story to write about any member of Congress.”
The response from his fellow House members: Fat chance.
House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-Mich.), whose panel prints and distributes the handbook that explains the rules and guidelines for members, called the 33-year-old lawmaker’s lavish spending habits “an anomaly.”
Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonTrump endorses Kari Lake to succeed 'RINO' Doug Ducey as Arizona governor The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Former Rep. Matt Salmon launches gubernatorial bid in Arizona MORE (R-Ariz.) said reporters might find a small infraction or two with other members, but not the type of “big-time, red-flag discrepancies” detailed in story after story about Schock, who was finally forced to announce his resignation this week amid more damaging reports.
And Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Schock’s case was “so outrageous and so unusual” that it should not trigger additional ethics training for lawmakers.
Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFeehery: The next Republican wave is coming Rift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE (R-Ohio) also didn't seem keen on creating more ethics requirements for lawmakers in the wake of the Schock scandal, saying there are already “ample controls in place.”
“If somebody's going to violate the rules, you know, they're going to violate the rules. And in almost every case, sooner or later, it catches up with you,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFeehery: The next Republican wave is coming Rift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE said at a news conference in response to a question from The Hill.
Schock announced on Tuesday he’ll resign from Congress on March 31 after a series of damaging stories revealed the four-term lawmaker from Peoria had allegedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer and campaign money on flights on private jets, fake mileage reimbursements, concert tickets, a personal photographer and “Downton Abbey”-inspired office renovations.
His resignation means congressional investigators will likely drop any ethics probe into allegations of wrongdoing. But Schock still could face criminal charges from the Justice Department — including possible jail time.
Boehner told reporters he was “a bit stunned” by Schock’s decision to step down and had not heard from the congressman all week.
“But I think I expect, and the American people expect, members of Congress to be held to the highest ethical standards,” the Speaker continued. “And I think Mr. Schock made a decision. Frankly, I support the decision he made.”
Many on Capitol Hill said they were surprised by the extent of Schock’s House rules and federal campaign finance violations — especially because he serves on Miller’s Administration Committee, which is responsible for educating lawmakers about what they can and cannot do.
The panel had recently held a seminar for freshmen lawmakers on what they can purchase using their Members’ Representational Allowance, or MRA, and how they should report those expenses.
“I feel bad for Aaron Schock. He had such a great career going on here so I certainly wish him well,” Miller said in an interview Thursday, adding that she had not spoken to the soon-to-be-former lawmaker this week.
Miller said perhaps her committee could do a better job reaching out to veteran members of Congress as well.
“The largest room is always the room for improvement,” she quipped.
But, she added, House rules are “pretty clear.” And she pushed back against Schock’s remarks last week to Politico “that whether you look at my reports or you look at any member of Congress’ reports, I’m sure that you can find a story to write about any member of Congress.”
“I don’t think that’s accurate. I guess if you’re looking for a dime here or quarter here,” Miller said. “I mean, I don’t take airplanes. And we have our own airplane that my husband built in our garage and I use that sometimes when I go to parades because my district’s big — six counties — but I just pay for it myself.
“It doesn’t come out of the MRA and it doesn’t come out of the campaign. I just absorb it.”
Salmon, too, said Schock’s comments about other lawmakers didn’t add up.
“It’s kind of like saying when you’re caught speeding 55 miles in a 45 mile-an-hour zone that that’s the same as an extreme DUI when you’re driving 130,” Salmon told The Hill. “That’s just not the case.”
The existing rules are fine, Salmon said — Congress just needs to do a better job of policing itself.
“I’m not much of a nanny state type of a guy. We’re running for some of the highest offices in the land. You’d expect us to be a little bit more responsible in looking out for ourselves and not have a babysitter around,” Salmon said.
“If you can’t comply with those complex guidelines, then you shouldn’t be here.”
—Mike Lillis contributed to this report.