Saturday, March 21, 2015

Aaron Schock Prison Watch


The House that Boehner Built

Just over a year ago, we started wondering if Aaron Schock's crush on tough-guy Mafia thug Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm and his menacing blue eyes could lead the soon-to-be ex-congressmen to eventually share a prison cell at a Club Fed somewhere. They cooked up an illegal donor sharing scheme that ensnared both campaigns. Next step for Grimm is sentencing and, presumably, appeals, although he pled guilty already. Next step for Schock... well, that mess is just beginning.

A couple of days ago Schock's father stumbled onto local TV news to tell reporters that Aaron would be successful in life as long as he doesn't wind up in prison. Yesterday, the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, Lynn Sweet, reported that feds based in Springfield have empaneled a Grand Jury and have already started sending out subpoenas. Fireworks will start next month, and probably last a good long time. Schock has already lawyered up with two sleazy wheeler-dealers from the white shoe Beltway firm Jones Day, William McGinley and Don McGahn. Schock is also paying a gaggle of Republic p.r. hacks like Ron Bonjean and Brian Walsh to try to spin his case in a more sympathetic way, something that will be difficult in light of the ceaseless patterns of corruption and the final ripoff of taxpayers from thousands of dollars of fake mileage on his Chevy Tahoe.

One defense Schock will never use is to explain how he had been forced to acclimate himself to a life of deception because of the fears that he had developed living as a closeted gay man in the unforgiving macho world of Republican politics. Over time, lying and cheating became more natural to him than being truthful. He wove a fantasy around himself and, for someone so superficially hip to social media, never realized how exposed and vulnerable he always was. His father, a doctor, never seemed to have noticed... anything.

"So yeah, he's broke the law," ” Dr. Richard Schock, the father of Aaron Schock, the former Republican congressman from Illinois, told reporters on Wednesday, a day after his son had announced that he was leaving behind the office on the Hill decorated in the style of Downton Abbey. Dr. Schock suggested that breaking the law was an easy thing to do; maybe his son had run into trouble with “paperwork”-- for filing, say, driving expenses for ninety thousand more miles than his car had ever travelled. After all, the doctor said that he had had trouble keeping track of miles in his work, too-- for trips to “nursing homes, hospitals.” In his son’s case, however, the trips, in addition to the ones in his car, were to places like India, Buenos Aires, the American Music Awards, and, with his interns, a Katy Perry concert. He also seems to have misreported, as a software expense, the cost of flying on a private plane for a journey that involved a Chicago Bears game. But his father was admirably supportive. “I’ve been audited by the I.R.S.-- several times. So I don’t know what they have on him. And I know that it’s hard to keep records.”

Perhaps, in the end, the problem for Schock was that he flouted the rules in such a notable way. So many politicians are more subtle. They don’t use campaign funds to paint the walls of their offices the color of a fine pinot noir with the help of a “pro-bono” decorator, or furnish them with such accoutrements as vases full of pheasant feathers. (Though at least the sepia portraits that hung above Schock’s gold-accented sconces were of Presidents, rather than of aristocratic ancestors.) They don’t post photos from their junkets on Instagram, or sell a house in Peoria to a campaign donor for a few hundred thousand dollars more than comparable houses in the neighborhood. Or, at least, they keep such transactions a couple of steps removed, maybe in the form of a job or a below-market apartment for a relative, or an investment in a son-in-law’s business. Once one gets past some of Schock’s poorer decisions (a GQ photo shoot, the bare-chested Men’s Health cover), the money aspects of his downfall seem routine and boring. (Mileage reimbursements?) Some of the attention he got probably had more to do with speculation about his personal life than his financial probity. But the story showed something about politics, too. The usual, quiet exchanges of money and influence carried out in Washington were, in Schock’s case, affectionately recorded on social media for all to see-- which somehow made them look even worse.

That’s not a defense, but it does illustrate the many ways in which money distorts politics. There is a common worry that the grinding need to raise money has discouraged the best people from running for public office. Who would want to spend hours on the phone every day, asking people for contributions? ... Schock was, reportedly, excellent at raising money for colleagues and was happy to do it. That was one reason that he was taken semi-seriously in the G.O.P. caucus, even though he didn’t get any bills passed. (In today’s Congress, who does?) He was unashamed about the things that other people point to as the soul-destroying reasons that they leave politics; he even seemed to like them. He saw how Congress operated, and loved it. Schock celebrated his campaign-donor-funded self... Schock’s father added, “He’s had a lot of fun. He enjoys his job. He enjoys people, he enjoys doing things for people.” That, in today’s Washington, passes for something approaching madness.
It will be hard to imagine that grand jury in Springfield setting in motion a process that ends in another jury sending Schock to prison, regardless of how guilty they find him. He's one of them and they coddle him... still.

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At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dad's comments indicate where Aaron's disdain for the law came from. IF IRS wasn't neutered by GOP budget cuts, I'd be looking at Dad's returns.

At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

Second on checking out Daddy Schock's taxes.

Wasn't abusing mileage Marcus Bachmann's favorite way to raid the constituents that Michelle did squat for?


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