Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Crooked Republican Closet Case Aaron Schock Draws a Primary Challenge


Maybe Aaron Schock's congressional seat isn't as safe as we've been saying it is. The seat was redrawn in 2010 by the Democratic Illinois legislature to concentrate Republicans in one district in order to make IL-13 and IL-17 safe for Democrats. The Democrats have still be unable to capture the 13th (Rodney Davis' district) and the reactionary Blue Dog Democrat who won in the 17th, Cheri Bustos, wasn't worth the effort.

Shock wound up with an R+11 district, won by McCain with 54% and by Romney with 61%-- and won by Schock in 2012 with 74% and last November, despite mounting ethics charges, with 75%. Ostensibly, IL-18 loves Aaron Schock. He's been very popular in the district where his excuses for being a dashing young bachelor-- "I still just haven't had time to find the right gal"-- are accepted at face value. Inside the Beltway, everyone knows Aaron Schock is a gay party boy. In the suburbs around Springfield and Peoria and the farming villages that run east from Iowa Schock's lifestyle doesn't compute as "gay." And nothing would get these people to vote for a Democrat anyway.

But this week it's looking likely that they will have an opportunity to replace Schock with a more conservative Republican... if they want to. As the financial scandals pile up and get more and more press back home, Bloomington attorney Mark Zalcman has been putting together the beginning of a primary challenge against Schock. He declared his candidacy on Monday and said his platform will be centered on his Christian faith and values. His campaign slogan: "Because Washington needs the Gospel." Presumably his allies will get more specific about Schock's non-Gospel lifestyle as the campaign heats up.
Zalcman made a bid in the 2014 Republican primary for the state House seat long held by Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria, but was removed from the ballot before the election following a challenge that determined he didn’t have enough valid signatures on his candidate petitions.

“A little more time and a few more signatures are all we needed last time,” Zalcman said in a news release. “This time around, we have plenty of time and a lot more experience, so getting (1,000) or so signatures required for this office (Schock’s seat) is going to be no problem at all. This time the voters will decide, not the State Board of Elections.”

One of the challengers of Zalcman’s petitions was former Schock operative Steve Shearer, who is the vice chairman of Peoria County Republicans.

This time, presuming state laws remain the same and require major-party candidates to get signatures equal to 0.5 percent of the votes cast in the last election for the seat, Zalcman will need 1,234 valid signatures from Republicans living within the district.
Zalcman himself lives just on the other side of the border between IL-18 and IL-13, but that isn't an impediment to running. Will Schock try dismissing Zalcman under his favorite rubric-- "Haters gotta hate"-- or will he engage him on a serious level about mounting concerns among Republicans that Schock is too immature to represent Illinois in Congress? Keep in mind, that Schock still has $3,290,782 left in his campaign war-chest after the 2014 campaign. Even if he's forced to spend $1,500,000 on legal fees, it will be very difficult for Zalcman to compete financially. Better news for Zalcman is that Club For Growth just gave Schock a failing grade on their new scorecard. He came in as the 199th most conservative Member of the House, making him vulnerable on the right.

This morning, Politico reported that Schock says he's not a lawyer but that he does his best not to break the law. "That’s what we can all do, is our best effort." But Schock’s inability to say with certainty on Tuesday that he hasn’t broken the law or accepted an improper gift does not augur well for his chances of weathering a scandal that seems to deepen by the day with some new revelation-- let alone his once-promising prospects of ascending to statewide office. The scrutiny is plainly getting to him. Reluctant to talk about anything substantive with the national media, Schock granted Politico a six-minute interview yesterday-- most of it embarrassingly defensive, evasive and carefully parsed so as not to wind up in the hands of a future prosecutor trying to convict the congressman.
During the interview, Schock seemed frustrated with the persistent questions in recent weeks about his lavish lifestyle and seemingly lax accounting of his spending of taxpayer and campaign dollars. He was, at turns, testy, reflective and willing to play the victim. He declined repeatedly to answer whether he ever accepted an improper gift as a member of Congress.

Schock has hired a crisis communications firm, in addition to Jones Day attorneys William McGinley and Don McGahn. McGahn was a top commissioner at the Federal Election Commission and McGinley is one of the top ethics attorneys in Washington. His hiring of the high-powered outside team is a sure sign of how seriously Schock is treating the potential fallout from his actions.

In a comment sure to enrage his Capitol Hill colleagues, he argued that if the media spent time digging into the spending of other lawmakers-- like they have his-- reporters would “find a story to write about any member of Congress.”

...Schock said he expects to amend a host of records because of errors in his reporting of spending. He has repaid the government tens of thousands of dollars for redecorating his office in the theme of the PBS drama Downton Abbey and also cut a check to cover the use of a private plane for a trip from Washington to Peoria and then to a Chicago Bears football game. More recently, the Chicago Sun-Times uncovered a pricey government-paid trip for 10 employees to New York.

And Politico this week reported on a $3,425 line item for a “software” purchase. An executive at the software firm said he never sold the congressman software and that the expenditure was actually for Schock’s use of his private airplane. Once routine lying to cover up your sexuality takes over your personality, lying about everything and anything becomes second nature. It isn't too late for Schock to come out of the closet and start fresh with a new policy of honesty and integrity.
UPDATE: And Now The Far Right Is Going After Schock

The National Review, in an article today called "Aaron Schock Should Find a Different Job" just made it clear they want nothing to do with the unworthy, immature, spoiled brat. "Politics," writes Charles Cooke, "shouldn't be a ticket to a celebrity lifestyle on the public's dime... Let’s say it, aloud: Aaron Schock is a crook."

BIGGER UPDATE: Schock Announces Resignation

Rather than face a series of politically devastating reprimands from the House Ethics Committee, Schock announced today that he would resign from Congress, effective March 31. In a statement, he told his constituents that "I do this with a heavy heart. Serving the people of the 18th District is the highest and greatest honor I have had in my life. I thank them for their faith in electing me and letting me represent their interests in Washington. I have given them my all over the last six years. I have traveled to all corners of the District to meet with the people I’ve been fortunate to be able to call my friends and neighbors. But the constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself. I have always sought to do what’s best for my constituents and I thank them for the opportunity to serve."

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