His team will continue a thorough review of his office procedures
(WASHINGTON) — Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock reimbursed the U.S. government for more than $1,200 in travel expenses for attending a Chicago Bears football game last November, his office said Monday. He previously had charged taxpayers for the trip.
The reimbursement comes amid new congressional reports detailing $14,000 in private air travel incurred by Schock last fall, which included plane travel around Illinois and to Washington. Schock used his taxpayer-funded account to pay those bills. His office said it was reviewing whether other charges might have been inappropriate.
Schock’s recent travel adds to the list of more than a dozen flights worth $40,000 — expensed under his congressional account or campaign funds — aboard planes owned by donors. That led to a formal ethics complaint.
Schock, a 33-year-old, rising Republican star, has been under scrutiny for using congressional funds to redecorate his Capitol Hill office in the style of the TV show “Downton Abbey.” Last week, his office said he made good on his promise of personally reimbursing those costs.
Congressional rules updated two years ago generally allow the use of private aircraft as long as trips are fairly compensated. But the latest revelations about Schock’s travel expenses raise questions about why taxpayers were billed for a trip to Chicago when he represents the Peoria and Springfield areas at least 150 miles away.
A spokesman said Schock wrote a check to the U.S. Treasury on Monday for the Chicago trip.
Newly released House records showed $10,802 incurred last November for “commercial transportation” to Keith Siilats, a New York-based pilot who flew Schock to Chicago. Siilats told the AP he flew the congressman between Washington and Peoria for a series of meetings, and attended the Bears game with Schock.
That trip was first reported Sunday by the Chicago Sun-Times. It was not immediately clear how Schock paid for his game tickets.
The records also show Schock’s office spent about $2,270 with Peoria-based Byerly Aviation, as well as $1,590 with Lobair LLC. Both were previously paid for Schock’s travel on aircraft owned by his financial contributors, records show.
The new Byerly expense aligns with a same-day journey on a plane owned by Springfield businessman Todd Green between Peoria and Quincy, Illinois, on Dec. 12, 2014. Schock toured a local dam that he said needed repairs that same day in Quincy.
Byerly was previously paid $11,433 from Schock’s office account for four days in November 2013. The AP found Green’s plane traveled to and from Washington and Peoria during that same period— and hours before Schock posted a photo about his “Schocktoberfest” fundraising event in his district.
A spokesman said Monday his team will continue a thorough review of his office procedures. Schock previously told the AP he travels frequently throughout his district to stay connected with his constituents.
The AP last week detailed those travel expenses, including Schock’s use of private planes and incurring of pricey entertainment charges. The review identified at least a dozen flights on donors’ planes since mid-2011, tracking his reliance on the aircraft partly through pictures uploaded to his Instagram account.
During one period, Green’s plane traveled to at least eight cities last October in the Midwest and East Coast — cities where Schock met with political candidates ahead of the midterm elections. Green runs car dealerships in Schock’s district with his brother, Jeff, a pilot who Todd Green said is good friends with Schock.
Lobair was previously paid $6,000 for four trips on a plane owned by Michael J. Miller, another Peoria auto dealer, and by Vonachen Services Inc., a janitorial and service firm headed by Peoria businessman Matthew Vonachen. Vonachen donated at least $11,000 to Schock’s political career, federal campaign records show.
Schock’s other official and expenses included concert tickets and mileage reimbursements, including a sold-out Katy Perry concert last June.
The House updated its ethics rules in January 2013. Earlier rules prohibited lawmakers from using office accounts to pay for flights on private aircraft, allowing payments only for federally licensed charter and commercial flights.
A liberal-leaning group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, had requested an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, an outside panel that reviews ethics complaints against House members.
Schock recently brought on board a team of campaign finance lawyers and public relations experts to address the controversy about his expenses.
Associated Press writers Stephen Braun, Jeff Horwitz and Ronnie Greene contributed to this report.