Some of former Rep. Aaron Schock’s donors are suing him, arguing that he misrepresented himself as an honest and ethical politician during his campaign.
The class-action lawsuit seeks refunds for thousands of the Illinois Republican’s donors who were allegedly swindled by a “campaign full of corruption and lies about his integrity,” according to a statement by the plaintiffs’ law firm, Hagens Berman.
Schock was accused of improperly using taxpayer money to take a private jet to a Chicago Bears game, using campaign money for a duty-free shopping spree in Buenos Aires and a number of other colorful scandals. The Justice Department has already launched a criminal investigation.
Filed on April 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the lawsuit is based on racketeering and common-law fraud, among other things. But political lawyers are skeptical about the legal reasoning, noting that campaign donations are not guarantees.
“By definition, campaign contributions must be ‘donations’ unaccompanied by any expectation of a ‘quid pro quo’ return,” said Stefan Passantino, head of McKenna Long & Aldridge’s political law team.
Craig Engle, founder of the Arent Fox political law group, said that donors can ask for a refund if they gave money for a race the candidate never ended up running or if they accidentally gave too much (for example, a donor who gave $2,800 in a race where donations are legally capped at $2,600 is entitled to a $200 refund).
“I think what you have here is a moral obligation that the congressman has a lot of explaining to do, but certifying a class action of donors and giving them a right to a refund under the racketeering statutes, I don’t see that going forward,” he said.
Passantino agreed. “My impression is that this document reads more as a political document for public consumption than anything,” he said. “The investigation and enforcement of these allegations belongs with the (Federal Election Commission) and the Justice Department Public Integrity Section.”