WASHINGTON — Federal authorities based in Springfield are investigating how taxpayer and government money was spent by Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., as well as other business dealings, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. FBI agents have been delivering subpoenas, and witnesses will be called before a grand jury in Springfield next month.
The early stages of the federal inquiry into possible criminal conduct include questions about Schock’s use of chartered planes, taking a large group of staffers to New York — plus outsized mileage claims and the use of campaign funds for meals — all subjects of Sun-Times stories.
The Sun-Times has learned that the FBI agents are also interested in probing in-kind contributions to fundraisers Schock held for which expenses were not reported and in the international trips he has taken, paid for by others.
The Sun-Times has also learned that the Federal Election Commission is taking a look at Schock’s reports for his various campaign funds.
Areas of legal concern for Schock include whether investigators will be seeking to determine if he filed false or misleading campaign reports and if the financial-disclosure statements he filed properly reflected campaign funds that were essentially for personal use. There may also be IRS ramifications.
Springfield-based FBI agents were in Washington this week seeking to speak to people familiar with Schock’s political and government operations.
Schock House staffers in Washington and Peoria who are receiving subpoenas relating to their official work are supposed to notify the office of the House Speaker. The Speaker, in turn, under House rules , then informs the entire House about the subpoenas.
By stepping down on March 31, Schock will end an Office of Congressional Ethics inquiry and what was likely to be a probe by the House Ethics Committee. It did not automatically shut off inquiries from the Federal Election Commission or, far more serious, by the Justice Department.
Before the surprise resignation announcement on Tuesday, Schock had been trying to get ahead of the controversy, triggered with the Feb. 2 Washington Post story about his “Downton Abbey” office redecoration.
Since then, Schock has been under intense scrutiny from the Sun-Times, Politico, the Associated Press, USA Today and The Blue Nation Review, a left-leaning web political publication, with almost daily stories about his spending of campaign and taxpayer funds for questionable travel and real estate dealings.
Schock repaid taxpayers $40,000 for the office make-over. Schock also wrote the U.S. Treasury a check for $1,237 to reimburse taxpayers for a chartered plane to fly him from Peoria to Chicago for a Bears game last November, a disclosure made by the Sun-Times.
Schock also reimbursed the government for all the mileage he claimed on his official accounts — which should have amounted to tens of thousands of miles — after questions were raised by the Sun-Times and Politico.
In the statement Schock released announcing his resignation he said, ”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.”
Schock’s two spokesmen who were hired specifically to handle the controversies leading to his resignation and, his two lawyers have not responded to calls and emails asking for comment.