News Local/State

Rep. Aaron Schock Announces Resignation

Schock talks with House Speaker John Boehner in a file photo from January 9. 2015.

In this file photo from Jan. 9, 2015, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, left, walks with Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., as House Republicans head to a closed-door GOP strategy meeting at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/File)

Republican Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock says he's resigning his House seat amid questions about his spending. In a statement on Tuesday, Schock said he would step down effective March 31.

Schock, a four-term lawmaker, said he was taking the step with a "heavy heart." He said that questions about irregularities in his campaign finance and congressional spending accounts over the past six weeks have proven to be a "great distraction" and have made it too difficult for him to serve.  

In a statement from his office, Schock explained his decision.

Today, I am announcing my resignation as a Member of the United States House of Representatives effective March 31st. 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 difficultfor 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.

Governor Bruce Rauner released a brief statment Tuesday afternoon calling this "a sad day for the people of Illinois and the 18th District." 

When asked further about the resignation in Bloomington, Rauner said Schock's conduct raises a number of questions, "and I hope and believe that the Congressman is doing the right thing right now for the best the best interests of the people of the 18th District, and the state of Illinois."

Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin also released a statement, saying, “The allegations against Congressman Schock are serious, raising questions about his expenditure of official funds and campaign funds.  His resignation came as a surprise and reflects the gravity of his situation.”

Back in February, Republican 13th District Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville defended a chartered flight he took with Schock from DC back to Illinois. Davis said they only did it because they missed their connection.

"People don't want to look into those legitimate reasons" he said.  "And I would urge everyone to cull the details a little more and you'll see instances like this where I don't think anybody would say that that was out of the ordinary."

But as complaints against Schock’s office mounted, defense of the Congressman dwindled.  Even conservative publication National Review called for his resignation last week.

In a statement Tuesday, Congressman Davis would only say that Schock's resignation is a loss for the state.

“Aaron is a friend, and this is a sad day for the Illinois delegation," he said.  "But I know Congressman Schock is doing what he thinks is best for his constituents and I support his decision.  I have enjoyed serving with Aaron in Congress and will miss working with him on legislative issues important to Illinois."

The AP reported earlier reported that Illinois state and county property records show that a shell company linked to the embattled GOP congressman paid a political donor $300,000 last year for a commercial property in Peoria, then took out a $600,000 mortgage for the property from a local bank run by other donors.

The newly disclosed arrangement follows similar Schock real estate deals detailed by a recent Associated Press investigation into the Republican's business transactions involving political contributors over the past decade.

The 2014 deal, which occurred after the congressman's most recent financial report, raises new questions about Schock's pattern of repeated reliance on campaign contributors.

As recently as Monday, Schock visited Western Illinois University and said he's unsure when the financial review of his six years in office will be complete.

The Associated Press reports a special election will be held to replace Schock.  Rauner will have five days from the March 31 effective date of Schock's resignation to schedule a special election.
That election, including any primary, must be held within 120 days of the seat becoming vacant.

Illinois State Republican Senator Darin LaHood said he'll announce Wednesday whether he'll put his name in for Schock's soon-to-be former Congressional seat.

"This is a district that's a very Republican district," he said.  "There will be a lot of qualified people that want to get involved with it. I think regardless of who gets in they're going to have to work hard, earn the trust of the voters in the 18th district, and see what happens at the end."

LaHood says he's getting a lot of encouragement to run. His name has frequently been mentioned at the Illinois capitol as a likely contender.  He's from the Peoria area, and has been a state senator since 2011.

His father is former, longtime Republican Congressman Ray LaHood - who went on to serve as President Barack Obama's first transportation secretary.

Others considering Schock’s seat are GOP Senators Jason Barickman and Bill Brady, both of Bloomington.

Brady has served in the Legislature since 1993 and ran unsuccessfully for governor. He says he'll decide whether to run by next week.

Barickman has been a lawmaker since 2011. He says he'll discuss the idea with his wife and decide soon.