News Local/State

Schock Defends Travels on Campaign Donors’ Airplanes

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock speaking to reporters in Peoria, IL.

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock speaking to reporters in Peoria, IL. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) told the Associated Press this week that he uses private planes owned by campaign donors to stay in touch with constituents … and to raise money for his campaign committee and congressional colleagues.

The Peoria Republican defended his use of taxpayer and campaign funds for the flights, after a February 23rd AP report investigating his travels.

The AP reviewed Schock's expense records to find information about the flights. There also were other travel and entertainment charges, including for a massage company and music concerts.

Schock had previously defended his travel schedule the week before the AP report. He was asked about his travels by Willis Kern of public radio station WGLT in Normal, in an interview which also touched on other subjects, including immigration reform and legislation to combat human trafficking.

Schock says he visits each one of the 205 towns in his 18th Congressional District at least once a year.

“People want their congressman to show up”, said Schock. “They don’t want their member of congress to just stay out in Washington D.C. and get Potomac fever.”

Schock also pushed back on the expense of his travels, which Kern identified as being more than either of Illinois’ two U-S senators spend on their travels. He said his travel expenses need to be viewed in light of his success as a campaign fundraiser.

“You can’t just look on spending reports at the expenses, you’ve got to look at the revenue”, said Schock. Certainly, State Farm spends more on expenses than the local coffee shop. But they also have more in revenue. And so, the same is true in campaigns. The fact of the matter is, I’m one of the top five fundraisers in the nation. And when you’re one of the top five fundraisers in the nation, guess what? You have more expenses than the average fundraiser in the nation.”

But Schock told the Associated Press this week that he has begun a review of his office’s procedures concerning his travel and other expenses, to “determine whether they can be improved”.

UPDATE - A watchdog group says congressional investigators should review whether Schock violated House ethics rules by using taxpayer and campaign funds for private travel expenses.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said in its complaint Wednesday to the Office of Congressional Ethics that available evidence "warrants a full investigation.''
This is the third complaint from the liberal-leaning group about Schock's expenses or finances filed since early February.
 A spokesman for Schock did not immediately respond to the complaint Wednesday.   But it is reported Wednesday that Schock has hired lawyers and public relations experts amid questions about his travel and entertainment expenses.
The congressman has hired Washington attorneys William McGinley and Donald McGahn, a former Federal Election Commission member. He has also retained GOP communications experts Ron Bonjean and Brian Walsh.
Schock says he will review his office's procedures to see if they can be improved.