Aaron Schock Is Mum About His 'Downton Abbey'-Inspired Office Design
By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 4, 2015 7:00PM
Illinois congressman Aaron Schock may have thought he was merely being inventive when he had his Washington, DC office redecorated to resemble a room from the PBS series Downton Abbey. He wound up instead opening a can of worms that includes a possible ethics investigation.
Schock’s office in the Rayburn Building was redecorated by designer Annie Brahler, owner of a firm called Euro Trash in Jacksonville, Illinois. Brahler redecorated Schock’s office inspired by Downton Abbey’s “Red Room.” Schock’s private office was also redecorated and now includes “a drippy crystal chandelier, a table propped up by two eagles, a bust of Abraham Lincoln and massive arrangements of pheasant feathers.”
How Schock wants to decorate his office digs is his business. How his communications director Benjamin Cole responded when Washington Post reporter Ben Terris started asking questions about it started the controversy. Terris went back and forth with Cole and Schock’s staff about deleting photos Terris took of the office and conducting an actual tour of the space with Schock; Schock later declined the offer.
Brahler told Terris she offered her services for free, although Schock paid for the objects like the chandelier. Accepting Brahler’s services gratis could be a violation of congressional ethics. According to the House Ethics Manual, congressmen may not accept more than $100 in gifts from a single source in a year. Though Brahler prides herself on her website as making treasure from trash, that expertise likely doesn't come cheap.
Cole, in his discussions with Terris, warned Terris not to "sour" his working relationship with Schock by writing "some gossipy piece." One of the rising stars in the GOP, Schock was elected to Congress at age 28, appeared on the cover of Men's Health wearing an unbuttoned dress shirt exposing rock hard abs, and is adept at using social media. (Schock did decline a run for Illinois governor last year.)
But there has long been speculation about Schock's sexuality and how that reconciles with Schock's opposition to LGBT issues such as marriage equality, repealing "don't ask, don't tell" and adding sexual orientation to the existing hate crimes law. And it's a shame that Schock's team has to take those rumors into consideration when granting media requests. Even though this is the 21st century, unfortunately it's still a direct assumption for many to see Schock's office and think "something ain't right about that boy." When the only thing that "ain't right" about this is whether the congressman breached House Ethics rules trying to give his offices a personal touch.