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Aaron Schock Defends Billing Taxpayers For Staff Trip To New York

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 9, 2015 6:00PM

2011_11_30_schock.jpg Rep. Aaron Schock defended billing taxpayers over $10,000 in travel expenses to bring most of his staff to New York last year, the latest in a series of reports regarding the Peoria Republican’s spending habits.

Schock received $10,053 for “travel subsistence” related to bringing 10 staffers to New York City last September for events connected with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. Shock used another $3,000 from a campaign fund to buy 20 tickets to the Global Citizen Festival that weekend.

House members have wide leeway with how they can spend their taxpayer allowances. But what wasn’t asked was if any of Schock’s staffers conducted official business while in New York. Schock, who is in Chicago Monday along with other Illinois Republican leaders to push for immigration reform, said the trip fell under official business.

He said the event featured 12 world leaders, and that he introduced the prime minister of India.

“I’m glad that my staff was able to go and be a part of it,” Schock said.

“If that’s not official, I don’t know what is,” he said. “Our own president addressed the crowd, as well, as did 12 world leaders.”

Schock did allow how the appearance of chartering a plane could be seen as being out of touch with his constituency and has promised a full review of his travel expenses. Congressmen can file travel expenses for official business. But Schock flew from Peoria to Chicago to attend a Bears game last November. (He wrote a check for $1,237 after that story broke.)

Other Illinois representatives filed travel expenses related to the Modi visit, but nowhere near the amount of Schock. Dan Lipinski billed taxpayers $741.06 for airfare and taxis. Randy Hultgren, who held official meetings in New York in his position on the House Financial Services Committee, billed taxpayers $1,099.75 for travel expenses for him and a staffer. Danny Davis paid all his expenses to New York.

Schock has had a spotlight shining brightly on him in recent weeks after word about a Downton Abbey-inspired redesign of his congressional offices made headlines—a possible violation of House Ethics rules as the work was originally done for free. He was previously under investigation for soliciting a $25,000 donation from a Super PAC run by former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; under federal law, the maximum allowable donation from a Super PAC is $5,000.

Schock came under fire in 2012 when he used his campaign fund to reimburse $150,000 in expenses ranging from a resort stay in Greece to a P90X home workout system, which he billed as a “health care” expense.