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US politician who charged $40,000 Downton Abbey office makeover to taxpayers quits

Aaron Schock had also posed for Men’s Heath magazine.

Aaron Schock Aaron Schock. Source: Apexchange

A RISING STAR of the Republican Party who once posed for the cover of Mens Health magazine shocked the GOP by resigning yesterday.

In his fourth term in Congress at a mere age 33, Illinois congressman Aaron Schock was the rare media-savvy GOP millennial on Capitol Hill, attracting fans by the thousand on Instagram, posing bare-chested on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, and leveraging his national profile to become a prodigious fundraiser for fellow Republicans.

Schock’s announcement came a day after news broke that the Office of Congressional Ethics had begun contacting the congressman’s associates in an apparent investigation. His departure would leave congressional investigators without jurisdiction but would not necessarily end the legal cloud over him, as the Office of Congressional Ethics could refer its findings to the Justice Department or to the Federal Election Commission.

He had already been made a senior deputy whip and had been tipped for more, even making his way onto some prospective ballots as a vice-presidential candidate next year.

However, somewhere along the way, Schock became sloppy, greedy or worse.

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He accepted rides on donors’ private planes without properly reporting the expenses, made improbably lucrative real estate deals with political supporters, and even spent $40,000 in taxpayer money to decorate his office in the style of Downton Abbey — money he paid back after the expenditures came under question.

Yesterday, with little warning, he announced he would step down at the end of this month.

“I do this with a heavy heart,” Schock said in a statement.

He said he had given his constituents his all, “but 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.”

For Schock, a cascade of negative stories followed The Washington Post’s report in February on the Downton Abbey redecoration — a revelation that he’d dismissed by remarking to ABC News, “Haters are gonna hate.”

An AP examination of Schock’s frequent flights around his central Illinois district found that he spent more than $40,000 from his House expenses for travel on planes owned by a group of donors.

A separate AP story detailed how Schock has relied on several political donors for almost all of the real estate deals that have provided much of his personal wealth, estimated at about $1.4 million in 2013.

With AP reporting.

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