WASHINGTON â€” The FBI has begun interviewing people close to disgraced Rep. Aaron Schock, the Illinois Republican who is resigning amid allegations of improper spending from his office and campaign accounts.
A source familiar with the probe says federal investigators are looking into the Illinois Republican’s use of official and campaign resources. The source, who was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter, said a grand jury is expected to convene in Illinois in early April to review the case.
A federal law enforcement official said Friday that investigators had been monitoring the allegations involving Schock, outlined in a series recent news reports. The official, who is not authorized to discuss the matter, said authorities are in the beginning stages of a review and have not drawn any final conclusions about the case.
Schock, a once-rising Republican Party star, said Tuesday he will step down effective March 31 because of the “constant questions” stemming from news reports about his use of taxpayer and campaign funds.
The Office of Congressional Ethics had begun to look into the allegations, but House committees will lose authority to pursue the matter after he resigns. A criminal investigation, however, would continue even after Schock leaves Congress.
USA TODAY and other news outlets have reported in recent weeks that Schock spent more than $100,000 on office renovations, used campaign funds for personal trips and was receiving mileage reimbursements for far more than his vehicle could have been driven. Politico
The scandal began with a Washington Post
Schock, first elected in 2008, had quickly become one of the top Republican fundraisers in the House. The 33-year-old lawmaker had a penchant for documenting his luxury travels on Instagram and Twitter, including photos of himself at major events such as the Country Music Awards.
“I think it’s a huge deal when they start issuing subpoenas,” said Andrew Herman, an expert in government ethics at the law firm Miller Chevalier. “They don’t do that at the drop of a hat.”
Misusing official resources is not a small matter, he added. If there is “a pattern and practice of misappropriation of taxpayer resources, that is going to get the attention of the feds,” and “it’s potentially a felony,” Herman said.
Beyond the FBI investigation, Herman said, Schock could face civil proceedings before the Federal Election Commission if he is found to have misused campaign funds. But with the FBI involved in the Schock case, the FEC “is the least of his worries.”
Schock is no doubt facing steep legal bills, but he may have a bit of a cushion. It is not uncommon for the FEC to grant lawmakers permission to use campaign funds to pay legal expenses connected to allegations arising from their congressional service. The House Ethics Committee explains on its website that “it is generally permissible under House Rules for a Member to use campaign funds to defend legal actions arising out of his or her campaign, election, or the performance of official duties.”
At the end of 2014, Schock had about $3 million in his primary campaign account.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson