PHOTOS: Jetsetting Illinois congressman accused of taking taxpayer-funded adventures

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CHICAGO — Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock is facing more questions this week over his use of taxpayer money to fund trips.

Recently released records from the House of Representatives show the fourth-term congressman’s office paid $10,802 in the last quarter of 2014 to pilot Keith Siilats for “commercial transportation”.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the congressman hired Siilats to fly him from Peoria to Chicago for a Bears-Vikings football game on Nov. 16. The paper says Schock chartered an aircraft to take him from Manassas Regional Airport in Virginia, to Peoria, Illinois, that Friday, Nov. 14. The return trip to Reagan National Airport was set for the next Monday and he tucked in a side trip to Chicago to attend the game. Siilats told the Sun-Times that he attend the game with Schock and that the only invoice he submitted was for government payment.

“That whole weekend was paid by the government,” Siilats told the paper.

The 33-year-old Schock, a Republican, has been facing scrutiny over his use of taxpayer and campaign funds to pay for flights on private jets, concert tickets and other entertainment expenses.

His reimbursements of mileage on his personal vehicle have also come under scrutiny. He has hired a public relations team as well as a pair of lawyers William McGinley and Donald McGahn to review the compliance procedures in his official office, campaign and leadership PAC to decide whether they can be improved.

McGahn is a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and a federal campaign finance law expert. McGinley has represented members of Congress, candidates, and corporations in investigations before the Office of Congressional Ethics and the House and Senate Ethics Committees.

Schock’s spokesmen did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the latest report.

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The records from the House show the congressman’s office paid a combined $14,661 for “commercial transportation” to three private jet companies, one of the payments was to Siilats. Under House rules, the congressman is allowed to use office funds to pay for private flights as long as he pays his “share of the fair market value of the normal and usual charter fee or rental charge for a comparable plane of comparable size.”

They also show Schock spent thousands of dollars from his taxpayer-funded office account for office renovations and photography.

The Statement of Disbursements is released quarterly by the Chief Administrative Officer of the House. Records from the most recent quarter, October to December 2014, show Schock’s congressional office paid $15,000 to Tracy Ann Brahler, the interior decorator responsible for the unusual decorations in his Capitol Hill digs — dark red walls, a chandelier, a bust of Abraham Lincoln and even a bouquet of pheasant feathers — that led the space to be nicknamed the “Downton Abbey” office and a good deal of scrutiny of the congressman’s spending habits.

A Schock spokesman said Friday the congressman had repaid the government $35,000 from his personal funds to cover the cost of redecorating the office.

“As he said he would, Congressman Schock has fulfilled his commitment to pay for all the renovation costs of the 18th Congressional District office in Washington,” the spokesman said. “Even though office expenses are often covered by the Member Representational Allowance, the Congressman believed it appropriate to pay these costs himself as part of the office review process.”

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Schock’s office also paid $29,021 to Jonathon Link Studios, which specializes in high end wedding videography and films, according to its website. Link was also paid $17,500 in “personnel compensation” by Schock’s office. It is unclear what services Link provided to Schock.

Schock’s representatives are not commenting on these expenses.

The left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has called on the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Schock three times over the past month. The Office of Congressional Ethics will not comment on the allegations, but Schock is already facing an ethics inquiry in the House over an accusation he broke fundraising rules and federal law in 2012 by soliciting higher-than-allowed contributions for a political committee.

A spokesman also confirmed a Politico report Friday that Schock plans to postpone a fundraiser at Washington restaurant Del Campo that was set for Thursday, but said the congressman continues to hold other events. He had one Sunday morning and plans to do more in March.

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