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Schock’s breathtaking downfall

Monday, Mar 30, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Congressman Aaron Schock’s resignation is not only a blow to national Republicans, for whom Schock raised millions, but also to Illinois Republicans.

Just eight weeks ago, Schock was widely believed to be next in line to chair the National Republican Congressional Committee. But his rapid fall from grace ruined his career and deprived the NRCC of a chance to project a far more youthful public image.

Needless to say, the Illinois House Republicans are heartbroken by this loss. Schock is a former state House member and he retained quite a bit of personal affection and even admiration by his onetime colleagues and staffers. But it’s the loss of his assistance which will be felt the most. Schock has been very helpful to the point of being almost indispensable to the House Republicans. He’s helped recruit candidates, raised money for them and helped them campaign. And he was quite successful.

Ever since he defeated a sitting Democratic Representative in a solidly Democratic district at the age of 23, Schock has been the HGOP’s wonder boy. And they’ve used his help and his model to win other districts, including state Reps. Adam Brown and Michael Unes, who both won Democratic-controlled districts with Schock’s assistance in 2010.

The Illinois Republicans don’t remember Schock as the jet-setting, rule-shortcutting playboy he became in Washington, DC. When he was in Springfield, Schock was rarely seen on the nightlife circuit, often traveling back to Peoria after the day’s session ended to meet with constituents. He was always a young man on a mission, and he seemed to fully understand back then that if he wanted to continue his meteoric rise up the political ladder, he had to make sure he was always in tune and in touch with the folks back home.

So, what the heck happened here?

Well, the Democrats probably didn’t do him any favors by drawing him the most Republican congressional district in the state. Schock did stay in touch with his constituents via regular trips back home, but with his political safety all but assured, he apparently no longer felt the need to be “in tune” with his district.

And his 24/7 fundraising meant he was constantly hanging out with wealthy people. Personally interacting with people who literally have money to burn can have an overwhelmingly intoxicating effect, particularly on somebody who has always personally striven to be rich. We saw much the same thing happen to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., who both lived well beyond their means in order to somehow keep up with their rich buddies.

Schock’s first job was in the 5th grade, doing database management for a chain of book stores. He was investing in the stock market when he was barely a teenager. When he was talking about running for governor a couple of years ago, he said if he lost he’d just go make lots of money. Schock was always confident in his own political and financial skills. He just knew he would reach the highest rungs of whatever ladder he climbed.

But that aborted bid for governor forced Schock to rethink his future and focus his sole attention on rising through the congressional ranks. He held a leadership post and looked like he had an eventual straight shot to the very top, but was sidetracked last year when his ally, Majority Leader Eric Cantor unexpectedly lost his primary election. He then set his sights on the NRCC, and the chairmanship was literally within his grasp.

The complacency caused by Schock’s safe GOP district and his realization that Congress was the only venue he’d probably ever have for stardom, his single-mindedness about how raising money was his only ticket to the top combined with his personal quest for wealth and his apparent need to emulate the lifestyles of the folks he was raising money from (plus whatever else happened that we don’t know about) all somehow led him to start cutting corners. And when you start doing that, it’s very difficult to stop. Indeed, it often leads to much worse things. Just ask Rod or Jesse.

And now, Schock is under federal investigation. The final chapter won’t be written on this book for quite a while. Hopefully, after this is all over, after he has paid his price (if any), Schock can put those truly amazing skills of his to work again for the people he once clearly loved.

He’s only 33 years old. He’ll have plenty of time to redeem himself.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

41 Comments
  1. - ZC - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:04 am:

    Your early posts today - on Rauner and Schock - are arguably related.

    Affluence is a great affliction to have, all in all. But it can do things to your head, no question, if you don’t find some way to stay grounded.


  2. - too obvious - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:05 am:

    He only loved the people to the extent they would applaud and feed his ego.

    Schock’s flame-out is no loss to Illinois Republicans or anyone else who isn’t an enabler and who has some self esteem.


  3. - Sir Reel - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:07 am:

    I live in Schock’s “safe GOP district” and felt he was only going through the motions of representing his district.

    To those of us who held different views on certain issues, his response felt routine. As it turns out, he had other things on his mind.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:07 am:

    Great read, Rich.

    To the Post,

    Another breathtaking aspect for me is the that, it always appeared, Schock and Crew were continually blindsided by each individual revelation on its own “merits” and…gave zero indication as to what to “get ahead of” if something else popped.

    It’s as though the complete orchestration, arguably one of the best all time in Illinois politics, had beyond the element of surprise, while following an easy to follow template once revealed.

    Only hubris and a lack of self awareness by Schock and his Staff and Crew explain this ruttetless damage control.

    A shame.


  5. - Stones - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:09 am:

    Springfield is a long way from DC and it doesn’t surprise me that Schock got caught up in the trappings of his office when he got out to Washington, particularly with the national attention he was receiving.


  6. - DuPage - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:09 am:

    Who, and why did someone turn him in? How did they catch on?


  7. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:20 am:

    Read this over the weekend, and left with two thoughts: only a matter of time until someone scoops the ==whodunit== on story with such national interest, and we do not how much of what he did was actually illegal yet. One Congressman, for example, recently spent $35K on football games iirc. He’s still serving.

    It would be a kicker if Schock resigned only to discover that much of what he did looked bad but was allowed outside of the mileage.


  8. - Anonymoiis - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:27 am:

    ==outside of the mileage.==

    It’s pretty clear and obvious, however, that is not kosher or even legal. He better hope he can show there was a glitch in the odometer


  9. - A guy - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:28 am:

    Great Article. It’s fair and objective. They don’t call it Beltway Fever for nothing. Unfortunately, he caught a bad case of it. Moreover, this is a loss for the IL GOP and for Illinois in general. A high ranking member of Congress is good for everyone in a state. Should have one on both sides of the aisle when you send 19 there.


  10. - Team Sleep - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:32 am:

    FKA - I’ve been saying that since the beginning. A quick check of FEC reports will back that up.

    I rarely talk actual politics with my parents, but my mom and I had a great chat yesterday. It’s easy to spend other people’s money, and it’s hard to realize how bad it looks to people on the outside if the offender is spending money on lavish trips and goods. That goes for anyone in any situation - government, unions, corporate and political. A good steward will consider all options and listen to (and even solicit) staff’s honest opinions in a situation.

    Sadly - if what Schock’s staff told - Schock did solicit ideas and critiques from staff (at least in the beginning) He clearly lost his way and has now paid the price. Honesty is a currency that, for some reason, trades too highly and seems out of reach for too many.


  11. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:34 am:

    ==It’s pretty clear and obvious==

    Agreed. No getting around the mileage, and that alone is enough to cause him some big problems.


  12. - Team Sleep - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:35 am:

    Sorry - that last part should’ve read “if what Schock’s staff told me was true”. Measure twice, hit “SAY IT!” once. :)


  13. - Crispy - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:50 am:

    “Power corrupts,” and money=power. Was never a fan of his politics, but he clearly has a lot to offer, in whatever arena he’s in; hopefully, there will be a second act where he can use his personal gifts for the greater good.


  14. - Toure's Latte - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 9:59 am:

    With his ability to make it rain cash, the ILGOP and the RNC will rehab him and get him back on his feet.


  15. - RNUG - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 10:02 am:

    == He better hope he can show there was a glitch in the odometer ==

    Think right now I’d be looking to plead guilty to odometer tampering in order to get a higher trade-in value …


  16. - Streator Curmudgeon - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 10:09 am:

    I think it says something about our culture that there are now many PR firms that specialize in rehabbing disgraced celebrities and well-known people. There’s even a formula for doing it.

    I’d really like to hear about some of Schock’s legislative accomplishments. All I read is about his personal/financial success. But was he actually an effective legislator and Congressman?


  17. - Wordslinger - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 10:12 am:

    Finally, some needed perspective.

    Schock’s been around so long I think it’s been forgotten what an extraordinary whiz kid he was. He didn’t start out as some shallow dilettante.

    But his ambition wasn’t tempered by wisdom or patience. He was blocked from moving up the political ladder so he channelled all that ambition to putting up points on the board in the forms of money and lifestyle.


  18. - My FiNgErS HuRt - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 10:28 am:

    Rich - I am confused by your “He’s only 33 years old. He’ll have plenty of time to redeem himself.” I really do not see a path forward for him. Schock, as we have come to see, is very self-serving. Obviously, his next step was to run for Gov., presumably, and then who knows, nationally some day?

    All of that is off the table now. For the sake of him and whatever constituency he may considering serving somewhere down the line, just don’t. A has-been’s, a has-been’s, a has-been.


  19. - Team Sleep - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 10:29 am:

    Word - not sure that Schock was “blocked” from moving up (at least in the House). He was appointed Senior Deputy Whip - which he “won” after that nasty intrastate battle with Cong. Roskam - so leadership clearly valued him enough. In the Senate? Maybe. But with Senator Durbin retiring in 2020, Schock could have couched his ambitions until then and run for Senate at the ripe age of 39. It is incredible to think that even at the age of 39 he would have had 16 years of legislative experience (4 in the Statehouse and 12 in Congress) if none of this had ever happened. Incredible. Instead, what a waste.


  20. - 47th Ward - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 10:42 am:

    “So as sure as the sun will shine
    I’m gonna get my share now of what’s mine

    And then the harder they come
    The harder they’ll fall, one and all”

    Jimmy Cliff


  21. - Responsa - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 10:52 am:

    == I really do not see a path forward for him.
    My FiNgErS HuRt - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 10:28 am:==

    Heh, contrary to the natural instincts of the crew of political junkies who post here, there actually *are* other ways forward in life and paths to success that do not involve politics. I assumed that’s what Rich was talking about.


  22. - hisgirlfriday - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 10:54 am:

    @Streator curmudgeon: I can’t think of any personal legislative accomplishment by schock. He never even bothered to tout any in his commercials. Just “he’s done a lot. He’ll do a lot more” vapidness


  23. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 10:54 am:

    Team Sleep - well said in both comments. It becomes ==normal== for too many pols and they eventually lose their grounding. Even if it is ==only== a borrowed jet they are riding in.

    Streator Curmudgeon - not just PR firms any more. There is even a series on ABC about a fixer who helps politicians rehab their names and escape scandalous situations.


  24. - Wordslinger - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 11:02 am:

    MFH, let me gently point out the irony of your making the argument, this week especially, of someone being beyond redemption at the age of 33.


  25. - QCLib - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 11:20 am:

    Great read.


  26. - Shore - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 11:29 am:

    guy blatantly broke the law, ignored his constituents and showed no interest in immersing himself in any sort of intelligent issues and game changing policy work and he gets sympathy? If the Illinois Republican party has one unifying operating principle it’s “We’re not like the big bad corrupt chicago democratic machine”-and everything this guy did sullied that mantra. Party spent a really sad decade out of power paying for Ryan’s sins and this guy ruined some of that fresh start so he could party.

    Pat Brady’s defense of him on chicago tonight was awful too.


  27. - My FiNgErS HuRt - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 11:33 am:

    Responsa - Sure, and I understand that. But who the hell cares at that point? Tomorrow, Schock officially becomes a private citizen. Any “redeeming” he may do is his business and his business only.


  28. - Midway Gardens - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 12:11 pm:

    You can write to Congressman Mark Stanford and ask him if there are any second acts in American politics.


  29. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 12:33 pm:

    ==and everything this guy did sullied that mantra==

    At least he resigned quickly, in contrast to the way some carry on or even run for reelection.


  30. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 12:35 pm:

    Not to defend anything he may have done improperly.


  31. - Ugly Rumours - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 12:37 pm:

    Sir Reel, I couldn’t agree with you more. I also live in Schock’s district and have written him many times only to receive what appears to be a form letter response. He probably couldn’t be pulled off the zipline to respond to constituents.


  32. - My FiNgErS HuRt - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 12:40 pm:

    Midway - Sure, I will CC Anthony Weiner too. However, both of their cases were issues of morality. Schock’s case deals with issues of legality. But I am sure the voters won’t care…


  33. - Midway Gardens - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 1:42 pm:

    Fingers, Maybe Marion Barry is a better example, not that Schock’s been convicted yet. Agree the voter’s level of acceptance does seem pretty high.


  34. - Ginhouse Tommy - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 2:55 pm:

    I agree with Fingers in that his political career is over. If he tries to run for office there is so much dirt to use by his opponent that it would be a waste of time. What a pity that someone who had such a brilliant political career in front of him threw it away because he felt no conscious when he while in office. He will probably working behind the scenes now. I also don’t believe he feels humbled either. That was just a line. We’ll see how he acts in the future. It will bear watching.


  35. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 2:57 pm:

    ===If he tries to run for office===

    Redemption can take many forms. Nobody is dumb enough to think he can jump back into office, except, apparently, those of you who like to create straw man arguments.


  36. - Belle - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 3:17 pm:

    Remember: IL is the state that re-elected Blago while he was under indictment.
    Terrific article Rich!
    He can take some time off, re-appear in a few years in some other job (maybe not elected) but he obviously has plenty of enthusiasm about himself(ego) and understands what you need to do to be successful in the political system.


  37. - Wordslinger - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 3:28 pm:

    Belle, Blago was not under indictment when he was re-elected, but it was obvious as to what he was all about to anyone paying attention.


  38. - girllawyer - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 3:34 pm:

    Belle, that’s not correct. Blago was re-elected in 2006. He wasn’t arrested/indicted till later.


  39. - vole - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 4:44 pm:

    Eye of the needle — not for Schock. Nor for many in D.C. It is all a fantasy world with few having their feet on the ground.


  40. - Percival - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 5:57 pm:

    It is part of an emerging pattern, unfortunately, of young conservatives who espouse family values, conservative values and ethics, but then demonstrate a stunning lack of ethics and morality when they think no one is watching. It’s a problem in the GOP.


  41. - ArchPundit - Monday, Mar 30, 15 @ 7:16 pm:

    Whoever took him down deserves a Frances Urquart award and I don’t mean to reference the two dimwits who brought Keyes in as deserving any such credit of deserving such an award. It was remarkable in the extent and discipline by which the takedown was completed.

    That said, a friend of mine was a State Senator in Saint Louis and after his time he has gotten a teaching job at the New School and is a regular commentator on corruption and now Ferguson. As Rich says redemption comes in many forms and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Schock being in the public eye again though probably not as an elected official.


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