The Cable

When a Love of ‘Downton Abbey’ Goes Too Far

Republican congressman Aaron Schock is resigning amid accusations he misspent taxpayer dollars.

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The Dowager Countess of Grantham would have something to say about this. And it would doubtlessly be a real zinger.

Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, a rising star in the Republican Party, announced Tuesday that he was resigning amid accusations he misspent taxpayer dollars. Attention was first drawn to his spending habits when the Washington Post reported in February on the congressman’s Capitol Hill office, which had been lavishly re-decorated to look like the PBS show “Downton Abbey.”

It’s no dead Turkish diplomat in your bed, or secret love child with your newspaper mogul boyfriend who disappeared in Germany, but by Washington standards, it’s enough to bring you down.

In a statement Tuesday, Schock said the constant questions over the last six weeks about his use of taxpayer dollars had become “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.”

The Office of Congressional Ethics recently began reviewing Schock’s spending habits.

What else did the scandal entail?

Schock’s over-the-top spending went beyond his $40,000 Downton office, and included his use of private planes, concert tickets, and trips possibly bought with money intended for official business. He posted photos of many of his exotic adventures — to the Andes or boating in the Aegean Sea — on an Instagram account notable for its sheer number of shirtless pictures Schock shared with his almost 18,000 followers.

The congressman’s fancy Capitol Hill digs were discovered in February.

While the interior decorator, from a company called Euro Trash, was happy to show a reporter the bold red walls, the “massive arrangements of pheasant feathers,” and the “drippy crystal chandelier,” Schock’s communications director tried to shut the whole thing down.

The interior designer told the newspaper that she’d offered her services for free, but this raised questions about whether it was an inappropriate gift. To quell the critics, Schock paid $40,000 last month to cover the cost.

He said his last day will be March 31. The question becomes: who gets to move into his office? If they do, maybe a downstairs look would be more appropriate.

BRIGITTE DUSSEAU/AFP/GettyImages

Kate Brannen is deputy managing editor at Just Security and a contributor to Foreign Policy, where she previously worked as a senior reporter. @K8brannen

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