Admitting he’s “not an attorney,” embattled Rep. Aaron Schock told a reporter this week he "certainly hopes" he didn't break federal law through a string of questionable spending that has been under intense scrutiny for the past month. But it appears he was well-versed enough in congressional ethics rules to have schooled some of Bravo's "Top Chef" contestants in a 2010 episode of the popular series.
In a clip from the seventh season, the Illinois Republican teaches the chefs about the guidelines governing the acceptance of food and beverages by members of Congress, or the "toothpick rule," during the show's visit to Washington, D.C. Mediaite was the first to report on Schock's comments on the show.
"When you become a new member of Congress and win an election, the first day is spent on ethics. Believe it or not, a good portion of that discussion is about food,” Schock said on the show. “Basically, the Ethics Committee wants to make sure that there's not too much undue influence between the elected officials and the paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C."
One of the many potential ethics violations the congressman is suspected of making appears to fall in direct violation of this rule. During a 2011 trip to London, Schock reportedly accepted free food and drinks at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and at a fancy London nightclub. He did not report any of the gifts, the costs of which almost certainly exceeded the mandated $50 limit.
What’s more, reports surfaced this week that Schock spent campaign money at Bergdorf Goodman, which has a restaurant, Mercer Kitchen and Delta Grill, during a trip to New York City in September. Schock took the trip to join Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his visit to the United States, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
He and at least 10 members of his staff reportedly stayed at the iconic (and pricey) Plaza Hotel, all on the taxpayer’s dime.
The newspaper updated its reporting Wednesday to include that Schock’s political director was also on the trip. The Sun-Times found that her expenses, however, were covered with campaign dollars, not from his congressional allowance.
But it is questions about the big-ticket expense items, not food and beverages, that could mean serious trouble for the congressman.
A spokesman for Schock has denied allegations of wrongdoing, even as they continue to pile up.
Initially attracting attention for hiring an interior decorator who revamped his office to match the hit PBS period piece “Downton Abbey” last month, there have been new allegations against the congressman each week for the past month. What’s more, each is perhaps more extravagant and troubling than the next.
Whether it’s reports that he used his congressional allowance to purchase tickets to a Katy Perry concert last summer for him and his interns, or that he used taxpayer money to pay for a private plane to travel from Peoria to Chicago for the Bears-Vikings game in November, the alleged abuses to bankroll the young congressman’s lavish taste may earn him a full ethical review.
While Schock has ordered an internal review of his spending, he’s likely to face a congressional ethics investigation, if one hasn’t begun already.
And he has already enlisted legal help. Just weeks after the “Downton Abbey” office incident in February, and as more eyebrow-raising reports trickled in, Schock hired two prominent D.C. defense attorneys and a public relations firm for support.