After weeks of ceaseless and sometimes flamboyant scandal, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock announced Tuesday hat he would resign from the House of Representatives. The popular Peoria politician said that the avalanche of embarrassing revelations of the congressman’s use of public money, and financial business deals with campaign donors had become too much of a distraction for him to effectively represent the central Illinois 18th district.
Up until February, almost all coverage of the 33 year-old congressman had been positive since he took office in 2009. The republican had a leadership role in the house as an assistant whip, and was widely perceived as a rising star, receiving a great deal of national attention.
Schock said he left with a heavy heart. His departure reportedly also shocked his colleagues.
Perhaps part of the embattled politician’s motivation to resign without much of a fight is to avoid further investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which had reportedly began looking into his dealings earlier Tuesday. The ethics office loses jurisdiction once he resigns.
Schock will not be able to avoid the Federal Election Commission, however, as they can continue their investigation into Schock.
If Schock finds the need to retain legal counsel to represent him during any investigations or possible criminal proceedings (and he likely will), he at least leaves office with over $3 million dollars left in campaign funds to pay the bills.
Schock also leaves office with plenty of youth left, which could give him time to mount a career comeback down the road. If he’d stayed to fight while in office, his time as a U.S. Rep. might have only been further tarnished.
As it stands, if years down the road Schock asks Peoria-area voters to put their confidence in him once again, he’d have just about six weeks of public relations hell while in office, stacked up against years of positive press.
As we know, Schock holds out hope that he hasn’t, in fact, broken the law, even if he certainly has broken rules of good taste. Schock has cut his political capital losses by resigning, and he’s got the time and money to make a comeback effort eventually.
Whatever headlines he continues to make as possible investigations of his conduct continue will now all be a discussion of things in the past and perhaps the congressman will escape any real legal consequences.
If he does, there will be little in the way of tangible, proven malfeasance left to stain him, once enough time has passed. Depending on how good Schock was to the many friends who appeared to have been very good and generous to him, he may also still have a donor support base in the future.
Embarrassing headlines are damaging, but time can soften their effect, and money can often buy something which looks like loyalty from old allies.