Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock announced his resignation from Congress Tuesday following questions surrounding misuse of funds in his campaign and congressional spending accounts, including reports that he redecorated his office with lavish decor inspired by "Downton Abbey."
"Today, I am announcing my resignation as a Member of the United States House of Representatives effective March 31st," Schock said in a statement. "I do this with a heavy heart. Serving the people of the 18th District is the highest and greatest honor I have had in my life. I thank them for their faith in electing me and letting me represent their interests in Washington.
The Republican congressman said he has given the people of his Peoria-area district his all since his election in 2008, "but the constant questions over the last six weeks have proven 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 move, first reported by Politico, comes after numerous reports alleging questionable expenses by the congressman. Sen. Dick Durbin said the resignation "came as a surprise."
"With this decision, Rep. Schock has put the best interests of his constituents and the House first," U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. "I appreciate Aaron's years of service, and I wish him well in the future."
Last week, NBC5 Investigates reported that Schock had billed his office account and leadership PAC for over $16,000 in mileage for his personal car, last year alone. On Tuesday, POLITICO reported that Schock had billed various entities for over 170,000 miles over for years, for a personal car he sold with only about 80,000 miles on the odometer.
“It’s a sad day for the people of the 18th District,” said Kankakee Congressman Adam Kinzinger. “He was a friend of mine, and I just wish him luck in the future.”
In Chicago, the chief of the Illinois Republican Party seemed to put some distance between the party and a congressman.
“Honesty and integrity are of utmost importance when serving the public,” said Chairman Tim Schneider. “Today is an unfortunate day for the people of the 18th Congressional District, the State of Illinois, and the Illinois Republican Party.
A special election will be held to replace Schock, a four-term congressman who was the Congress’ youngest member when he was elected at age 27. The election must be held within 120 days of the seat becoming vacant.
Among those considered contenders for the job, State Senator Darin LaHood, whose father Ray LaHood preceded Schock, before leaving Congress to become Secretary of Transportation.
“It is clear to me Congressman Schock believes he is doing what is best for the people of the 18th District at this time,” LaHood said Tuesday. “I will be evaluating the full impact of this decision in the next few days.”
In a separate report Monday, the website Buzzfeed reported that Schock spent more than $5,000 from his House account for a portable podium that looks a lot like a presidential podium used by President Barack Obama. A public watchdog group has filed a federal ethics complaint against the lawmaker for using congressional money to redesign his office in the style of the TV show "Downton Abbey" and for billing taxpayers or his campaigns tens of thousands of dollars in private air travel on donor-owned planes.
“This is a sad day for the people of Illinois and the 18th District," Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said in a statement.