U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock's (R-IL,18) flashy new office decor could land the ab-baring congressman in hot water.
Earlier this week, Washington Post reporter Ben Terris wrote up a piece detailing the pheasant feathers, black candles, chandelier, red walls and gold picture frames and wall sconces that adorn Schock's new office. It turns out that the room's dramatic decor was inspired by Downton Abbey, a fictional, British TV show set in the early 1900s. At least that's the story Terris got from Annie Brahler, the interior decorator who morphed the dreary Capitol Hill office into an eye-catchingly, bold Hollywood knock off of the popular PBS show.
Brahler lives in Illinois and owns Jacksonville-based Euro Trash, "an import company devoted to the unearthing of forgotten treasures and objects of beauty all over Europe," according to the company's website. She was in the office when Terris stopped by and gave the reporter a tour of the congressman's new office digs. Schock's staff said Brahler offered to do the decor work for free, but the congressman had to pay for the furnishings and decor items himself.
But the the group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), is calling foul on the decor deal. Because House members are prohibited from accepting gifts, including "gifts of services," CREW filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics and is requesting a probe into any potential House violations that could have come out of the congressman allowing Brahler to do the interior design work for free. The group also wants an investigation into the origin of the funds that were used to pay for the furnishings and ornate chotskies that bedck the office to ensure that campaign funds were not improperly used. (Read the group's full complaint here.)
"Perhaps it's not totally surprising that the same congressman who spent campaign money on P90X workout DVDs wanted to create a more picturesque setting in which to be photographed, but the rules clearly require him to pay for those renovations himself," said Anne Weismann, CREW's Interim executive director. "Again and again, Rep. Schock's seeming obsession with his image impedes his ability to conduct himself in ethical manner."
The controversy surrounding the new office decor is also raising eyebrows about the design work that was done at his previous office, which Brahler also did.
"CREW reported in 2012 that Rep. Schock's campaign paid $5,522 to Ms. Brahler's company for what it described as 'office equipment,'" according to the group's announcement of the legal filing on Tuesday. "Today's revelation that Ms. Brahler redecorated Rep. Schock's previous suite strongly suggests Rep. Schock used campaign funds to pay for the furniture in that office -- a violation of House rules -- and raises questions about whether he used campaign funds to pay for the furniture in his new office."
The irony of it all is that Schock's office decor was inspired by a TV show that airs on PBS, a network he has voted to defund on numerous occasions, as ThinkProgress points out. To get a look at the decor in question, click through to Terris' story on the WaPo.