Thursday, March 19, 2015

Shell Schock

The state of Illinois has a long, dubious history of corruption. It is as bipartisan as it is ingrained in nearly every aspect of gubernatorial politics, from the village halls to the governor's mansion. Unfortunately, the majority of these tales of graft and malfeasance gravitate towards Chicago and northeast part of the state, where I was born and call home. Even if it took place down in Springfield, it somehow trickles back to the Windy City. From that perspective, it makes the recent controversy surrounding Rep. Aaron Schock somewhat unique.

Rep. Schock, as some of you know, is the central Illinois congressman who resigned earlier this week after allegations surfaced of him buying lavish items for himself using campaign money. There was little ignoring that Schock had flamboyant tastes, and during his six-year stint in the U.S. House of Representatives, he turned himself into the Sun King of the Corn Belt. Schock's own father suggested that the congressman ran into issues with "paperwork," fudging driving and flying expenses as the playboy politician flew his staff everywhere from New Dehli to Buenos Aires to Soldier Field.

Besides geography --Schock was born in Minnesota, but calls Peoria home-- what makes this scandal so singular is how blatant Schock was in his misuse of campaign funds. The exchange of money in Washington, almost always quiet and usually under the table, was flaunted by Schock all across social media. He raised money for himself and other Republicans with gusto, then spent the funds with equal aplomb. This goes well beyond federal mileage reimbursements.

Then there's the gay rumors. Illinois may be a blue state overall, and same-sex marriage has been legal here for about two years now, but the 18th District is mostly rural and bright red. Again, it's just rumors, but in central Illinois there's no way anyone LGBTQ could get elected, let alone stay in office. Attracted to men or not, there's little questioning Schock's vanity; posing shirtless for GQ and Men's Health is now looking especially foolish.

Even if the media feeds the heresy, Schock's ultimate legacy was his status as a do-nothing schmoozer. The GOP powers tolerated him as a star fundraiser, yet he never passed a single bill. He was the kid dymano, they assumed, but he spent too much time in the sandbox. His name will forever be associated with dubious expenditures, a specific type of controversy that the Clinton Foundation and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie know all too well. His political career finished at age 33, one must hope that the next chapter of Rep. Aaron Schock's life is not as much of a decadent landmine as the previous installment.

Family Update: I was going to mention last time around that my mother was back home, but unfortunately that only lasted three days. She was tired of nursing home life, so they agreed to let her continue rehab from home. A few days later, however she was feeling weak and sent back to the ER. It turned out to be a low white blood cell count, and she should be back home (again) sometime before the end of the week.


Next Week: my 2015 baseball preview.

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