For those who may not find the name immediately familiar – and that is understandable – allow me to introduce you to Aaron Schock.
Schock entered public life at the early age of 19 when he was elected to the Peoria, Illinois School Board – the youngest person ever to be elected to a school board in Illinois, and perhaps the nation. At the age of 22, he was elected vice chairman of the school board and at 23 the president – again, the youngest in Illinois history.
In that same year, Schock ran and won a seat in the Illinois State House – making him the youngest person ever to serve in that body.
In 2008 – at the age of 27 – Schock ran for the United States House of Representatives and won. He was again the youngest member of that body – but by far not the youngest in American history. In the early days of the Republic there were scores of congressmen in their mid to late-20s – many barely over the constitutional minimum age requirement of 25.
Schock became one of the most famous members of Congress – not just because of his age, but he was a bit of a sex symbol celebrity. His chiseled “six-pack” and chest adorned the cover of Men’ Health magazine. His vacation bathing suit photographs appeared in publications across the nation. Readers of Huffington Post voted Schock the “hottest member of Congress.”
Schock’s rise to prominence was not without a few minor ethical issues. He drew criticism for serving as development and construction officer for the Peterson Company – the real estate arm of a healthcare facilities operator while serving as a member of the Illinois House. His dad testified in a court case that young Schock had falsely notarized dates on documents involving tax shelters for his parents. He was accused of selling his home to a major donor for three times its market value. The House Ethics Committee reported that there was “substantial reason to believe that Rep. Schock violated federal law, House rules and standards of conduct ” for soliciting $25,000 from then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for his friend Adam Kinzinger’s campaign for Congress. Schock would later pay a $10,000 fine for that request. Virtually all of these were considered minor infractions and did not affect his career to any appreciable degree.
Then came the scandal of 2015. The Washington Post ran a story criticizing Schock for the grandeur of his office décor – reporting that he spent an inordinate amount of money to make his office look like a set for the television serious Downton Manor. Well, actually he did not spend it. He never paid the decorating company – and that was a problem.
This triggered a broader investigation by the prosecutors. There were issues of paying for workout DVDs with campaign funds. Media investigations alleged that Schock had inappropriately spent more than $100,000 of office funds on personal expenditures.
Though many of the allegations were dubious and at worse controversial, the federal prosecutors stepped in and charged Schock with 24 criminal counts — including misuse of government funds, fraud, lying to investigators and filing false tax returns. If convicted of these charges, Schock could have spent 100 years in prison.
As it turns out, the case is less about a congressman going wrong and more about prosecutorial abuse. He was first victimized by a grand jury process that enables a determined prosecutor to get indictments against anyone for almost anything. It is so easy that in the profession it is often said that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. The example is extreme, but it reflects an unfortunate fact.
Two of the charges were so bad that Judge Colin Bruce summarily dismissed them. Subsequently, United States prosecutor Timothy Bass was removed from the case for improper behavior, and even Judge Bruce had to surrender the case after making prejudicial remarks. Once the case was re-assigned the Justice Department announced that yet another group of prosecutors would take over the case – prosecutors from a completely different district — on the theory that they would be more objective – although that was not the official reason.
This year, the more objective prosecutors essentially threw in the towel. They struck a deal to drop ALL the charges for a restitution of $42,000 to the IRS and $68,000 to his own campaign fund. Schock would also plead guilty to the misdemeanor of failing to properly report some expense. All of these are in the category of mistakes or “clerical errors” and are usually resolved administratively.
Schock is no longer a big name in the news anymore, but his case should scare the Hell out of any freedom loving Americans. We live in a nation where lawyers are the ruling-class and the prosecutors tend to be the enforcement arm of the ruling class – and their bias is a growing problem.
In the past, this writer has written about the unfairness – the evil – of the grand jury system. America is only one of three nations with such a procedure. I have also raised concerns about the distortion of our democracy by having lawyers as the ruling class. The Aaron Schock case in only one of millions. He is still prominent enough to get noticed. Not so with so many others abused by our prosecutorial system.
So, there ‘tis