- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Washington watchdog group filed Monday a second ethics complaint against embattled Rep. Aaron Schock after new reports revealed that he sold his home to a campaign donor for three times its worth.

The Illinois Republican sold his home to an executive at Caterpillar, Inc., in 2012 for $925,000, liberal website Blue Nation Review reported last week. Mr. Schock bought a vacant property in Dunlap for $128,250 in 2003 and built the 4,100-square-foot home — with four bedrooms and three fireplaces — which was completed in 2007, the year before Mr. Schock won his House seat.

The relationship between the buyer and Mr. Schock prompted watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) to file a complaint with the House ethics committee — the second ethics complaint the group has filed against Mr. Schock in the past week.

“Buying a house from someone for much more than it’s worth is no different than buying someone an expensive gift,” Anne Weismann, CREW interim executive director, said in a statement Monday. “Given that the buyer in this case was a campaign donor to Rep. Schock whose former employer has also backed his campaigns, the public needs to know what Mr. Bahaj expected in return for his generosity.”

Mr. Schock said the house was listed for four years before it sold to former Caterpillar Vice President Ali Bahaj, noting there were other homes in the area that sold for more and that the price per square foot of comparable home sales “were right in line with what everything else was selling for at that time,” Yahoo News reported Monday.

A review of property records by The Associated Press found that between 2011 and 2013, homes of similar size in the neighborhood consistently sold for three times their assessed value. One home, a 5,400-square-foot house on more than a half-acre of land — nearly twice the size of Mr. Schock’s property — sold for $1.07 million.

But according to Blue Nation Review, Mr. Schock’s home sold for about $225 per square foot, roughly $50 to $75 more than other homes in the same neighborhood of similar size and condition.

Mr. Bahaj and his wife donated a combined $4,600 to Mr. Schock’s campaign in 2008, the maximum allowable contribution, and Mr. Bahaj gave $1,000 to the congressman’s joint fundraising committee last year, campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission show.

But Mr. Schock said that there had been no wrongdoing, telling reporters Friday in Peoria that his real estate agent had handled the transaction and that he never spoke to the buyer.

“There’s nothing there,” Mr. Schock said, Yahoo reported.

Last week CREW filed a similar ethics complaint against Mr. Schock alleging he had accepted free decorating services from an interior designer that renovated his Capitol Hill office in a lavish “Downton Abbey”-inspired motif.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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