- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2015

Rep. Aaron Schock, Illinois Republican, allegedly spent thousands in taxpayer dollars to redecorate his Raybourn office in the style of “Downton Abbey.”

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the Illinois Republican has had his office redecorated to resemble the historic decor of the hit British drama, with bright red walls, a gold-colored wall sconce with black candles, and a Federal-style bull’s-eye mirror with an eagle perched on top, just in the outer office.

Mr. Schock’s private office boasts a crystal chandelier, a table propped up by two eagles, a bust of Abraham Lincoln and large decorative arrangements of pheasant feathers, The Post reported.

“It’s actually based off of the red room in ‘Downton Abbey,’ ” a woman sitting at the office’s front desk told Post reporter Ben Terris when he visited the grand space.

The cost of the bold Capitol Hill office renovations won’t be disclosed for several months, but it isn’t the first time Mr. Schock has shelled out big bucks for opulent decor.

Mr. Schock has spent tens of thousands of dollars from his taxpayer-funded accounts in the past on renovations, leather furniture and even granite countertops, according to congressional expenditure reports, USA Today reported Wednesday.

Annie Brahler, the interior decorator who was the mastermind behind the bold new office decor, told The Post that she had provided her design services free of charge, prompting Washington watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) to file a complaint on Tuesday with the House Ethics Committee, alleging that Mr. Schock may have received an improper gift.

“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 in a press release on Tuesday. “Again and again, Rep. Schock’s seeming obsession with his image impedes his ability to conduct himself in ethical manner.”

Congressional offices are furnished with the bare essentials provided by the House. Furniture and computers are often handed down by other offices, and new members are offered a new office paint job, but the color options are limited to a small muted palette — beige, eggshell, light blue, light gray or light yellow — that the House will provide, The Post.

Members of Congress are given a set budget for operating their office each year. That budget includes hiring staff and official travel as well as furniture purchases and renovations. The money that is left over at the end of the year can be returned to the treasury, USA Today reported.

Lawmakers can also use taxpayer-funded office accounts to purchase furniture and fund renovations. All of Mr. Schock’s past renovation purchases, including $7,400 to a design firm, $21,000 to a hardwood floor company and $6,600 to a painting contractor, all came from his taxpayer-funded account.

The official handbook for members of Congress says, “Ordinary and necessary expenses related to the acquisition of items for use in offices are reimbursable from the applicable office funds,” USA Today reported.

Following a slew of reports on the office renovation, Mr. Schock told ABC News on Wednesday that he planned to pay Ms. Brahler for he work when she sends an invoice.

“She’s working on the office, so once it’s done, I’m sure I’ll get an invoice, and I’ll pay her,” Mr. Schock told ABC’s Jeff Zeleny.

Mr. Schock also said that he has never seen an episode of “Downton Abbey” and was unaware that Ms. Brahler had picked the show as a decorating theme.

He defended his decision, saying it reflects a more unique and youthful approach to legislation.

“I’ve never been an old crust white guy — I’m different, I came to Congress at 27, I’m not going to — when I take a personal vacation, I don’t go sit on the beach, I go do active things. I’m also not going to live in a cave,” he said, adding, “As Taylor Swift said, haters gonna hate.”

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