Friday, February 06, 2015

A 'Schocking' Resignation, A Sketchy Home Sale & A 'Downton Abbey' Office?

Cover Boy - Rep Aaron Schock; June, 2011
The photogenic House of Representatives member from Illinois 18th District, Aaron Schock, was never shy about the publicity he received when he was elected to Congress back in fall of 2008.

His looks and chiseled physique earned him a "hottest freshman Congressman" vote in a 2009 Huffington Post readers poll and he's arguably the only Republican member of the House to grace the cover of 'Men's Health' showing off his abs (pictured left).

These days however the media coverage surrounding Schock is focusing on some things which don't quite jibe with the youthful squeaky clean image he's carefully cultivated. first broke the story of some rather disturbing social media posts written by Schock's senior adviser for policy and communications, Benjamin Cole on his personal Facebook page.

Cole resigned his position hours after media reports about the posts surfaced in which he described African-American people he videotaped from the window of his Washington, DC apartment as zoo animals.

Now normally, a Congressional staff member who's an obnoxious bigot resigning over some offensive comments posted online might not be all that big of a deal.

But Cole's departure comes at the start of a Congressional year in which the Republican brand is still tainted from their massive nationwide efforts to suppress minority voting rights during the fall 2014 elections; and they're also dealing with the fallout from Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise (the third ranking member of the House) admitting he spoke at a white supremacist event back in 2001.

If that weren't enough, Republicans were recently forced to scrap an anti-abortion bill so extreme that a group of Republican Congresswomen publicly came out against it - labeling it a misogynist attack on women's health.

Now if all of that wasn't enough to cement the Republican party as the vortex of intolerance in 21st century America, the right-wing extremist Tea Party element that now controls the GOP, led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, are insisting on attaching riders to the budget that would deny funding to the Department of Homeland of Security unless they agree to deport thousands of children of illegal immigrants who were born and grew up here and were granted amnesty by an executive order issued by President Obama.

So the whole "Aaron Schock's senior policy adviser Benjamin Cole is a bigot" thing is really not what the Republican Congress wanted right now; especially with the US economy improving, wages on the rise and 12 straight months of 200,000-plus job growth under the Obama administration (the most since 1994-1995) has boosted the President's approval rating even higher. 

True to his media savvy, Schock quickly released a statement expressing his shock at the comments written by his recent right-hand policy man in an effort to distance himself from the taint of bigotry that seems to perpetually hover above the GOP.

But it only piqued the media's interest further.

A fascinating and well-researched article by Jimmy Williams posted less than 12 hours ago on the Website reveals a wealthy former executive from Caterpillar named Ali Bahaj purchased Aaron Schock's former Illinois home nestled in an exclusive suburban enclave for thousands more than the estimated value and far more than similar homes along the same street were selling for at the time. 

Prior to the extremely generous purchase price, Bahaj and his wife had previously donated the maximum allowable political donations to Schock's campaign fund.

The whole house-sale-thing comes after a February story by Ben Terris in the Washington Post about Schock's extensive decoration of his Congressional office in the style of (wait for it...) the lavish post Victorian-era interiors of the fictional Crawley family's estate manor on the series 'Downton Abbey'.


Tea M'lord? Schock's Downton Abbey-inspired office
An article on Vanity about the controversy that Terris' Washington Post story created, ripped the chintzy, overblown decorating style Schock selected (pictured left).

The article noted with irony that Schock was one of the right-wing nut jobs who voted to defund PBS; probably to find money to decorate his office, the most expensive in Congress.

According to Vanity Fair, when the now-former adviser/bigot Benjamin Cole discovered the Washington Post reporter was getting a guided tour of Schock's newly decorated office by the decorator Annie Brahler, he freaked and tried to kill the story.

In a rather klutzy effort to downplay the idea that Schock had wanted his office decorated in the style of 'Downton Abbey', as reported in the Vanity Fair article, 'Cole added that he was not even sure Schock watched Downton Abbey, adding, “I don’t know what shows he watches. But I don’t think he watches much TV.” 

The same Congressman Schock who was interviewed on The Stephen Colbert Show about his abs?

The same guy who also appeared as a judge on the TV show Top Chef  in 2010?

The same guy who was quoted in a TV interview on CNN's Reliable Sources as saying about his frequent appearances on TMZ, "People who watch TMZ or different mediums don't expect to see their congressman on such a show," he said. "To see their hometown congressman on a show like this kind of raises their interest and gets them a little excited."

Yeah, Benji, I'm sure Aaron Schock RARELY watches TV.

Congressional expenditure reports show that Schock has spent well over $100,000 on decorations of his Congressional office since 2008 and is facing an ethics investigation, not only because he used tax payer money to do it, but the decorator Annie Brahler claims she did the decoration job for free; in violation of House ethics rules.

As the story continues to blow up, Schock will surely have make some kind of public statement about his taxpayer funded decoration, but as of now his lordship has declined to comment on any of the stories about his lavish decorating tastes.

 Republicans never cease to amaze, they won't use tax payer money to fund PBS, but they'll waste it trying to turn an office into a set from a television show that's ON PBS. 'Schocking'

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