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Rep. Aaron Schock benefited from donor projects
Rep. Aaron Schock has built his personal wealth off extensive business dealings with campaign contributors
Rep. Aaron Schock has built much of his personal wealth over a decade through real estate investments with political donors, an Associated Press review found. His relationships with other contributors, which afforded him flights on private planes and other expenses, are already under scrutiny.
Donors built, financed and later purchased a house Schock owned as an investment in a suburb of Peoria, Illinois. Schock owns a stake in a Peoria apartment complex involving other contributors. And he pushed for a federal appropriation that would have benefited a donor's development project, an Associated Press review found. Schock, a 33-year-old rising Republican star named last year to a midlevel leadership role in the House, has disclosed personal wealth in a range centered on $1.4 million. He's made precocious business acumen a part of his appeal since joining Congress in 2009, sometimes calling himself a real estate developer.
Financial reports indicate Schock may have more than doubled his wealth since he was elected to Congress, although it is impossible to determine his gains precisely because values of his assets and liabilities are only reported in wide ranges.
Amid ethics complaints concerning his taxpayer-funded expenses and flights aboard donors' aircraft, Schock's business entanglements with contributors in several projects raise questions about the overlap between his personal finances and their political interests. Politicians can do business deals with donors as long as the terms are commercially reasonable.
Schock declined through a spokesman to discuss his finances with the AP. He told a newspaper late Wednesday that his real estate investments occurred at arm's length from donors.
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"It's no different from when I see an opportunity," he told the Peoria Journal Star of the transactions disclosed in his financial statements. "I've been buying real estate since I was 18 years old."
A watchdog group has called for an ethics investigation amid revelations he used congressional money to redesign his office in the style of the TV show "Downton Abbey." He also billed taxpayers or his campaigns tens of thousands of dollars in private air travel on donors' planes. His office said he repaid some of those charges and is reviewing others.
Schock's business career began early. In high school, he bought 107 acres of farmland near Peoria — property he sold to the local sewage district two years later for more than $100,000 in profit. In college, he bought three rental properties across the street from Bradley University and sold them to the school a few years later for a profit of more than $120,000.
Running for political office put Schock's real estate career on hold, and he earned a salary of $56,000 after he was elected as an Illinois state legislator. But donors soon helped get him back into the real estate game.
In 2007, Peoria businessman Samuel Hoerr obtained permits to build a home on a Schock-owned lot in a golf course development called Augusta Estates. Schock and Hoerr — himself a campaign contributor — have been both listed as owners in varying local real estate records. Sam Hoerr did not respond to messages left at his business and cellphone. Members of the Hoerr family — a prominent Peoria family with interests in real estate and construction — have donated nearly $80,000 to Schock's campaign and supporting political committees since 2007. Schock's sister and campaign manager, Tania Hoerr, married into the family.
Backlund is active in Community Bankers Association of Illinois, which has spent more than $1 million since 2010 lobbying for the softening of banking regulations that the group said would hurt member banks. In May 2010, after the group's members pressed their case in Washington, Schoc