Congressman faces expenses scrutiny, hires PR team

Washington (CNN)Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock has now hired lawyers and public relations experts in the face of growing questions over his use of taxpayer and campaign money to pay for flights on private jets, concert tickets and other entertainment expenses.

The latest revelations come from an Associated Press review of the social media friendly Republican's campaign, and office records and his posts on the photo and video sharing website Instagram. The AP used the location data from his postings on that site -- along with flight, office and campaign records -- to track his spending. The report said Schock took at least a dozen flights -- worth more than $40,000-- on planes owned by key donors since mid-2011. It also found that his thousands of dollars in car mileage reimbursements, $18,000 since 2013, are among the highest in Congress.
His office has not responded to CNN's inquiries about this report and others that have questioned his expenses and the reimbursements provided to him.
With pressure mounting to respond to these allegations, Schock has hired William McGinley and Donald McGahn, partners at prominent Washington law firm Jones Day. McGahn is a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and a federal campaign finance law expert. McGinley's biography on the law firm's site says he represents members of Congress, candidates, and corporations in investigations before the Office of Congressional Ethics and the House and Senate Ethics Committees.
    Schock has also retained GOP communications experts Ron Bonjean and Brian Walsh.
    "After questions were first raised in the press, Congressman Schock took the proactive step of assembling a team to review the compliance procedures in his official office, campaign and leadership PAC to determine whether they can be improved," said a Schock spokesman. "Congressman Schock takes his compliance obligations seriously which is why he took this proactive step to review these procedures."
    The spokesman went on to say that Schock has an outstanding reputation for constituent service and remains steadfastly focused on serving the people in Illinois' 18th congressional district during this review.
    Schock has been seen as a rising star in the Republican Party and is one of the GOP's top fundraisers. The fresh-faced 33 year old has also been something of a globetrotter, posting photos on Instagram of meeting the pope at the Vatican, hanging out with Buddhist monks in Myanmar, surfing in Hawaii and parasailing in Argentina.
    It was the unusual decorations in his Capitol Hill office that sparked this latest round of questions about his spending. The office, with dark red walls, a sparking chandelier, a bust of Abraham Lincoln and a bouquet of pheasant feathers, has been nicknamed the "Downton Abbey" office. Schock is also facing accusations of selling his Peoria home to a donor in 2012 for significantly higher than market value, a characterization his supporters dispute. The left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called for an ethics review in those cases and on Wednesday filed a third complaint in response to the latest reports.
    "CREW asked the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to investigate whether Rep. Schock broke House rules in light of new evidence that the congressman improperly used taxpayer money and campaign funds to rent private, non-charter flights for travel," read the letter by Anne Weismann, interim director.
    The Office of Congressional Ethics will not comment on the allegations.
    Schock is already facing an ethics inquiry over an accusation he broke fundraising rules and federal law in 2012 by soliciting higher-than-allowed contributions for a political committee.
    The fourth-term congressman serves a staunchly Republican district and the reports about his lavish spending have not gone unnoticed.
    "Once you get into taxpayer dollars, I think that's what gets people fundamentally interested in it, if it's their money that's being used," said Chris Kaergard, a political reporter at the Peoria Journal Star. "People are willing to excuse campaign spending."
    Kaergard said that while Schock's constituents were following the story, it is not an issue that has been raised by voters in recent town halls hosted by the congressman.
    "I think they're more concerned with how he's doing his day-to-day job, but there's a wait and see approach to this in terms of everything that's come out," Kaergard said. "I think we'll wait and see if there's any other shoes to drop."