Smart explainer from Marin Cogan, at NYMag, on “How Downton Abbey Office Décor Morphed Into a D.C. Spending Scandal“:
… Other reporters actually had looked at Schock’s finances before but didn’t report them.“The irony of this whole thing is that the fact that he spent a lot of money on hotels and travel has been known among Republicans forever and it pissed them off,” says another reporter who is now working on the Schock story. “Once Ben had a great story by accident it gave reporters an opening to be like, he lives this lifestyle. It all kind of fit into the mold that Ben created. On its own a story that Aaron Schock spends a lot of money is not that interesting because he’s not in leadership. It would seem very random. No one had a hook until we discovered that he was working in a replica of Downton Abbey.”
Adam Smith, communications director for Public Campaign, a nonprofit working to reduce the role of special-interest spending in politics, has two explanations for why Schock (who declined a request for comment) went from a media favorite to one of its top targets. One is the difficulty in understanding Congress’s arcane and complex ethics rules. “It’s all super-complicated! I’m pretty well-versed in this stuff, but I still had to track down and confirm what the ethics violation would be, even though I knew it was … something. Same goes for our bullet-hole-filled campaign finance laws,” he says. When you see big spending stories blow up like this one, they’ve often originated in opposition research shops. It’s fair to ask: ‘Would we have seen that without a dedicated opponent looking for it?'”
He continues: “But I think the big thing, for me, is that reporters are cynical generally, and on money in politics in particular. Everyone’s schmoozing with lobbyists, everyone’s prostrating themselves in front of big donors, so what’s the big deal? They’ll say everyone’s corrupt, voters don’t care, politicians aren’t going to do anything, so why cover it? It’s all about the horse race — who’s picking up the most bundlers, who’s raising the most money.” Eventually, some other reporter might have come by and noticed the office, but if Schock and his staff hadn’t freaked out about it, it might have never raised alarm bells. Instead, on Tuesday, Politico reported that Schock was lawyering up to deal with the allegations made against him. Terris, meanwhile, got another tip in his inbox. “Ben, I enjoyed your recent article and the accompanying photos,” it read. “I was surprised to see the long tail pheasant feathers in a government office since I thought it was illegal to keep such feathers.” The plot thickens.
Russ Choma, at the Center for Responsive Politics OpenSecrets.org, further explains that his GOP associates had very little impetus to go after Schock, because Aaron made sure that everybody who mattered got a taste:
… While Schock’s campaign committee spends lavishly on airfare and catering — not to mention cufflinks ($2,678) and flowers ($3,570) — his leadership PAC, GOP Generation Y Fund, is, relatively speaking, all business. It raised $782,000 in the 2014 cycle, through late November of last year, and spent $776,000. Of that, $517,000 — almost 70 percent of the PAC’s total spending — was spent on contributions to other federal candidates (all of them Republicans)…
… [O]n the list of leadership PACs that give out the most money to other members of Congress, Schock’s stands out at No. 14, just behind a short roster of stars and leaders from both parties, like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Apart from making notes on the best way to make friends & influence people, what’s on the agenda as we start the weekend?