BLOOMINGTON — It’s too early to tell if an ongoing ethics investigation involving U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock could hinder his possible run for Illinois governor, local political experts said Friday.
An Office of Congressional Ethics report, released this week by the House Ethics Committee, called for a probe into the issue and said in part “there is substantial reason to believe” Schock violated “federal law, House rules, and standards of conduct.” Schock denied any wrongdoing.
Also named in the report as a “non-cooperating witness” is newly elected Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville. While the investigation is not focused on him, the report recommends that the House committee subpoena him.
Schock is accused of soliciting a $25,000 contribution last March from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s political action committee for PAC backing of Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Manteno. Federal law prohibits contributions of more than $5,000.
Chris Mooney, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said Friday the allegations are unlikely to have an effect on Schock’s bid unless he’s convicted, which Mooney said seems unlikely. Even a minor sanction could be used by opponents, though, he said.
“If he’s sanctioned, it might pop up in a mailer,” Mooney said. “If you can tar your opponent with ethics issues, you can bring in photos of (former Governors Rod) Blagojevich and (George) Ryan, and people won’t be pleased with that. Schock has been a sort of ‘golden boy’ of the region.”
McLean County Republican Party Chairman John Parrott Jr. said he’s waiting for the process to unfold before speculating how it might affect the race for governor.
“It’s an unfortunate situation any time an ethics charge is filed against a congressman, but we have a due process, and I think we should see what the outcome is.”
Responding to questions Friday, Schock spokesman Steve Dutton declined to comment further on the issue or how it may affect Schock’s possible run for governor. Schock’s spokesman has said the allegations aren’t new and he expects full exoneration.
“As our counsel’s submissions to OCE and the Ethics Committee make clear, the complaint in this case is entirely without merit,” Dutton said.
Davis allegedly was the contact between Schock and several PACs when he was part of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus’ staff and not yet a candidate for Congress.
Davis issued a statement Friday saying he is accused of no wrongdoing.
“This report is not focused on me and does not state, or even imply, that I did anything wrong,” Davis said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.
The report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, as Davis notes, does not accuse him of wrongdoing, but it recommends that Davis be subpoenaed.
“The OCE infers that the information Mr. Davis refused to provide, taken together with the factual findings in this referral, supports the conclusion that there is substantial reason to believe that the alleged violation occurred,” the report said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.