Conservatives to Aaron Schock: Don't Let the Door Hit You
The drumbeat started on Tuesday, when RedState editor Erick Erickson issued his papal bull from Macon, Ga. Illinois Representative Aaron Schock had to go.
"He has lived a life as a celebrity in a city that more and more craves celebrity over competence in office," wrote Erickson. "His lack of responsibility with the funds of others shows him to lack the necessary integrity to handle the power of the purse in the House of Representatives, which remains the chief power of the House. He should resign."
Hours later, National Review's Charles C. Cooke picked up some drumsticks. "There is no virtue at all in the Republican Party's vehemently decrying the largesse and the arrogance of Washington, D.C., if those who are sent to cut the place down to size end up living like Lucrezia Borgia," he wrote.
The fresh attention on Schock, after an incompetent communications director tried to quash a profile of his office, has exposed scandal after scandal. Just this week, Politico broke the news of an accounting trick that wouldn't float in any private enterprise–an expense report for $3,425 in "software," which was actually a reimbursement for the software developer's plane. (As Jake Sherman reports, Schock said that he'd cut back on private planes and thus see less of his district. His district is roughly the size of Massachusetts.) Schock defended himself, in part, by saying that "whether you look at my reports or you look at any member of Congress’ reports, I’m sure that you can find a story to write about any member of Congress." (You can't.)
Why would conservatives be so ready to dump the guy? For one, the fate of Schock means practically nothing to the GOP's congressional majority. Like New York Representative Michael Grimm, who won his November 2014 election knowing that a scandal might take him out, Schock joined this Congress from a safe seat, with a Cook Partisan Index rating comparable to Indiana or Kentucky. A special election to replace Schock would almost certainly lead to the election of a Republican. If it didn't, if a Democrat won in a protest vote, the November 2016 election's turnout model would probably boost a Republican back into the seat.
But most Republicans hold safe seats. Schock is finding few ideological allies because he never tried to make them. Elected in 2008, before the Tea Party wave, Schock got ensconced in Congress before conservative groups really mastered the art of the primary threat. When Republicans took the House, Schock typically voted with GOP leadership to end the showdowns started by conservatives. In 2013, when the Club for Growth threatened to fund a primary challenger, Schock openly mocked the group. "I don’t need a score sheet or some lobbyist in Washington to tell me what my constituents think," he said. (A call to the Club for Growth today wasn't immediately returned.)
The Club moved on to seemingly softer targets. What made those targets, like Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, look softer? Schock had pillowed himself with money. He was a congressman from a safe rural seat who raised $2.7 million for his re-election.
And now Schock is a punch line. He's in a worse position to raise money; he can be replaced in a primary by a more reliable conservative. Conservatives aren't being cynical when they say he hurts the whole part, but they're talking about more than just his oddly socialized version of glitz.