House tightens office decoration, travel rules in wake of Schock scandal
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, by Chuck Raasch
The House of Representatives Wednesday tightened how its members can spend taxpayer dollars to decorate their offices and travel, but not before members got into a debate about transparency and their safety when they travel in their districts.
Shepherded by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the new regulations passed by the House Administration Committee require members to get approval before spending more than $5,000 on any office furnishing; get approval for any private airplane flight over $7,500; and be prohibited from being reimbursed for mileage in campaign vehicles.
All the reforms stemmed from the highly publicized scandal involving former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, who resigned after revelations he had spent more than $40,000 in taxpayer dollars to decorate his office in the style of the British drama series "Downton Abbey." Schock also was reported to have taken private planes to sporting events in Illinois and abused House mileage reimbursements. A federal grand jury is looking into the allegations.
In addition, the reforms passed Wednesday will result in a more transparent, searchable online database containing congressional office expenditures, Davis said.
"While our review review found no broad patterns of abuse or fraud, we did find areas we can improve on," Davis said before the committee approved the reforms. "... We need to create more transparency."
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