Lawmaker reimbursed costs for lavish office decor

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Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock repaid the U.S. government $40,000 from his personal checking account for redecorating his congressional office in the style of the TV show "Downton Abbey," according to financial records reviewed by The Associated Press.

Schock paid $35,000 earlier this month to the owner of the decorating firm, Euro Trash, and $5,000 more on Thursday, the records showed.

Schock, a rising star in the Republican Party,  is under scrutiny for using an office expense account to pay for the redecorating, and using taxpayer and campaign funds for flights on donor-owned planes and concert tickets.

The Washington Post was first to describe the office decorations. A watchdog group has requested a House ethics review of the congressman's spending.

Schock's office said his payments made good on an earlier promise to personally shoulder the costs of the office renovation. Schock wrote two checks -- for $25,000 on Feb. 4 and $10,000 on Feb. 6 -- to Tracy "Annie" Brahler, owner of Euro Trash. He wrote a third check for $5,000 on Thursday.

"Congressman Schock has fulfilled his commitment to pay for all the renovation costs," his office said Friday in a prepared statement. It said that while congressional office costs are usually paid from office expense accounts, "the congressman believed it appropriate to pay these costs himself."

An AP review earlier this week found that Schock spent taxpayer and campaign funds for flights aboard private planes owned by some of his key donors, as well as on other entertainment expenses. His office is still reviewing those charges.

Schock's decorator, Brahler, refunded to the U.S. government $35,000 paid to her from the congressional office expense account.

The Post first reported that Brahler donated her services as she decorated Schock's Washington office with red carpet and red walls accented with antique-looking frames and sconces reminiscent of "Downton Abbey." The popular PBS show depicts the lives of aristocratic families and their servants in 1920s England.

A liberal-leaning group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, requested an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, an outside panel that reviews ethics complaints against House members.

Schock, 33, is in his fourth term representing the Peoria and Springfield areas.