Donors had role in Congressman's 2014 property deal
WASHINGTON (AP) — A shell company linked to embattled Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock paid a political donor $300,000 last year for a commercial property in Peoria then took out a $600,000 mortgage for the property from a local bank run by other donors, Illinois state and county records show.
The newly disclosed arrangement follows similar Schock real estate deals detailed by a recent Associated Press investigation into the Illinois Republican's business transactions involving political contributors over the past decade.
The 2014 deal, which occurred after the congressman's most recent financial report, raises new questions about Schock's pattern of repeated reliance on campaign contributors. Political donors built, sold and financed a house owned by Schock in suburban Peoria. Donors also were involved in the sale and financing of a Peoria apartment complex in which Schock invests.
According to tax and county land records obtained by the Peoria Journal Star and reviewed by the AP, a company managed by Schock paid $300,000 last May to buy a commercial property owned by Jeff Green, a wealthy Peoria car dealer who has contributed at least $12,000 to the Illinois Republican's congressional campaigns and who still owns a larger land tract next to Schock's. The lawmaker then signed a mortgage application with a local Peoria bank for $600,000 — twice the listed price of the property now owned by his Illinois company, Menards Peoria LLC. Its headquarters was listed as Schock's home in Peoria.
Banks typically limit mortgage loans to less than the full value of a property. It was not immediately clear why Schock sought such a large loan, whether there were other components of the deal or how he was awarded a mortgage loan twice the size of his purchase price. Local records did not show the bank's appraisal value for the property. Schock's stake in the deal was first disclosed by WMAQ, the NBC affiliate in Chicago, and Blue Nation Review, a liberal online publication.
A spokesman for Schock declined to comment about the 2014 deal. A spokesman at Heritage Bank in Peoria, which approved the $600,000 commercial mortgage, did not immediately respond to a telephone message left with a spokesman. Several senior officials at the bank previously contributed at least $1,000 each to Shock's campaign, according to federal records.
In the immediate months after buying the land parcel in May, according to campaign expenditure records, Schock's re-election campaign paid Green and two of his auto dealerships more than $112,000 in unspecified transportation expenses.
Those expenses included a $73,000 payment for the purchase of a Chevrolet Tahoe, according to a report Monday in the Chicago Sun Times. The newspaper said the campaign expense for the Tahoe purchase is allowed under federal rules but questioned Schock's self-reimbursement of $1,218 for mileage. Green also owns a private plane, which repeatedly flew to sites where Schock appeared for campaign and other appearances, according to Instagram data reviewed by AP.
Reached by telephone at his Peoria office, Green said: "Ninety percent of the stuff out there is just a lie."
Schock has built much of his personal wealth over a decade of real estate investments with political donors, an AP review found. Schock, 33, who was named to a midlevel Republican leadership post in the House last year, has disclosed personal wealth in a range centered on $1.4 million. He's made his precocious business acumen a key part of his appeal since his election to Congress in 2009 and sometimes describes himself as a real estate developer.
Schock has created several shell companies as vehicles for his real estate moves, but it was unclear why he used the name "Menard" in his purchase of the Peoria property from Green.
Menard Inc. is a Wisconsin-based home improvement firm with franchise stores across the Midwest. A Menard franchise once operated on the land owned by Schock and Green, but a separate store now operates in another Peoria location. A Menard spokesman, Jeff Abbott, said he was looking into Schock's use of the company name.
In a separate report Monday, the website Buzzfeed reported that Schock spent more than $5,000 from his House account for a portable podium that looks a lot like a presidential podium used by President Barack Obama. A public watchdog group has filed a federal ethics complaint against the lawmaker for using congressional money to redesign his office in the style of the TV show "Downton Abbey" and for billing taxpayers or his campaigns tens of thousands of dollars in private air travel on donor-owned planes.