The new Congress isn’t a month old and the DC media-industrial complex has already seized on its first scandal. Illinois Republican Rep. Aaron Schock sought to bring a splash of color to the drab halls of Congress only to have his staff provoke a tempest trying to suppress the news.
The staff, no doubt, worried the Downton Abbey-inspired remakes of the federal office wouldn’t play well in Peoria, the Congressman’s home.
Washington Post reporter Ben Terris stopped by Rep. Schock’s office in the House Rayburn Building and marveled at the recently completed office renovation. “Bright red walls. A gold-colored wall sconce with black candles,” Terris wrote. “A Federal-style bull’s-eye mirror with an eagle perched on top. And this is just the Illinois Republican’s outer office.”
Congressmen often put a personal touch on their office space. Many will offer visitors treats or snacks from their home districts. One office I visited had an impressive collection of rock-and-roll concert posters. Schock apparently wanted a little more flair in his office.
Rep. Schock, the youngest member of Congress, is well known for cutting a non-traditional figure in Washington. He is the first member of Congress to show-off his chiseled abs in Mens Health magazine. The giant urns of “pheasant feathers” throughout the office described by Terris seems completely in keeping with the congressman’s sartorial dash.
Terris’ visit to the Congressman’s office took a bizarre turn when Schock’s designer, noted Illinois decorator Anne Brahler, offered to give the reporter a tour of the whole office. According to Terris, Schock’s staff urged him not to report on the office redesign and even prodded him to delete his photos of the office remake.
The staff even offered the reporter access to Rep. Schock on other issues if he would demur on writing about the office make-over.
Nothing so focuses reporters as being told not to write about something.
The already bizarre story took another twist late Tuesday when CREW, the left-wing advocacy group, formally requested an investigation by the House Ethics Committee of the office redesign. According to the complaint, the Post story raised questions about who paid for the office make-over and whether Brahler’s “donation” of her design services violated the House gift ban.
When in session, Members of Congress can spend long hours in their offices. Every year, thousands of constituents from home districts also visit these offices when in DC. It is certainly understandable if a Member wants to put his or her own stamp on the office.
Brahler’s design company, Euro Trash, describes her approach to decorating on its website. “The European mindset that is at the very center of the Euro Trash aesthetic; beauty is here to be enjoyed, shared, and celebrated in every aspect of life.”
So, why can’t Schock staff celebrate this little island of color and beauty in Rayburn’s sea of beige?