Indicted Former Congressman Used Campaign Funds When His Mileage Award Trip Fell Apart

Former Congressman Aaron Schock has been indicted by the FBI, accused of a dizzying array of fraudulent transactions to enrich himself.

Federal prosecutors allege that Schock pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in improper mileage reimbursments, camera equipment, and proceeds from selling tickets to the World Series and Super Bowl. Schock even used a front corporation to make money from an annual constituent “fly-in,” the indictment states.

His lawyers say it was just sloppy bookkeeping, but he claimed $138,663 in ‘fraudulent mileage reimbursements’ including claiming to drive 150,000 miles more than shown on odometers.

Thing is when there’s a political scandal, it doesn’t usually involve money, it also frequently involves miles.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez faced corruption charges over acceptance of a suite at the Park Hyatt Vendome redeemed by a donor with American Express Membership Rewards points. A court didn’t buy that the suite had no value because redeemed with points, the method of payment wasn’t relevant to the value received (and indeed he should have been liable for such a criminally poor use of points).

When South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford engaged in an affair with a woman from Argentina and resigned his office in 2009, it was revealed that he visited her using Delta SkyMiles for business class award tickets.

Politicians get special travel perks anyway and when they’re pushing the envelope, they often do it across the board, including with miles.

So it’s no real surprise that former Congressman Schock dipped into campaign funds when an award redemption went awry (HT: Ryan C.):

In August 2013, Schock used American Express points to book a vacation to Europe from Washington Dulles Airport. When his connecting flight from Peoria was delayed, he chartered an airplane for more than $8,000, and charged his campaign account for the cost, according to the indictment.

It’s not clear whether this would have been a simple misconnect (requiring the operating airline to re-route him) or whether he had purchased separate tickets for positioning flights since the domestic segments weren’t available as saver awards.

Misconnecting on separate tickets when booking an award is a tough situation. I usually advise leaving more time than usual unless you’re flying American, which still protects you. I like to have enough time that a cancelled flight allows me to take the next scheduled flight and still make it.

Even travel delay coverage from a credit card can be problematic on an award. Not all credit card coverage will apply when only taxes are paid with that card, and those where it will usually only cover up to the amount charged in the event of a split tender payment. This remains very useful, though, when fuel surcharges apply on the award since coverage up to $500 or $1000 will be enough to reimburse hotel and meal expenses incurred as a result of a delay.

While I might have suspected that an Illinois Congressman flying via Washington Dulles would have been using United miles, his use of American Express Membership Rewards points suggests either an especially poor use of points (Pay With Points likely at 1 cent apiece in value or a little bit more, but this was prior to the Business Platinum’s new 50% points rebate benefit which yields 2 cents in value) or a savvy transferring points to miles. You’d expect someone leveraging their points for a vacation might be careful with money, but that appears not to have been the case.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. So the FBI is actually capable of doing a full investigation of politicians, and even getting indictments, when the Justice Department isn’t blocking it from doing it’s job. Who knew?

  2. I successfully used Chase Sapphire Preferred travel insurance on an award ticket where I was compensated more than the taxes were that I charged on my Chase card were for. These credit card companies pay 3rd parties to adminster these insurance benefits . Its not like they willl do anything that’s not made clear to you upfront in the terms and conditions .

  3. “Thing is when there’s a political scandal, it doesn’t usually involve money, it also frequently involves miles.”

    …or email servers. I’m stunned that DOJ will go after things like this while overlooking a blatant and purposeful security hole like using personal email for confidential communications. How telling that we would choose a corrupt politician and a morally bankrupt person as our major party Presidential nominees. We really do live in a mixed up society, but hey, let’s nail these losers who use hotel/air points! I guess the lesson here is to pocket the miles/points and retire in style…

  4. Actually then Gov Sanford did not resign in 2009 as the article indicated. He served his full term with the cloud of the scandal hanging over him. He was subsequently elected to Congress. Go figure.

  5. @Robert There is a simple reason that DOJ went after Congressman Aaron Schock and not Hillary. Gary didn’t mention it, but Schock is a Republican, and of course Hillary was the Dem Presidential candidate. Not to mention as Obama’s former Sec of State I’m quite sure Hillary knows where a lot of Obama Administration bodies are buried. 😉

  6. @RoberH I’m glad you’re having a fun time criticizing Clinton on boarding area, really says a lot of good things about your priorities in life 😉

  7. Aaron Shock is believed to be a gay American who consistently voted against the rights of LGBT community while he was a member of the US Congress. His anti-gay voting record almost surpassed the likes of Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond…. When you are full of so much self hate somehow things go awry! And that’s exactly what happened to him: Ultimate justice! He is a pretty boy who thought he would get away with his actions! After his troubles settle, I hope, Mr. Shock hopefully be true to himself and come out and stop being the advocate for anti-gay bigots….

  8. @MK

    Don’t count on Schock coming out even though the whole city of Peoria knows about his wild naked parties….

    Schock’s ego is so huge, he probably thought that no one would catch him… In Peoria, they actually thought he was on track to be President someday…. Yeah, I know….

  9. I think he will be president some day.
    Really does it matter what you say, what you do, how many times you change your mind about an issue. What you say or do is irrelevant only that you and your ego can bluster your way. Its all about the effectiveness of the Scam and the BIG SELL to CLOSE THE DEAL.
    I think he would be perfect after 12 OR 15 years of Trump, besides Schock won’t have any gay marriage for Pence to invalidate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *