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Rep. Aaron Schock resigning amid cloud of ethics questions

Rep. Aaron Schock resigning amid ethics questions

Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, the 33-year-old Republican once viewed as a rising star in the party, announced on Tuesday he plans to resign from Congress at the end of the month amid a cloud of ethics questions.

Schock has been bombarded in recent weeks with a torrent of bad publicity, which began last month after the Washington Post revealed he had spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to redecorate his office in the style of the popular PBS series "Downton Abbey." But the trouble did not end there for Schock. Recent reports have called into question his use of campaign funds to invest in real estate and to pay for a podium that was a replica of President Obama's.

RELATED: Rep. Aaron Schock is in even more hot water

“Today, I am announcing my resignation as a Member of the United States House of Representatives effective March 31,” Schock said in a statement. "I do this with a heavy heart. Serving the people of the 18th District is the highest and greatest honor I have had in my life. I thank them for their faith in electing me and letting me represent their interests in Washington. I have given them my all over the last six years. I have traveled to all corners of the District to meet with the people I’ve been fortunate to be able to call my friends and neighbors.”

“But the constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself. I have always sought to do what’s best for my constituents and I thank them for the opportunity to serve,” he added. 

Politico first reported the news of Schock's resignation.

The four-term lawmaker had appeared to weather the "Downton Abbey" flap last month when he pledged to repay the $100,000 tab for the office renovations. But Schock was quickly embroiled in another scandal when racially charged tweets from one of his senior advisers were unearthed, forcing Schock to fire the staffer and make another public mea culpa.

“I am extremely disappointed by the inexcusable and offensive online comments made by a member of my staff,” Schock said in a statement at the time to the Journal Star newspaper in Peoria, Illinois. “I would expect better from any member of my team. Upon learning about them I met with Mr. Cole and he offered his resignation which I have accepted.

The most recent wave of allegations against Schock apparently proved too much for his burgeoning political career to bear. The Chicago Tribune recently published a damning report raising questions about the use of campaign funds to finance the construction and sale of a house owned by Schock in Peoria. 

Meanwhile, BuzzFeed released an embarrassing story alleging that Schock spent a whopping $5,000 from his congressional account to have a portable podium produced that resembled the president's, known as "The Falcon."

And USA Today has reported that Schock spent almost $80,000 of federal money on furniture in 2009, the year he first took office in the House of Representatives. 

Even his Instagram page, which featured many of the Congressman's exploits, became a source of skepticism.

Schock is the second member of  Congress to step down this year. New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm resigned in early January after pleading guilty to a federal felony charge. 

"With this decision, Rep. Schock has put the best interests of his constituents and the House first," Speaker John Boehner said in a statement on Tuesday. "I appreciate Aaron's years of service, and I wish him well in the future."

His Democratic colleagues were unsurprisingly less sanguine. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said in a statement: "The allegations against Congressman Schock are serious, raising questions about his expenditure of official funds and campaign funds.  His resignation came as a surprise and reflects the gravity of his situation."