When Rep. Aaron Schock leaves Congress on March 31, his “Downton Abbey” office will remain, though the days of the pheasant feathers and paintings could also be numbered.
Whoever wins the special election for Schock’s seat in Illinois’ 18th District will inherit the Republican’s Rayburn office, but the Architect of the Capitol could repaint the bright red walls depending on the new member’s request.
A Washington Post report on Schock’s lavish office modeled after the popular PBS show sparked six weeks of news stories questioning his spending habits, and ultimately led to his resignation announcement .
“When the newly elected Member occupies the office, we would typically repaint the office if requested, and we would also consider requests for renovations,” AOC spokeswoman Laura Condeluci told CQ Roll Call in an email.
Though Condeluci said it is up to the new member to decide whether the office needs a fresh coat of paint, one lawmaker who recently came to Congress after a special election said he did not have a say in sprucing up his inherited digs.
“When I came in, the Architect of the Capitol, or [the House Administration Committee], whoever’s in charge, had basically just painted the office a blank slate. I mean, I came in to a repainted office,” Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., who joined Congress in March 2014 to replace the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young, said Thursday. “You basically receive what’s a standard office.”
Jolly said he was not consulted before the office was repainted.
“I got sworn in at noon, I think. About an hour beforehand the clerk opened the Rayburn office for me so I could see it,” Jolly said. “But I didn’t have any authority until I was sworn in. So you don’t get to make any decisions. Now once I was sworn in, I was able to ask, ‘Hey can we move this or can we swap out those chairs for something else in inventory?'”
Moving into a former member’s office is a “pretty antiseptic process,” Jolly said. “There’s not much to it.”
But Shock’s is not typical congressional office space. According to a House aide, the process for moving out of the office during the middle of a term is pretty much the same as the biannual process that occurs at the start of a new Congress. The main difference is that staff goes under the jurisdiction of the Clerk of the House following a lawmaker’s resignation.
During the congressional office shakeup every two years, the House chief administrative officer coordinates the move-out process with the member office and a number of other support offices. The CAO and the AOC then prepare the office for the new member, which usually includes a fresh coat of paint.
So what will happen to the early 20th century decor that adorns Schock’s “Downton Abbey”-themed office? As with any member of Congress moving out, anything that is personally paid for by the lawmaker is his or her property. Since Schock personally repaid the government for his unusually styled office, any materials covered by that payment would then be his property.
Any furniture, equipment, office supplies, or items purchased with a member’s official funds, also known as the Member Representational Allowance, belong to the lawmaker’s district, not the member.
Though the new member of Congress will inhabit Schock’s Rayburn office after the still-to-be-scheduled special election, he or she would likely move if re-elected to a full term in 2016. The biannual congressional office lottery operates according to seniority, so a more senior member would probably be angling to move into Rayburn, one of the more coveted House office buildings.
In the meantime, whoever replaces Shock will reside in 2464 Rayburn, but its walls will probably be stripped of the paint and decor that led to its previous inhabitant’s downfall.
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Schock Resignation Will Trigger Special Election
When the Boss Quits: Staffer Survival Guide
‘Downton Office’ Not First Ethics Flap for Schock
Pack Up Your Troubles: Members Begin Moving Out
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