Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock’s legal problems expanded Wednesday as a contributor sued to force the repayment of millions of campaign dollars, saying he was tricked into believing the young lawmaker who has since resigned amid questions about his spending was “a breath of fresh air” in a corruption-riddled state. The unusual lawsuit filed by Howard Foster, a Chicago lawyer who pitched in just $500 to Schock, cites Illinois’ long history of political and financial shenanigans — from a pre-Civil War governor to former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s recent prison term for misusing campaign funds — and plants Schock among them in claiming his fundraising arm was a corrupt racket. One election-law expert said he’s never seen such a lawsuit and predicted legal obstacles.
Schock, a 33-year-old Republican from Peoria who resigned last month, had been a money-raising machine with shooting-star millennial appeal. The lawsuit targets all four of his fundraising accounts. In his main congressional fund alone, he collected nearly $11 million since 2008, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Foster anted up “because he believed Mr. Schock was ethical, a breath of fresh air in Illinois politics, and had a bright future in Congress,” the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago, states. “However, the opposite was true, and while Schock may have been a new, young face in Congress, he willingly followed well-tread paths of political sleaze for personal gain.”
The complaint seeks class-action status and repayment of all contributions. It counts 7,130 contributors to Schock’s main fund alone — all potential plaintiffs, although Foster is the only one thus far.