Aaron Schock, the globe-trotting, fedora-donning, private-flight-non-disclosing 33-year-old Republican Congressman from Peoria, Ill., is resigning. Which is not that big of a surprise. The next question, though, is if he’ll face criminal charges for the financial hijinks that got him in trouble in the first place.
Politico has reported that “some in Schock’s circle” are worried he might face a criminal investigation. If that investigation happens and if it results in criminal charges and if Schock gets convicted of a felony and if he ends up in prison—yes, four ifs—then he’ll have lots of company: Schock would be just one of a long line of storied Illinois politicians to see their careers lead to prison time.
The most famous recent Illinois politician to go to jail is Rod Blagojevich, the former Democratic governor who is currently serving a 14-year sentence in part for soliciting bribes for political appointments, including to fill the Senate seat that Obama vacated when he became president. Now he’s teaching his fellow inmates about “the history of war battles.” Like Schock, Blagojevich also served a stint in the U.S. House of Representatives.
It’s not really news anymore when Illinois governors go to prison. George Ryan, who led the state from 2003 to 2007, spent time in prison for corruption, and told NBC Chicago that he met “some real bums” and “some real interesting people” while there. Dan Walker, a one-term former governor, also did a stint in prison after being convicted of fraud. He wrote a memoir about his experiences called The Maverick and the Machine and it won best memoir from the San Diego Book Awards in 2008, according to Amazon. Lemonade from lemons, I guess. Otto Kerner another former Illinois governor, also spent time in prison.
And it’s not just governors. NBC News noted that the Chicago Sun-Times ran a front-page story when 1991 passed without the indictment or conviction of a Chicago alderman. Hooray!
Schock wouldn’t break any new ground as an incarcerated Illinois congressman. Dan Rostenkowski, who chaired the House Ways and Means committee during the Reagan administration, spent 15 months in a minimum security prison for mail fraud. More recently, Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Like Schock, he got in trouble in part for misusing campaign funds. And Rep. Mel Reynolds, also of Illinois, also spent time in prison. Unlike the others listed, though, he was convicted of statutory rape.
Criminal charges are far down the road for Schock, if they’re even in his future at all. But a conviction would put him in a large group of powerful Illinois lawmakers who ended up on the wrong side of the law.