Former Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois isn't ruling out a return to politics, now that he's agreed to repay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes and to campaign committees in exchange for prosecutors dismissing his felony corruption case.
Schock appeared Wednesday morning in Chicago federal court where he agreed to repay his three campaign committees nearly $68,000. He must work with the Internal Revenue Service to determine how much he owes in taxes. If he holds up his part of the deal, prosecutors will drop the original felony counts that were filed against him within six months.
Schock was elected to Congress in 2008 and arrived at the age of 27 — the youngest member of Congress at the time. He resigned his central Illinois seat in 2015 amid scrutiny of his personal and campaign spending that included an embarrassing Washington Post story that exposed the elaborate decoration of his Capitol Hill office. He was indicted in 2016 on 22 counts, including wire fraud and falsification of election commission filings.
In an interview on Wednesday, Schock said that he is relieved that his four-year legal fight is over and blamed "a rogue prosecutor" for pursuing a case "without merit."
"I have been trying to survive the last four years. When you go toe-to-toe with the federal government, they have an unlimited budget and most Americans don't," he said. "It's come at significant cost to me financially and professionally and now that this is behind me, I'm looking forward to pursuing opportunities in the private sector. I'll always have a heart to serve, that doesn't' mean I have to run for office. There are other ways to serve your community."
But, he added, "At 37 years old, I don't think I'll ever say never."
Schock said the agreement to have his campaign committee plead guilty to a misdemeanor is mostly a technical matter.
"So they want me to say what I said four years ago? Okay. I mean, when I left office I said I could have done a better job of back-office functions," he said, conceding that between his congressional office work, committee assignments and work to elect other Republicans to Congress, he'd been less than careful with his paperwork.
"It's not that I ever thought I was perfect," he said.
"It still hurts. Its been four years and a lot of money and a lot of reputational damage to me and my associated staff and friends and supports. And it was all unnecessary and unjustified."
Schock, once seen as a rising GOP star with House leadership ambitions, has split his time between Peoria and Los Angeles, where he has worked in real estate development. He said he is still a Republican.
"I'm not running for office right now but I would identify more as a Republican than a Democrat," he said. "But I suppose if you looked at my voting record in Congress they'd think I was a moderate. It's all relative, right? I also thought Republicans were for free trade. Things change with the times."
"As much as I haven't enjoyed the beating," Schock said, "I have enjoyed being out of politics the last four years."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.