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Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) plans to pay for all of the "Downton Abbey"-inspired redecorating recently done in his Capitol Hill office suite, he said on Wednesday.
The congressman has been dogged by questions about the costs ever since The Washington Post revealed on Monday how an interior decorator from Illinois had been allowed to adorn parts of his Rayburn Office Building suite in a dark red color with a bust of Abraham Lincoln and massive arrangements of pheasant feathers.
But on Wednesday, Schock told ABC News that he planned to pay decorator Annie Brahler for her work when she sends an invoice.
"She’s working on the office, so once it’s done, I’m sure I’ll get an invoice, and I’ll pay her," he told ABC's Jeff Zeleny.
The decor in Schock's office -- inspired by the hit PBS drama about an English aristocratic family and its hired help adjusting to life in the early 20th century -- has been the subject of widespread chatter on television and in the halls of Congress.
Schock told ABC that he's never seen an episode of the show and claimed he was unaware that Brahler was picking the show as a theme.
"I’ve never seen an episode of Downton Abbey," he said.
Schock defended his decision to ABC, saying it reflects his more youthful approach to legislating.
"I’ve never been an old crusty white guy -- I’m different, I came to Congress at 27, I’m not going to -- when I take a personal vacation, I don’t go sit on the beach, I go do active things. I’m also not going to live in a cave," he said, adding later: "As Taylor Swift said, haters are gonna hate."
Followed into his office by Zeleny and his crew, Schock said the walls were "Republican red."
"Regardless of what color wall you choose for your office, the most important thing as a member of Congress is what you do for your constituents," he added.
The red walls and the hubbub surrounding them prompted a government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, to formally ask the Office of Congressional Ethics on Tuesday to investigate whether Schock broke House rules by accepting the professional interior design work for free. House Ethics rules prohibit lawmakers from accepting free "gifts of services."
Brahler offered her services for free, according to Schock’s office, although he had to pay an untold sum for the objects. She also had decorated his old office in the Cannon House Office Building.
In an earlier interview, Brahler told The Post that she had done similar decorating work on behalf of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). On Wednesday, Kirk's office confirmed that Brahler had been involved in redecorating the senator's office -- but not in an official or paid capacity.
In 2012 after Kirk suffered a stroke, his campaign finance director, Caryn Eggeraat, redecorated his office in a Hart Office Building suite and informally consulted Brahler, who is her cousin. They visited antique shops in Maryland to buy some globes and an old American flag, but total redecorating costs totaled about $1,238, a Kirk spokeswoman said. Eggeraat was reimbursed for her work with money from Kirk's campaign account, the spokeswoman said.
After photos of Schock's new office surfaced, news reports revealed that Schock has probably spent about $100,000 from his taxpayer-funded office accounts on renovations, leather furniture and granite countertops, according to congressional expenditure reports. But his costs fall far short of dozens of other colleagues who spent far more on office renovations and rent during the last two-year congressional cycle, according to a Washington Post review of expense reports.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Democratic nonvoting representative of the District of Columbia, spent the most of any lawmaker -- $42,427.03 -- on equipment costs, while Rep. John C. Carney Jr. (D-Del.) spent $99,368.83 on computers and software for his offices, The Post found.
Beyond costs, Schock also might be in violation of arcane rules established by the Architect of the Capitol that dictate what can happen on the walls of House and Senate office suites. Rules dictate that House offices may be painted in one of just a few preselected colors. "Two buffs. A yellow. A blue-ish. And two grays,” is how Stephen T. Ayers, the current architect of the Capitol, described the colors in a 2010 interview with The Washington Post.
A House lawmaker can opt to have their private office – an inner sanctum within the suite – painted any color they choose, so long as they pay for the paint, according to the architect. But all other parts of the suite where staffers sit must be painted in one of the five colors. As The Post reported on Monday, Schock's outer office, where visitors wait to meet with him, is painted and decorated similarly to his personal office.
Inquiries to the AOC about Schock's potential violation of the rules were not immediately returned on Wednesday.
The "Downton"-related drama is a notable misstep for the 33-year-old Schock, a well-regarded fourth-term lawmaker who has a junior GOP leadership role as a deputy whip.
He's perhaps best known for his youth -- he was the first member of Congress to be born in the 1980s -- and his physique. A Men's Fitness cover story in 2011 documented his rigorous morning fitness routine and included shirtless photos documenting what the publication called his "apple-pie looks." On weekday mornings when the House is in session, Schock is regularly spotted jogging along the Mall and on Capitol Hill.
Given his young age, Schock has been a long-rumored candidate for higher office, including Illinois governor or U.S. senator. After traveling during the 2014 campaign to help several GOP incumbents and congressional candidates, aides quietly fueled talk of a potential campaign to lead the political fundraising arm for house republicans. But the talk quickly ended in November when the current NRCC chairman, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), orchestrated historic GOP gains and delivered the largest House Republican majority since just after World War II. Walden was later reelected to his post, and Schock earned a spot on the GOP vote-counting team.
Philip Bump contributed to this report.