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Like the Jussie Smollett case, Aaron Schock's dropped charges should be investigated

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Nothing spoils a good outrage like an intrusion of facts.

Outrage boiled up in news and social networks once again after the dropping of federal charges against former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, a Peoria Republican, became official on Wednesday.

Some observers fumed that he received an undeserved pass for committing financial crimes in office. Faster than you could say "white privilege," speculation welled up that Schock caught that break because he's white.

"This one truly is a shocker," tweeted Chicago-based political consultant David Axelrod. "Didn't Jesse Jackson Jr. go to prison for something similar? Why did ex-Rep. Schock get this sweet deal?"

Jackson, a Chicago Democrat, served about 23 months in prison while Schock is going to walk free.

"I cannot even wrap my head around this," tweeted Patti Blagojevich, wife of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, another Chicago Democrat, who is currently seven years into a 14-year federal prison sentence for crimes in office. "Six months of probation vs. 14 years for Rod. Where is the outrage?"

 

This is what happens when a state gets, perhaps, more than its share of public servants doing time for corruption in office. It's easy to make comparisons even when there are big enough differences between the cases to blur the lines of racial or partisan inequities.

I, too, soared easily into high dudgeon when Schock's suspiciously sweet deal was announced last spring. But, alas, my outrage lost a bit of altitude as I made a closer look.

First, there's a big difference between the levels of offense in these cases. Schock, once a rising star in the Republican galaxy, was hit with a 24-count indictment in 2016. Charges ranged from wire fraud to filing false tax returns and theft of government funds. Two counts were dropped, but he was set to go to trial in June.

The details of Schock's flamboyant handling of taxpayer money and campaign funds were jaw-dropping. They included, most infamously, lavishly decorating his congressional office to look like the dining room from "Downton Abbey." Others included fancy five-star hotel stays and inflated mileage reimbursement claims.

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