New rules rein in lawmaker spending

WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress on Wednesday were handed a stricter set of rules on how they can spend their tax-supported allowances, changes that come after ex-Rep. Aaron Schock spent $40,000 to redecorate his Capitol Hill office like the set of TV's "Downton Abbey."

The Committee on House Administration tightened rules on mileage reimbursement, private plane use and office decor.

Schock, a rising star in the Republican Party, stepped down following the redecoration — complete with a red carpet and red walls accented with antique-looking frames and sconces. He also was scrutinized for using his official and campaign funds for flights on donor-owned planes and concert tickets. Schock repaid the $40,000 for the office decorations and $1,200 for a flight to a Chicago Bears game.

The new rules require lawmakers to get written approval from the committee before buying any piece of furniture or office furnishing that costs more than $5,000.

The committee also said members cannot use their official allowances to pay for a private plane or charter flight from Washington unless they get written permission. They also must now get permission if they want to spend more than $7,500 on private or charter air service. Charter or private planes be used "sparingly and only if or when the member determines there is no suitable commercial flight available," the committee said.

Members who own planes can be reimbursed at $1.29 a mile.

Another change bans members from getting the standard 57.5 cent-a-mile reimbursement on vehicles owned or leased by the member's political campaign, political party or political action committee.