Sunday, January 11, 2009

With Great Benefits

As most Americans watched their 401(k)s turn into 101(k)s, members of Congress didn't have to worry. It has a very generous pension plan, one with a built in cost of living hike every year.

From the Sacramento Bee:

John Doolittle left Capitol Hill with his legal troubles unsettled, but his financial future appears to be a bit more stable: Congress is giving him a $45,000-a-year pension that he can begin collecting in 2012, when he turns 62.

And Doolittle, who is also eligible for Social Security, will only see his pension grow as he gets older. Unlike many private retirement plans, congressional retirees are guaranteed yearly cost-of-living increases, so their pensions can ultimately exceed their annual salaries, currently $174,000. ...

Under the current system, even members convicted of a crime can cash in. Former Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, for example, will receive a pension estimated at $122,000 this year. He lost his Senate seat in November after a felony conviction for lying on his official annual disclosures.
[Emphasis added]

To be fair, in September, 2007, Congress passed a bill that would end the practice of granting pensions to members convicted of a certain class of felonies, bribery, fraud, racketeering, perjury or tampering with a witness. However, Sen. Stevens' transgressions pre-dated September, 2007 and his crime had to do with disclosure forms, a crime not on the list. He gets to keep his pension.

So do 21 other former congress critters convicted of crimes between 1980 and 2008, according to Peter Sepp, vice president of the Taxpayers Union. Here's a partial list:

• Former Democratic Rep. Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, convicted of mail fraud, who receives a pension of $141,000 per year.

• Former Republican Sen. David Durenberger of Minnesota, who pleaded guilty to misuse of public funds: $96,000 per year.

• Former Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of Del Mar, who was found guilty of bribery and receives a $70,000 pension, based on his military service and time in Congress.

Of course, as the article points out, these are estimates. You see, Congress in its infinite wisdom decided to exempt the pension data from the Freedom of Information Act. Canny move, that.

Nice work if you can get it, eh?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's time that all congressmembers loss their pensions and healthcare benefits. Industry has decided that defined pension plans aren't viable for most Americans, so maybe it's time for our legislative leaders to lose their pension benefits so they really understand how regular people live.


9:02 PM  

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