Corrupt members of Congress deserve time in prison, not taxpayer-funded federal pensions. However, the rules are so lax that no member has ever been stripped of their congressional pension.
Not even the guilty plea by Rep. Duncan Hunter will change this.
Last month, the California congressman pleaded guilty to a single felony conspiracy charge for converting campaign funds to personal use. However, the federal ethics law only covers 29 specific types of acts with none relating to campaign finance activity. (Prosecutors dropped 59 other charges.)
As reported by Hunter’s local newspaper the San Diego Union-Tribune and reporter Morgan Cook, experts say Rep. Hunter will keep his taxpayer funded pension annuity:
Prosecutor’s alleged that Hunter and his wife were very aggressive and used over $250,000 in campaign funds for their own personal use. The allegations included family meals, medical bills, vacations, school tuition and even flying the family’s pet rabbit, Eggburt, cross-country.
So, how can Hunter keep his taxpayer-funded pension?
In recent years, there has been two attempts to reform congressional ethics laws. Conveniently, for corrupt members of Congress, someone forgot to include felonies related to conspiracy misuse of campaign cash as a reason to strip a congressional pension annuity.
Elected in 2008 and seated in 2009, Hunter spent more than eleven years in Congress. Members of Congress vest in their federal pension after just five-years.
According to calculations by the National Taxpayers Union, with a current age of 43 years and assuming early-retirement at age 55, Hunter will receive approximately $24,200 in first year retirement benefits. However, by life expectancy at age 81, our best guess is that Hunter will have collected $1.2 million in taxpayer-funded pension payout.
Why are taxpayers forced to guess about federal pension payouts? That’s because pension payouts to members of Congress and any federal worker are considered private information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) statutes.
Releasing hard data on individual federal pensions will require an act of Congress. The law needs to be changed.
Our organization at OpenTheBooks.com, and groups like Freedom Works, are leading the way. Working with U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), the legislation
(Federal Employee Disclosure Transparency Act (H.R. 2612)), would open the books on federal pensions for the first time in history.
And if a member is convicted of a felony, then they should lose their federal pensions. Period.
Note: We reached out to the Office of Personnel Management and they confirmed
that no member of Congress has ever been stripped of their federal pension because of a conviction. We reached out to Rep. Duncan Hunter and will update this piece with any comment or response.