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Weiner Qualifies for Taxpayer-funded Pension Payout of over $1 Million, Despite Early End to Congressional Career

June 17, 2011
By Douglas Kellogg
By Pete Sepp

(Alexandria, VA) – Although Americans will soon see the last of Anthony Weiner (D-NY) in Congress, they haven’t seen the last of the bills – according to the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU), Weiner qualifies for a Congressional retirement package whose payouts, by themselves, could make him a millionaire.

NTU, which has a history of providing detailed pension calculations of Congressional perks, estimates Weiner would be eligible for a pension starting at $46,224 when he reaches age 62. Or, he can choose to begin his pension early, at the age of 56, with a reduced amount of $32,357 per year.

In either case, after accounting for Cost of Living Adjustments and life expectancies, Weiner could be in line to receive a total pension payout over his lifetime of $1.28 million (retiring at 62) or $1.12 million (retiring at 56).

Members of Congress may also participate in the federal Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a defined contribution arrangement that functions much like a 401(k) plan (lawmakers first elected in 1984 and after receive a “match” from taxpayers on deposits of up to 5 percent of their salaries). 

If Weiner has invested the maximum allowable amount since he became eligible, and has placed his investments in the plan’s “Common Stock Index Investment Fund” to the extent permitted by law, NTU estimates he may have as much as $216,011.96 in accumulated TSP assets. In addition, all Members of Congress have been enrolled in Social Security since the law was changed in 1983.

All figures assume that Weiner applied his service between 1985 and 1991 as a Congressional staffer to Chuck Schumer toward his pension, which is allowed under the rules (NTU conservatively assumed five years from this employment plus his stint in Congress through yesterday).  Participation in the pension system is voluntary (but widespread) for lawmakers serving prior to September 30, 2003.

NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp said, “Anthony Weiner’s resignation from Congress may have put an end to the ‘distractions’ and ‘embarrassments’ that prevented him from getting back to work, but for American taxpayers, the scandal may have only just begun.” 

According to Sepp, one thing taxpayers cannot afford to be distracted from is reforming Congress’s lucrative retirement plans. And even though Weiner has not been charged with any crimes, an unacceptably high number of Congressmen who have been convicted of offenses still receive taxpayer-funded pensions, sometimes while they are actually in prison.

Legislation doubling the number of felonies (to 20) that would be grounds for terminating a Congressman’s pension has been spearheaded by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and is under consideration in the House and Senate.

Congressional pensions are typically 2-3 times more generous than those for similarly-salaried workers in the private sector and are more generous than pensions for most federal workers (again, at the same pay). Plus, the Congressional benefit is protected from inflation with Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs), a feature that fewer than 1 in 10 private plans offer. Lawmakers such as Weiner pay 1.3 percent of their salaries toward the Congressional retirement benefit, but this covers just a small portion of an average payout.

NTU computes the pension benefit amounts based on public records concerning length of federal service, current age, life expectancy based on standard mortality tables used by the life insurance industry, and COLAs estimated at 3 percent a year, a figure federal actuaries have used in the past for projecting costs of the Federal Employees Retirement System (which contains one of Congress’s two pension plans). 

Note: The 362,000-member NTU is a nonprofit citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and accountability from public officials at all levels. For questions, or to schedule an interview, please contact Doug Kellogg at (703) 299-8698 or dkellogg@ntu.org.