New Legislation Would Close Pension Loophole for Convicted Members of Congress

A few weeks ago, the Washington Examiner published an NTUF op-ed about a loophole that allows Members of Congress who are convicted for corruption to continue to receive their generous public pensions. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, enacted in 2007 and strengthened through a subsequent law in 2012, prohibits pensions for certain crimes, but only when a Member is “finally convicted.”

As I wrote, there had been confusion as to whether former-Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who was convicted and sentenced to a ten-year jail term last December, met the conditions to be disqualified from his congressional pension:

National Taxpayers Union Foundation staff reached out to OPM for clarification and was told, “Representative Fattah has not exhausted his appeal rights. Therefore, OPM will wait until any appellate activity has concluded before taking appropriate action regarding Representative Fattah’s benefits.”

Through this interpretation of the law, convicted Members of Congress could continue to receive their pension for years, even while in prison, as long as they are able to issue appeals of their cases. This week, Representative Claudia Tenney (R-NY) introduced legislation to close this loophole. H.R. 4314, the No Pensions for Corrupt Politicians Act of 2017, clarifies that convicted Members would not be eligible to receive their congressional pension “between the date of sentencing and the date of final conviction for such offense.” If the conviction is later overturned, they would receive the payments that were withheld.

The No Pensions for Corrupt Politicians Act would restore the intent of the ethics laws that have been passed to protect taxpayers from subsidizing the retirement of Members who are guilty of serious criminal conduct in public office.