(Alexandria, Va.) -- Whether Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is innocent or convicted of charges of financial corruption listed in the indictment against him, he'll still be eligible to collect his taxpayer-funded pension of roughly $122,000 if he steps down in 2009. This is only the latest reason why the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has continued pushing for additional reforms to ethics legislation enacted last September.
"Last fall, Members of Congress assured the American people that the pensions-for-Congressional-criminals loophole was closed tight," said Pete Sepp, NTU Vice President for Policy and Communications. "But now, less than a year later, it's clear that the law could easily be unraveled. Many Congressional convicts in the future could continue to collect retirement benefits at the expense of overburdened -- and outraged -- taxpayers."
Stevens was indicted earlier this week on seven counts of falsifying financial information on his mandatory Senate financial disclosure forms. A bill signed by President Bush in September 2007 deprives a lawmaker of his or her pension only for final conviction of certain offenses committed after the bill's enactment. Most of the charges against Stevens are for offenses he allegedly committed before that time. Moreover, none of the charges for violations he may have committed after September 2007 are among the 10 specific felony offenses (including bribery, conspiracy, and racketeering) that constitute pension removal under current law.
In late 2006, NTU led a coalition calling for Congress to prohibit lawmakers convicted of felonies during or after Congressional service from drawing taxpayer-subsidized retirement benefits. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced a bill in early 2007 that would make a more extensive list of offenses grounds for pension removal, but it still only applies to violations committed during Congressional service and after the date of its enactment.
"From Dan Rostenkowski to Duke Cunningham, taxpayers are already on the hook for at least 20 convicted lawmakers' pensions," Sepp concluded. "While last year's ethics bill was a step in the right direction, that list of shame is likely to grow unless Congress completes the job the American people demanded in the first place. Lawmakers who commit any kind of felony crime shouldn't draw a pension on the taxpayer's dime -- no ifs, ands, or buts."
NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen organization founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: For more information on NTU's ethics reform work, visit www.ntu.org.