Kirk Bill Would Expand Law to Block Congressional Pensions for Felons

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–June 13, 2011. ¬†With corruption scandals involving lawmakers continuing to unfold, United States Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today joined with U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (R-Winnetka) to announce the introduction of bicameral, bipartisan legislation aimed at eliminating the Congressional pensions of Members of Congress convicted of committing a felony crime while serving as elected officials. The bill would expand upon the existing, outdated law that allows former Members of Congress to keep their pensions if they commit public corruption crimes in another elected office. U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) and Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) will be joining Rep. Dold as original co-sponsors of the legislation in the House.

“American taxpayers should not be on the hook for the pension benefits of convicted felons,” said Senator Kirk. “Expanding current law to include additional public corruption felonies will block pension benefits for Members who fail to honor their pledge to defend the Constitution and uphold the laws of the United States.”

“It is appalling that in these challenging economic times, with soaring deficits, skyrocketing debt and families struggling to pay bills, that Members of Congress convicted of felonies are receiving thousands upon thousands of dollars each year in pensions courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer,” Rep. Dold said. “We need to look no further than our very own state of Illinois-Governor Blagojevich has been convicted of public corruption crimes, yet he is still eligible to receive his taxpayer-funded Congressional pension. This is unacceptable. There is no excuse to be wasting taxpayer money and we need to strengthen this law immediately. I am pleased to lead these efforts in the House and I want to thank Senator Kirk for his leadership on this bill in the Senate-it is time to usher in a new era of responsibility and transparency in Washington.”

“This bill is about holding our elected officials accountable for their actions,” Representative Lipinski said. “People are rightly disgusted when they hear that someone convicted of committing a felony while holding public office can continue to receive a pension paid for with their tax dollars.”

“A Member of Congress convicted of defrauding the public doesn’t deserve to retire on the public’s dime,” said U.S. Representative Mike Quigley. “This bill makes sure that corruption comes with a lifetime of consequences.”

The Congressional Integrity and Pension Forfeiture Act of 2011 would add twenty new public corruption offenses to existing U.S. law that cancels federal pensions for convicted lawmakers and would revoke the pensions of former Members of Congress who are convicted of committing the covered public corruption crimes while serving as any elected official. Under current law, former Congressman, Illinois Governor, and now convicted felon, Rod Blagojevich is still eligible to collect his roughly $15,000 per year congressional retirement payments because he committed his crimes after he left Congress. This legislation would ensure that in the future, felons like Blagojevich would forfeit their taxpayer-funded pensions accrued during their congressional service.

Sen. Kirk introduced the pension forfeiture bill to block pension benefits for elected officials who have broken the public’s trust and to protect American taxpayers from yet another wasteful allocation of their hard earned tax dollars during times of fiscal hardship. According to the National Taxpayers Union, former Members of Congress who committed public corruption crimes are currently receiving more than $800,000 per year in taxpayer-funded pensions. This figure would be much higher if it included convicted lawmakers not yet eligible to receive their pensions or whose cases are pending.

A long time advocate of curbing public corruption, Sen. Kirk recently introduced two pieces of legislation with Rep. Mike Quigley in an effort to fight corruption at all levels of government. The bills target political clout and unethical conduct by public servants. The Public Officials Accountability Act restores a statute to prevent elected officials from using their offices for personal gain, and the State Ethics Law Protection Act that will allow states like Illinois to fight pay-to-play practices without federal interference. In the House of Representatives, Sen. Kirk cosponsored legislation (H. Res. 85) to ban political contributions from earmark recipients to Members of Congress.

Source: kirk.senate.gov