Loss of federal pension likely a strong deterrent

Common Cause President Chellie Pingree told the House Government Reform Committee today that the threat of a loss of federal pension would likely deter federal employees and elected federal officials who were considering betraying the public trust.

“The retirement benefits that Members of Congress and high-level federal employees are entitled to receive after they retire often are more than the average American earns annually from a full-time job,” Pingree told the committee in support of legislation that would deny retirement benefits to federal policymakers, including Members of Congress, staff and political appointees in the executive branch convicted of crimes related to public corruption. “The fact that public servants who have seriously violated their duties to the public would be rewarded by a lifetime pension seems grossly unfair to average citizens. It seems particularly unfair when the majority of Americans can expect no pension when they retire, and when corporations like Enron implode and deny millions of innocent workers their retirement savings. The committee was considering the Federal Pension Forfeiture Act in response to former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), who resigned from Congress last year with his pension in tact, even after admitting he took more than $2 million in bribes.

Pingree also used the opportunity to push Common Cause’s reform agenda, which includes the creation of an independent congressional ethics commission, insulated from partisan manipulation, to investigate complaints and recommend sanctions against members who are found to be in violation of the rules.

“We have an enforcement problem in Congress,” Pingree said. “An independent ethics commission would assure that any new reforms approved by Congress are fairly and credibly enforced. This is a step that Congress can take to win back the public’s trust.”

To view Pingree’s full testimony, click here: http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/{FB3C17E2-CDD1-4DF6-92BE-BD4429893665}/TESTIMONY_GOVERNMENT_REFORM2-1-06.PDF