Report: Loophole allows pensions for corrupt former congress members

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There is a potential for corrupt, former members of Congress to remain eligible to collect pensions, due to a loophole in the law, according to an opinion editorial report in the Washington Examiner.

The 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act prevents congressional members convicted of certain crimes related to corruption to collect pensions, its provisions strengthened with the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, which included additional crimes for which members would forfeit their pensions.

Crimes that fall under the purview of the two acts include tax evasion, vote buying, and violations committed while serving in other public offices in the federal, state, or local government.

Yet as the Examiner points out, former Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Penn.) is still eligible for up to a $55,000 pension.

…in June 2016, he was found guilty on 23 charges of corruption and resigned from office. At the time, it looked like he would become the first member of Congress to forfeit his congressional pension under a 2007 ethics reform law, barring those convicted of certain crimes from collecting. But, nearly a year and a half after his conviction, Fattah remains eligible for the generous perk thanks to a loophole in the law.

He may still be eligible for his congressional pension because the law says the Office of Personnel and Management cannot cut off a member’s pension until they’ve been “finally convicted.” A member may continue to collect an annuity as long they continue to submit appeals against the case, which delay a final resolution.

Under that scenario, a case which drags on for years can allow corrupt lawmakers like Fattah to continue collecting benefits.

According to the Examiner:

Fattah’s most recent appeal against his sentence led to some confusion of whether he had been “finally convicted.” 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.”

Other politicians facing corruption charges may find that the loophole works to their benefit, as well.

Fattah was convicted on federal charges of racketeering, money laundering, bribery, and fraud.  He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $614,000 in restitution.

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