STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - February 09, 2006)
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, along with Senator Salazar, I am introducing the Congressional Pension Accountability Act, to deny Federal pensions to members of Congress who are convicted of white collar crimes such as bribery.
I strongly believe that Members of Congress must be held to the highest ethical standards. This year, the Senate is expected to consider legislation to reform our ethics laws. This is in response to a series of scandals that have exposed Washington lobbyists and unfortunately even a Member of Congress who used undue and improper influence to represent special interests in their dealings with the Federal Government.
Last year, the now infamous Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion charges in a plea agreement. The Justice Department is currently investigating his attempts to influence Federal Government policy in both Congress and the Executive Branch.
In the largest bribery case in the Congress since the 1980s, Representative Randy ``Duke'' Cunningham recently resigned from the House of Representatives after pleading guilty in Federal court to receiving $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors and evading more than $1 million in taxes. In a plea agreement, former Representative Cunningham admitted to a pattern of bribery lasting close to five years, with Federal contractors giving him Persian rugs, a Rolls-Royce, antique furniture, paying travel and hotel expenses, use of a yacht and a lavish graduation party for his daughter.
As elected representatives, we must hold ourselves and all those who represent the Federal Government to the highest ethical standards. The principle is a simple one: public servants who abuse the public trust and are convicted of ethics crimes should not collect taxpayer financed pensions.
Under current law, former Representative Cunningham and others convicted of serious ethics abuses will receive a Congressional pension of approximately $40,000 per year--paid for by American taxpayers. Only a conviction for a crime against the United States, such as treason or espionage, will cost a Member of Congress their pension. This law must be changed to ensure that Congress does not reward unethical behavior.
The Congressional Pension Accountability Act will bar Members of Congress from receiving taxpayer-funded retirement benefits after they have been convicted of bribery or other serious ethics offenses.
Together we can significantly improve our government by changing the way business is done in Washington. I believe this legislation will help ensure that our government once again responds to the needs of our people, not special interests.