Garrett Gazette - January 22, 2007
Today, the House of Representatives is considering legislation to deny Congressional pensions to Members of Congress who have been convicted of certain felonies. It seems almost too logical that this should be the law, and almost incomprehensible that it isn't already law.
Members of Congress are public servants and abusing the public trust by committing a felony should disqualify Members from the pensions they have otherwise earned in office. I consider it a great honor and privilege to hold this office for the people of the Fifth District and I have been pleased to support efforts to enact legislation to deny Congressional pensions to those who violate that sacred public trust.
In fact, I voted in support of the Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 4975) last May, which stripped Members of their pensions if they were convicted of certain felonies, such as bribery or conspiracy to defraud the United State s, related to their public office. I am also a cosponsor of the Congressional Integrity and Pension Forfeiture Act (H.R. 14), which would establish a list of 21 different felonies for which a Member's conviction would result in a lost pension.
And, of course, I am pleased to support the bill before the House today, though I would have preferred that the broader legislation that I am cosponsoring, H.R. 14, be brought before the House for a vote in its place. There is simply no excuse for a violation of the public trust and the legislation that the Congress enacts should be as tough and expansive as possible.
Member of Congress
ISSUE OF THE WEEK: HAS THE UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM BEEN FUNDING NORTH KOREA'S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM?
While I continue to hold out hope that the new Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, will finally enact reforms of that institution that are long, long overdue, we continue to uncover grave mismanagement and corruption from the last decade or two.
Case in point: After much questioning and prodding by the United States, the UN Development Program (UNDP) has finally conceded that it has been violating many of its own rules in its conduct of its programs in North Korea. Specifically, it has ceded much of its power in appointing staff to the North Korean government, has permitted payments of hard currency to the dictatorship of Kim Jong-Il, and failed to account for money spent through its program in that nation.
Kim Jong-Il has successfully tested nuclear weaponry, remains in a state of war with his neighboring nation to the South, South Korea, and keeps his people literally impoverished while he lives in luxury. For the UNDP to fail to manage its program by its own rules and under basic, internationally accepted auditing standards is in and of itself unacceptable. But, for the UNDP to do so in such a way that it props up this dictatorial regime borders on criminal.
I am currently drafting legislation to withhold the United State s' voluntary contributions to the UNDP until such time as a full-scale, independent investigation of this matter can be accomplished. The U.S. pays about 11.8% of the operating budget of the UNDP, and it is merely common sense that the American taxpayers know how that money is spent and be assured that that money is not being spent in such a way that is contrary to American national security interests.
Secretary General Ban has called for an external investigation, which is an improvement over the slow response of his predecessor to major mismanagement scandals such as this one. I am hopeful that his words will be followed shortly by real action and that we will quickly get to the heart of this matter.