October 14, 2006
Ney will collect $29,000 pension
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON – Rep. Bob Ney’s vote last spring to deny congressional
pensions to lawmakers convicted of certain felonies will not come
back to haunt him. That’s because the Senate failed to act on the
legislation, which would have barred Ney and other lawmakers
convicted of certain crimes from collecting the generous
Ney, who pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and making false
statements in a corruption scheme, stands to collect an estimated
$29,000 annual pension based on his 12 years in Congress.
That amount assumes that, like most lawmakers, the Heath
Republican opted for a slightly lower payout in order to make his
spouse eligible to receive one-half of the pension if he were to
Lawmakers, who earn $165,200 a year, are entitled to a pension as
well as Social Security retirement benefits. They also have the
option to join a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401(k),
in which the federal government contributes funds equaling up to 5
percent of their salary.
Lawmakers who joined the pension system after 1983, as Ney did,
pay 1.3 percent of their salary into the system. The federal
government covers about 60 percent of the pension benefit,
according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Ney, who is
52, must wait until he is 62 to begin collecting his full pension.
However, because he has served in Congress more than 10 years, he
could begin collecting a reduced pension of $18,000 at age 56.
Ney faces a recommended 27 months in prison and fines up to
Legislation is periodically introduced to bar convicted lawmakers
from receiving pensions, but it never passes. In most cases, says
Peter Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, the bills
never even advance to a committee hearing, much less get voted on
by the full House or Senate.
“It’s simply an affront to taxpayers,” said Sepp, whose
organization favors barring convicted lawmakers from receiving
pensions. “It should never be tolerated because we taxpayers
subsidize such a large amount of the pension.”
Sepp said pension-changing bills typically pop up when there is a
scandal, and then fade away as the scandal recedes.
In May, the House passed a lobbying and ethics bill that included
a provision barring lawmakers convicted of certain crimes from
collecting pensions. Ney would have fallen under that prohibition,
since he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States,
one of the crimes listed in the legislation.
That bill failed to become law when the House and Senate were
unable to reach agreement on differing versions of ethics
Norman Ornstein, a congressional analyst at the American
Enterprise Institute, said it’s hard for a pension change to pass
unless it’s part of a larger ethics proposal.
“Frankly, the will to enact a larger ethics package that causes
disruption in their (lawmakers’) daily lives is something that has
not gotten the level of intense support that it should,” he said.
“It’s not going to do so until you get the public demanding it.”