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View More Press Releases by U.S. Senators Ken Salazar and John Kerry

Press release:

Sens. Salazar, Kerry Introduce Legislation to Deny Pensions to Lawbreaking Lawmakers

Issued by: U.S. Senators Ken Salazar and John Kerry

Date: Jan. 12, 2007

“Duke Cunningham Act” protects Americans from paying for the benefits of corrupt members of Congress

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, United States Senators Ken Salazar and John Kerry (D-Mass.) reintroduced their ethics reform legislation, The Congressional Pension Accountability Act, or “The Duke Cunningham Act.” The bill targets the culture of corruption in Washington by cancelling taxpayer-funded pension benefits to Members of Congress who are convicted of serious ethics offenses - crimes such as bribery, conspiracy.

“The only thing crazier than giving a member of Congress convicted of a crime a federal pension is the fact that we still need a bill to prevent a convict from receiving their pension,” said Senator Salazar. “Any member of Congress who abuses their position of authority for their personal profit deserves a prison sentence, not a government pension.”

Senator Kerry said, “The American people knocked some sense into Washington last November, and this new Congress will be the one that finally passes our common sense legislation to stop American taxpayers from paying pensions for lawmakers who break the law. It is disgusting that those who grossly exploited power for personal gain would continue to receive big checks thanks to American taxpayers. This bill will help hold all Members of Congress to the highest ethical standards, and punish those who see the honor of holding public office as an opportunity to indulge in a Cunningham-style culture of corruption.”

Under current law, only a conviction for a crime against the United States, such as treason or espionage, causes U.S. Representatives and Senators to lose their Congressional pensions. Members of Congress convicted of white collar crimes still receive these federal retirement benefits. The Kerry-Salazar amendment will change existing law to insure that the Congress no longer rewards unethical behavior at the expense of American taxpayers.

In the largest bribery case in the Congress since the 1980s, former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham 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, Cunningham admitted a pattern of bribery lasting close to five years, with federal contractors giving him Persian rugs, a Rolls-Royce, antique furniture, travel and hotel expenses, use of a yacht and a lavish graduation party for his daughter. Unless the law is changed, legislators who breach the public trust in the future, like Cunningham, will be allowed to receive his Congressional pension of approximately $40,000 per year.

Kerry, Salazar Move to Deny Pensions to Lawbreaking Lawmakers

Under Kerry’s bill, the following offenses would cause a Member of Congress to lose his or her Congressional pension:

  • Bribery of public officials and witnesses (Section 201 of Title 18);
  • Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States (Section 371 of Title 18);
  • Perjury committed under the statues of the United States or the District of Columbia in falsely denying the commission of bribery or conspiracy; and
  • Subordination of perjury committed in connection with the false denial or false testimony of another individual.

Although the bill is inspired by the crimes of former Congressman Duke Cunningham, the law would not be retroactive in scope, and therefore would not affect Cunningham directly. A retroactive law of that nature would be unconstitutional. Kerry and Salazar originally introduced this legislation on February 9, 2006.

If passed, the law will go into affect in 2009.

View More Press Releases by U.S. Senators Ken Salazar and John Kerry

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