By Ken Stone
Duncan D. Hunter is years from collecting a congressional pension, but a bill proposed Friday would keep the Republican awaiting sentencing from getting it.
The bill specifically prevents the payment of pensions to members of Congress who commit – or conspire to commit – campaign finance crimes, they said.
“Regarding this specific issue, former Congressman Hunter has no comment,” said ex-aide Michael Harrison, who said he was still acting as a contact for media requests.
In a statement, Harder said: “I’ve only been here a year and I’m already disgusted by a lot of the shady stuff going on – it makes no sense that members of Congress who break the law still get their taxpayer-funded pension. We need to crack down on these special privileges for politicians.”
Rose said: “Serving in Congress is a privilege, not a right. If you’re corrupt and break the law, you don’t deserve a taxpayer-funded pension. In order to regain the trust of the American people, we need to act as true public servants, not entitled criminals.”
Six-term Rep. Hunter, 43, resigned Jan. 13 in the wake of his early December guilty plea to one count of conspiracy in a corruption case involving misuse of more than $250,000 in campaign donations for personal expenses. His sentencing is set for March 17.
The proposal would add conspiring to commit campaign fraud to the list of offenses that would block a member of Congress from receiving their pension. Currently, there are other crimes such as bribery, theft of federal funds, insider trading and wire fraud that would disqualify a member of Congress from collecting their pension.
Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United Action Fund, cheered the effort.
“Corrupt politicians who are convicted of a crime betray the trust of their constituents and shouldn’t be able to earn pensions paid for by the hard earned money of American taxpayers,” Muller said. “Reps. Harder and Rose are committed to restoring Americans’ faith in their elected officials and this bill is an important step to do that.”
Harder’s bill would add relevant campaign finance fraud violations to a list of offenses that prevent a former member of Congress from collecting a pension.
“Based on formulas outlined in a paper released by the [Congressional Research Service] earlier this year, it is estimated that Hunter … would receive an annual payment of at least $32,538 due to his congressional pension, which he can begin accessing when he turns 62,” The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
A similar bill was introduced in November 2017 — when the GOP controlled the House.
Rep. Claudia Tenney’s HR 4314 – “No Pensions for Corrupt Politicians Act of 2017” — went nowhere.
Two weeks ago, two Democrats running for seats vacated following guilty pleas by Republican office holders pledged to sponsor legislation to require congressional pensions be forfeited if a member is found guilty of a felony.
Ammar Campa-Najjar, who lost to Hunter in 2018, and Nate McMurray, seeking the seat of former Rep. Chris Collins (who pleaded guilty to insider trading) also they said they would sponsor a bill to require the repayment of personal loans to campaigns within two years of the election.
Updated at 5:14 p.m. Jan. 31, 2020
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: