U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney is pushing for stricter rules that would strip pensions from members of Congress who are convicted of corruption.
Tenney's bill, the No Pensions for Corrupt Politicians Act, aims to close what she believes is a loophole in existing law.
A law adopted in 2007 strips pensions from members of Congress after a "final conviction." Because of the wording in the law, it has been interpreted to mean after the elected official has exhausted their appeals process.
Tenney, R-New Hartford, cited the recent corruption case involving former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Pennsylvania Democrat. Fattah was convicted of corruption and is in prison. But because he continues to appeal his case, he is allowed to receive pension benefits.
Under Tenney's bill, pensions would be stripped after a conviction on felony corruption charges.
"Loopholes like this enable career politician syndrome and the pervasive culture of corruption that have become the status quo in both Washington and Albany," Tenney said. "The job of a public official is to advocate for their communities and constituents, not benefit from the office they hold. Any elected official who betrays the public's trust and is convicted of corruption should immediately have their pension revoked."
The bill is similar to the pension forfeiture amendment recently adopted in New York. As a member of the state Assembly, Tenney supported the proposal in 2015 and 2016.
Voters approved the amendment, which will strip pensions from government officials who are convicted of public corruption on or after Jan. 1, 2018, by a two-to-one margin.