WASHINGTON - Despite his indictment and possible conviction, former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski will collect an initial annual pension of about $96,462 when he leaves Congress.
That estimate by the National Taxpayers Union, Washington, a non-profit research organization, is based on the standard formula for congressional pensions - years of service multiplied by 2.5% of the average of the three highest years' pay. It assumes Rep. Rostenkowski has opted for a lower pension to ensure his wife would continue to get his retirement benefits in the event of his death.
Under federal law, members of Congress are allowed to keep their pensions even if they are convicted of public corruption charges. They and lose them only if convicted of high crimes such as espionage.
The 67-year-old Illinois Democrat, who has a 38-year record of federal service including two years in the military, now earns $133,600 annually.
Rep. Rostenkowski was indicted earlier this month for misusing more than $500,000 of taxpayers' money. He was forced to resign as head of the powerful House committee. He is, however, continuing to serve in Congress and has vowed to seek re-election in November. If convicted, Rep. Rostenkowski automatically would lose his seat in Congress.
Rep. Rostenkowski could collect a public pension of around $2.4 million over his lifetime, assuming he lives to be 84, a standard life expectancy, and gets a conservative 4% annual cost-of-living increase.
The National Taxpayers Union first collected the pension data in a 1989 survey of members of Congress. Rep. Rostenkowski did not respond to the survey, but is assumed to participate in the optional Civil Service Retirement System, which provides generous pension benefits to members of Congress first elected between 1946 and 1984.
Newer members of Congress are eligible for Social Security and a new retirement program, the Federal Employees' Retirement System.
Although members of Congress participating in the Civil Service Retirement System must contribute 8% of their pay toward their pension benefits, and must also pay into Social Security, the National Taxpayers Union figures taxpayers pick up 80% of the tab for their benefits.