If Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) winds up going to jail, he doesn't have to worry about losing his $122,000 annual congressional pension under a 2007 law that sought to punish felons serving on Capitol Hill.
Stevens, 84, was found guilty last Monday on seven counts of failing to report on Senate financial disclosures more than $250,000 in gifts from an oil company executive. Stevens, who could receive up to 35 years in prison, said he would appeal and continue to seek re-election Tuesday.
In 2007, Congress passed a law denying pensions to members of the House and Senate who had been convicted of felonies. But a spokesperson for a Senate Democrat said the new law wouldn't jeopardize Stevens's retirement pay.
"This became law under the Senate ethics bill and is in effect for all serious offenses that take place in the 111th Congress," the spokesperson said. The 111th Congress doesn't being until January.
The National Taxpayers Union claimed that even if the law were in effect today, it wouldn't apply to Stevens because the law wouldn’t deny a pension to a lawmaker who had committed Stevens's specific crimes.
Pete Sepp, NTU's vice president for policy and communications, said the pension-denial law covered 10 felonies. "Filing false disclosures is not one of them," he said. "Lawmakers may claim they shut the door on pensions for congressional criminals, but in reality there's still plenty of room for convicts to squeeze through and wind up in the retirement equivalent of a luxury suite."