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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Loss of Federal Pensions for Members of Congress Convicted of Certain Offenses

Jack Maskell
Legislative Attorney

Members of Congress may forfeit or lose their congressional pensions upon conviction of certain federal crimes under two different provisions of federal law:

1. Under the so-called “Hiss Act,” Members of Congress (and most other officers and employees of the federal government) will forfeit their entire federal employee retirement annuities if convicted of a federal crime that relates to espionage, treason, or several other national security offenses against the United States.

2. In addition to the Hiss Act provisions, Congress enacted, as part of the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007” (HLOGA; P.L. 110-81, Section 401), and as amended by the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act” in 2012 (STOCK Act ; P.L. 112-105, Section 15), further provisions that will deprive Members of all of their “creditable service” as a Member of Congress for federal pension purposes if that Member is convicted of any one of a number of federal laws concerning corruption, election crimes, or misconduct in office.

Any new or additional penalty for the commission of a crime, such as the penalty of forfeiture or loss of part or all of one’s federal pension, must, under the Constitution’s ex post facto prohibition, apply prospectively only, and cannot work retroactively to take away the pensions or annuities of Members of Congress or former Members who had already engaged in the covered criminal misconduct prior to the passage of the new law. The new statutory penalties, in a similar manner to the current Hiss Act, would allow convicted former Members to retain their own contributions to the retirement fund, as well as their own savings and earnings in the Thrift Savings Plan under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). Unlike the operation of forfeitures under the Hiss Act, however, the more recent forfeiture provisions apparently would allow Members to keep the government’s contribution to their Thrift Savings Plan, while under the Hiss Act such contribution appears to be forfeited.

Date of Report: December 10, 2012
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: 96-530
Price: $29.95

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