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Taxpayer Group Says Fattah Should Lose Pension

by Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Chaka Fattah, the once powerful Philadelphia congressman, resigned in disgrace last week after his racketeering conviction.

Now, a national taxpayer watchdog group says Fattah should be stripped of his pension, because of a no-pensions-for-felons law.

Federal prosecutors say Fattah led a "white-collar crime spree," and House Speaker Paul Ryan says Fattah "betrayed the trust" of Congress and his constituents," but will the 11-term former Congressman collect his taxpayer-funded pension?

"Congressman Fattah could be the first lawmaker to be deprived of his pension under ethics laws that were enacted in 2007 and 2012," said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union, or NTU.

"Assuming Congressman Fattah entered the congressional pension system at the beginning of his service, he would qualify for an initial yearly benefit of about $55,000, and that would grow with the cost of living," continued Sepp.

He says you would think Fattah's conviction for an illegal $1 million campaign loan scheme would deprive him of his pension, but Sepp says Fattah's lawyers could argue he wasn't representing himself as a member of congress, he was running for mayor.

Sepp says federal lawmakers were "clever and vague" in writing the ethics laws.

"A member of Congress has to commit a specific felony level offense, and it has to be as a member of Congress, performing their official duties as a member of Congress," said Sepp.

He says Fattah's bribery conviction for trying to get co-defendant Herbert Vederman an ambassadorship should absolutely disqualify Fattah for a pension.

"It was occurring as Fattah was representing himself as a member of congress," Sepp said.

Fattah lost his $174,000 annual salary, but Sepp says Fattah will receive his pension until his appeal runs its course.

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