06.16.11 10:38 PM ET
Weiner's Fabulous Retirement Perks
Rep. Anthony Weiner may be resigning in shame, but he’ll leave Capitol Hill with the same golden parachute afforded to all members of Congress who leave public service.
Having been in Congress since 1999 and a staffer in the '80s, Weiner will be eligible for a congressional pension of up to $46,224 each year, according to the National Taxpayers Union, which calculates all congressional pensions. He’ll eventually be eligible to collect the balance of his Congressional Thrift Savings Plan, which is currently $216,011. And he’ll be able to keep his high-quality health-care package, at his own expense, until November 2012.
Congressional pensions are considered extremely generous. A member becomes fully vested after five years, and pays only 20 percent of his own benefits (the other 80 percent comes from taxpayers). At 46, Weiner is not yet eligible for his pension, but he’ll be allowed to access a portion when he turns 56, or the full amount if he waits until he’s 62.
Weiner will also be entitled to other perks and privileges even after stepping down. Former members (except those who become lobbyists) are given access to the House floor during regular business or joint sessions, meaning Weiner could attend speeches by the president or foreign heads of state who address joint sessions.
He’ll have the option to buy his office furniture ($1,000 for desks, $500 for chairs) and all of his tech equipment (phones, fax machines, refrigerators).
For life, Weiner will get free parking on the House side of the Capitol (on a space-available basis, the rules say). For 90 days, he’ll be able to send mail for free, so long as it relates to his congressional duties.
Not to mention that for the rest of his life, Weiner will have access, for a small fee, to the congressional gym where he took photos of himself that he sent to women online.
Of course Weiner may also leave a sizable bill for the state of New York—a bill for a special election to choose his replacement. Election costs depend on local variables, like how many polling stations are needed and whether it can piggy-back on the ballot of a previously planned election.
The New York special election to replace Rep. Chris Lee, the Republican lawmaker who also resigned after sending half-nude photos online, was expected to cost $1 million. Rep. Eric Massa's 2010 resignation, also in New York, cost taxpayers about $700,000. Replacing Rep. Jane Harman (who now sits on the board of the Newsweek/Daily Beast Company) was expected to cost California taxpayers $1.5 million for a special election, according to an estimate by the Los Angeles County Registrar.
The process could take as long as six months, and during that time Weiner’s staff will continue to operate under the supervision of the House clerk. Those staffers will be able maintain some services for constituents, although they will have no authority, seniority, or voting rights on matters considered by the House.
But Weiner’s timing may be the most unfortunate part for New York taxpayers footing the bill. State redistricting based on new population statistics will affect Weiner’s New York City district and the person to represent it next. By next year, it’s widely expected to simply disappear.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Weiner's district. He represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens.