U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., whose name is generating increased buzz as a possible candidate in next year’s gubernatorial race, is calling for pension information of retired federal employees to be made public.
On Wednesday, DeSantis unveiled the “Taxpayer Funded Pension Disclosure Act" which would ensure information regarding federal retirees’ pensions would be covered under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
"Americans should know exactly how their taxpayer dollars are used to fund the pensions of members of Congress and other federal bureaucrats,” DeSantis said. “The Taxpayer Funded Pension Disclosure Act will empower taxpayers to hold their government accountable and demand that their hard-earned tax dollars are spent wisely.”
“I believe that the American public would like to know if corrupt Internal Revenue Service officials who invoke the Fifth Amendment are still receiving retirement benefits at the expense of the taxpayer,” DeSantis added.
Adam Andrzejewski, the founder and CEO of OpenTheBooks.com which focuses on federal spending, is supporting the proposal.
"Shining a light on federal pensions is the next phase of the transparency revolution,” Andrzejewski said on Wednesday. “I applaud Representative DeSantis for his courageous and bold leadership in introducing legislation to make that possible. It takes guts to reveal what many want hidden. We're honored to stand with him.”
DeSantis and Andrzejewski teamed up last month to make the case for making federal pension information public in a piece that ran at the Washington Examiner.
“Every year, the federal government pays $125 billion in tax dollars for federal pensions. In spite of this being such a large amount of money, there is a remarkable lack of transparency surrounding these funds,” they wrote. “Taxpayers deserve to know the details of the lucrative pensions of career bureaucrats and members of Congress. Basic questions deserve answers: How many years were worked, how much money was paid-in and by whom, how quickly did they break-even on their own contributions, and just how much did the taxpayers finance?
“Releasing data on federal pensions will require an act of Congress, and we are leading the way,” DeSantis and Andrzejewski added. “The Taxpayer Funded Pension Disclosure Act will empower citizens with the data and technologies to hold their government accountable like never before.”
DeSantis had been a frequent critic of Lois Lerner who was director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and who drew heavy fire in 2013 as Congress looked at how the IRS targeted conservative groups. In his piece with Andrzejewski, DeSantis pointed to Lerner’s pension.
“With relatively little transparency, we've found numerous examples of waste and abuse across the country. Consider what we'd find if we could see more at the federal level,” DeSantis and Andrzejewski wrote. “For instance, former IRS chief Lois Lerner used her authority to infringe the rights of American citizens and consistently obstructed congressional investigations. Wouldn't it be nice to see her pension information? Her pension is estimated to equal nearly $2 million in lifetime payout.”
DeSantis and Andrzejewski noted Lerner was not alone among federal retirees in getting a substantial pension.
“According to the Office of Personnel Management, in 2012, 21,000 retired federal employees were collecting pensions exceeding $100,000. Since then, the number has likely doubled or tripled. Moody's estimates federal employee pensions have a $3.5 trillion-dollar unfunded liability, with taxpayers on the hook to guarantee it all. All of this information should be posted online in real time," they wrote.
“Revealing this data across the board will allow citizens and policymakers to have a productive debate about pensions,” DeSantis and Andrzejewski added. “Pulling this data out of the government's underground pension cave and into the light will protect taxpayers, retirees, and near-retirees who have a right to ensure these taxpayer dollars are well-spent.”
DeSantis’ bill was sent to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. Co-sponsors include Republican U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Darrell Issa of California and Bill Posey of Florida.