U.S. Attorney for New York Preet Bharara targets pensions of corrupt politicians

Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks regarding arrests made in a public corruption complaint against New York Assemblyman Eric Stevenson. He wants to stop corrupt politicians from collecting taxpayer-funded pensions. Credit: Reuters
Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks regarding arrests made in a public corruption complaint against New York Assemblyman Eric Stevenson. He wants to stop corrupt politicians from collecting taxpayer-funded pensions.
Credit: Reuters

U.S. Attorney for New York Preet Bharara wants to stop corrupt politicians from collecting taxpayer-funded pensions after breaking the law or retiring amid scandal.

“A galling injustice that sticks in the craw of every thinking New Yorker is the almost inviolable right of even the most corrupt elected official–even after being convicted by a jury and jailed by a judge–to draw a publicly-funded pension until his dying day,” Bharara testified to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption Moreland Commission Tuesday.

New York law allows public officials to collect such pensions even if they’ve been convicted of felonies, but Bharara wants to return some of that money to the state.

On Tuesday, Bharara filed forfeiture notices to three city politicians–State Sen. Malcolm Smith from Queens, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson from the Bronx and Queens Councilman Dan Halloran–all of whom pleaded not guilty to corruption-related charges this year.

He said his office would use civil forfeiture action as well as federal forfeiture law to “claw back” some pension money.

In addition, Bharara said his office would take into account gains from pensions when seeking fines from convicted public officials.

“Convicted politicians should not grow old comfortably cushioned by a pension paid for by the very people they betrayed in office,” he said.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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