Cunningham Plea Sparks Pension Questions - Yahoo! News

By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer

Republican House members disturbed that their former GOP colleague Randy "Duke" Cunningham will get to keep his pension despite pleading guilty to bribery want to pass a law to strip federal pensions from white-collar criminals.

Under federal law, only a conviction for a crime against the United States, such as treason or espionage, can cause a member of Congress or other federal employee to lose his or her government pension.

That means Cunningham, a California Republican, will keep his pension despite admitting taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and others in exchange for government contracts.

Cunningham's congressional pension would be around $40,000 per year, according to an Office of Personnel Management formula. He resigned last month and faces 10 years in prison when he's sentenced in February.

"It's time to reassure the American people that we are serious about upholding ethical standards," Rep. Lee Terry (news, bio, voting record), R-Neb., said Wednesday.

"There's no doubt that Duke Cunningham is the present impetus for our efforts," he added.

Terry and five other Republicans spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday to introduce the "Public Trust and Accountability Act." The bill would add a list of white collar crimes including bribery, solicitation of gifts, perjury, making false claims and lying to a grand jury to the offenses that would result in loss of federal pensions. The legislation would apply to all federal employees.

Similar legislation by Rep. Mark Kirk (news, bio, voting record), R-Ill., would apply only to members of Congress. The House passed a bill like that in 1996 but it didn't make it through the Senate.

Various members of Congress, mostly Republicans, are under scrutiny for possible ethics violations, and lawmakers said there was a critical mass in support of denying pensions to white-collar criminals.

"I think it's something we need to do in light of everything that's gone on," said Rep. John Sullivan (news, bio, voting record), R-Okla.

Austin DA Investigates Cunningham's Alleged Co-Conspirator - Yahoo! News

Defense contractor Brent Wilkes, an alleged co-conspirator in the federal bribery case against former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, is already in trouble with the U.S. District Attorney's Office in San Diego. But now, the state of Texas is investigating him.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Wilkes gave or arranged hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts, cash and favors for Cunningham.

Now, the district attorney in Austin, Texas, is asking for records relating to contributions made by Wilkes, his vice president Max Gelwix and related companies.

Those donations allegedly went to two political action committees founded by former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who is also under investigation, 10News reported.

Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill are taking a hard look at Cunningham's situation and want to make changes.

Lee Retty, a Republican representative from Nebraska, and fellow Republicans are proposing the Public Trust and Accountability Act, which would strip any federal employee of their pension if they commit a white-collar crime.

As it stands, Cunningham is allowed to keep his pension, despite the bribery plea.

No one associated with the subpoenas returned 10News' calls for comment.