Federal employees’ retirement pensions are secret and likely to remain so because courts have ruled disclosure would violate individual workers’ privacy rights, according to the head of a nonprofit government watchdog group.
Federal pensions costs “taxpayers more money annually than the entire state budget of Florida” and has a $3.5 trillion unfunded liability, Open The Books founder and CEO Adam Andrzejewski wrote in a Forbes column Tuesday. Unlike the federal government, 32 states make their pension data public. (RELATED: Millions of Retiring Boomer Public Workers Mean Higher Taxes For Millennials)
Andrzejewski urged citizens to demand Congress to force open federal pensions.
The Office of Personnel Management reported in 2012 that 21,000 retired federal employees collected pensions over $100,000, but the agency hasn’t updated those figures. (RELATED: Bharara Announces Pay-To-Play Charges Involving NY State Pensions)
“Over the last five years, the number of six-figure pensions likely doubled or tripled, but we’re left in the dark,” Andrzejewski wrote.
Open The Books requested the full list of individual retirement payouts, but the Obama Administration refused, saying it was “clearly an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” The watchdog did, however, receive the salaries and bonuses of 2 million federal employees.
Map: Open The Books
“If active salaries (by name) are disclosed, why would posting federal retiree pension amounts, service credits and contributions be an invasion of privacy?” Andrzejewski wrote.
He pointed out that Lois Lerner – the former IRS manager made infamous by her role in the Tea Party targeting scandal – retired before she might have faced a potential termination, allowing her to receive her full pension.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to see her pension information?” Andrzejewski wrote. “Citizens deserve to know Ms. Lerner’s annual pension. Estimates by two Washington think tanks vary by more than $52,000 annually, or nearly $2 million in lifetime payout.”
By contrast, Illinois pension transparency law helped expose two union bosses who retired and collected $1 million in lifetime pensions after substitute teaching for one day, according to Andrzejewski. A retired deputy chief of staff to former Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was supposed to receive a $20,000 pension, but instead took $374,000 before getting caught.
California alone pays nearly 22,000 retirement pensions exceeding $100,000 and costing taxpayers $2.8 billion annually.
Those are just a few examples of expensive and corrupt pension payments Andrzejewski detailed, stressing policy debate is impossible without transparency.
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