Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., may be resigning from Congress under a cloud, but the Illinois Democrat may still be in line to draw a congressional pension.
That is, unless the 47-year-old lawmaker later agrees to forfeit his retirement benefits through any plea negotiations that might come out of the federal investigation he acknowledged is ongoing.
On Wednesday afternoon, the best estimates through quick calculations by the Alexandria, Va.-based National Taxpayers Union determined Jackson could have an annual pension of about $45,000 if he waits until age 62 to draw it. If he waits only until age 56, the amount would be less.
Peter Sepp, NTU executive vice president, noted that only a few felonies (such as bribery and extortion) can automatically deprive a lawmaker of his or her pension.
But whether Jackson might voluntarily give up his pension in trying to resolve any wrongdoing with federal investigators is unknown. In his letter of resignation on Wednesday to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Jackson wrote only, “I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities and I am doing the best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone.”
In addition to a pension, Sepp noted that lawmakers enrolled in congressional pension plans can participate in the federal Thrift Savings Plan, a defined-contribution arrangement that works like a 401(k) retirement plan. The plan allows up to a 5 percent taxpayer match of salary.
Sepp said that in a House career spanning over a decade and a half, such as Jackson’s, “You could accrue a balance of a few hundred grand if you maxed your own contributions and made the right investment calls.”