Embattled Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) could still be eligible for his federal pension even if he is convicted of one or more felonies — but only if he can hold onto office for about another year.
Grimm pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of felony tax evasion that was part of a 20-count indictment authorities charged against him in April. The other charges include employing illegal immigrants at a Manhattan restaurant he owned before serving in the House, mail fraud and wire fraud.
Members of Congress are only eligible for federal pensions if they serve for at least five years. Grimm, who first took office in 2011, won't be able to receive a pension unless he manages to hang on through January 2016.
The Staten Island Republican, who coasted to reelection last month, maintains that he won't step down. But low tolerance among House GOP leadership for ethical lapses and pressure from fellow lawmakers could push him out.
Members of Congress and most federal government employees only lose their pensions if they are convicted of a federal crime related to threatening national security. Those crimes include disclosing classified information, espionage and treason. According to the Congressional Research Service, the law was first enacted in 1954 in the aftermath of the case of Alger Hiss, a State Department employee convicted of perjury while passing national security secrets to a communist agent.
And, under a separate 2007 law, lawmakers can no longer receive their federal pensions if they are convicted of corruption, election crimes or other misconduct that "directly relates" to their official duties while serving in office.
Other lawmakers convicted of crimes in recent years have also been able to keep their federal pensions, even while they served time in prison.
Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), who pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges in 2005, got to keep his pension. The same went for ex-Reps. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) and Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), who were embroiled in bribery and corruption scandals.