Ernst, Gillibrand seek to strip federal pensions from convicted sex criminals

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Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are introducing a bill this week that would force federal employees convicted of certain sex crimes to forfeit their pensions.

Federal employees convicted of treason, sedition, spying and other subversive actions are already barred from drawing taxpayer-funded pensions. The bill, called the No Taxpayer-Funded Pensions for Sex Criminals Act, would add crimes including sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a child to the list of pension-revoking convictions.

Gillibrand called it “outrageous and downright wrong” that federal employees convicted of sex crimes are currently able to collect pensions funded by taxpayers.

“The bipartisan No Taxpayer-Funded Pensions for Sex Criminals Act would prohibit federal employees convicted of sex offenses from collecting pensions. It’s a commonsense bill that will strengthen and improve the workplace,” she said.

The bill follows a bombshell report by the Wall Street Journal last November that revealed a culture of sexual harassment at the Federal Deposit Insurance Agency (FDIC), driving women to leave the agency. 

In the wake of the story, FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg told lawmakers he was “personally disturbed and deeply troubled” by the allegations. Ernst, a survivor of sexual assault and one of the bill’s sponsors, was one of the first lawmakers to call for Gruenberg’s resignation last fall. 

“The federal government should be committed to serving the American people, not the Wild West of inappropriate conduct,” Ernst said in a statement. 

An independent investigation by law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton released last week lambasted the banking regulator’s toxic work environment and pointed the finger at management for the “patriarchal, insular, and risk-adverse culture,” sparking renewed calls for Gruenberg’s resignation from some lawmakers.

The top Republicans on congressional financial committees called on Gruenberg to resign in the wake of the report, as did Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), ranking member of the Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions.

But other Democrats including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee; Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), chair of the Senate Banking Committee and Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su have stopped short of calling for the FDIC chief’s resignation.

This isn’t the first time Ernst and Gillibrand have teamed up to take on sexual harassment and assault in the federal government. During the last Congress, the lawmakers introduced the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, which included several changes to how the military justice system handles serious crimes including rape and sexual assault.

Ernst described the No Taxpayer-Funded Pensions for Sex Criminals Act as an effort to “better protect women in the workplace and restore the integrity of public service.”

“Our bipartisan bill would create real consequences to end bad behavior and send a signal that sexual predators are not welcome in the federal government,” Ernst said.

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