WASHINGTON – Mark Souder is limited in how he can dispose of the few thousand dollars he has left for campaigning, members of his staff will keep their jobs for several months, and he will walk away with at least a $55,000-a-year pension.
Campaign account: If there is money left in his campaign account, Souder cannot use it for personal expenses.
He must return to the donors any money contributed for the fall election, at least $20,800.
He could donate up to $2,000 apiece to other candidates, an unlimited amount to charities or leave it untouched.
Souder said there is very little left in the account – he doesnt know how much – after his expensive primary battle this month.
But he said hes open to the idea floated by Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine that any money remaining in the Souder for Congress account be donated to help pay the costs of the special election to replace him.
The congressional office: The 19 people who work in the Washington and Indiana congressional offices will stay on the job until a replacement is elected.
Most of the ways constituents deal with a congressional office – help in dealing with federal agencies, requests for tours of the Capitol – will continue to be handled by the staff.
The pension: A rough low-ball estimate of the pension Souder earned from 25 years of drawing a government paycheck is $55,000 a year to start.
Pete Sepp, vice president of the watchdog group National Taxpayers Union says calculating a government pension for Souder is complicated and based on factors such as his years as a legislative aide, whether the government work was continuous, whether Souder was grandfathered in to a more generous pension plan, his age and whether he opted for the plan that cuts his pension but allows his wife to collect 50 percent of it if he dies.
Souders resignation may have cost him $5,000 a year or more in pension payments, Sepp said.
Normally, he would qualify for $60,500 even though he is under age 62, the normal unreduced benefit retirement age. Thats because he would have more than 20 years of total service, Sepp said. However, in order to get the unreduced benefit, congressional documents say a lawmaker with that service amount has to be retiring for reasons except by resignation or expulsion to get the full benefit at an early age.
I read that to mean he gets a reduced retirement – 5 percent for each year hes under 62, Sepp said.
Souder turns 60 in July, so I would say thats an additional 10 percent reduction, for a final pension of $54,500, rounded to the nearest hundred.
Recipients of government pensions normally get annual cost-of-living increases when inflation isnt near zero, as it was this year.
Its also possible, Sepp said, Souder participated in the federal Thrift Savings Plan, a defined contribution arrangement that works like a 401(k) retirement system.
Under one scenario, the government could have matched 5 percent of his salary. Over 15 years, thats more than $100,000, not counting accumulated interest.
Start doing the math, and you realize that even with poor market performance in the last couple of years, Sepp said, Souder could have socked away a fair amount of money over his career.
As for health insurance, Sepp said, if Souder qualifies for an immediate (even if reduced) pension, he could keep participating in the federal health plan.
But no special perks for lawmakers there. They make the same contributions and get the same benefits as other employees, he said.
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