Sarah Palin’s charge that the Secret Service prostitute scandal highlights President Barack Obama’s “poor management skills” drew a sharp rebuke Friday from the White House, where chief spokesman Jay Carney dubbed it absurd and politically motivated.
“It is preposterous to politicize the Secret Service,” Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.
Palin and Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions have in recent days charged that the scandal, coupled with the outrage over the General Services Administration’s lavish spending on a convention in Las Vegas, reflects poorly on Obama. Those two controversies, as well as the tragic mass slaying of Afghan civilians, allegedly by an American soldier, have overshadowed much of the White House’s agenda in recent weeks.
“What they’re doing is trying to turn these incidents—one that’s still under investigation—to political advantage,” Carney charged when asked about critics who lump the three issues together. “On the face of it, it’s a ridiculous assertion that trivializes both the very serious nature of the endeavor that our military is engaged in in Afghanistan and the very serious nature both of the work that the Secret Service does, the apolitical nature of the institution, and the seriousness of the investigation under way,” the spokesman said.
Palin weighed in on the scandal on Fox News Channel late Thursday after The Washington Post reported that David Chaney, one of two agents removed as a result, reportedly posted a photograph of himself guarding the former Republican vice presidential candidate during the 2008 campaign and captioned it “I was really checking her out, if you know what i mean?“
“Well, check this out, bodyguard. You’re fired,” Palin quipped.
“You know, the president, for one, he better be wary there of—when Secret Service is accompanying his family on vacation. They may be checking out the first lady instead of guarding her. And I say that not just tongue-in-cheek, but I say that seriously, that the president, the CEO of this operation called our federal government has got to start cracking down on these agencies! He is the head of the administrative branch and all these different departments in the administration that now people are seeing things that are so amiss within these departments.”
“The buck stops with the president. And he’s really got to start cracking down and seeing some heads roll. You know, he’s got to get rid of these people at the head of these agencies where so many things, obviously, are amiss,” she said. “Our president has poor management skills.”
Fired Secret Service agent remains eligible for up to $2.1 million in taxpayer-funded pension payout
The disgraced Secret Service supervisors accused of engaging in a cocaine-fueled hooker party on the taxpayer dime will still cash in on lucrative taxpayer-funded pensions.
Three Secret Service agents tasked with protecting President Barack Obama have been terminated since it was revealed that they reportedly caroused with prostitutes and drugs in Colombia.
The Washington Post Thursday identified the two supervisors who have been forced out of the agency. Supervisor David Randall Chaney, 48, has been allowed to retire, while Greg Stokes, the assistant special agent in charge of the K-9 division, has been fired with cause. A third low-level officer has resigned his post.
Chaney will soon be cashing in on a pension worth between $47,000 and $61,000 per year, according to a Washington Free Beacon analysis.
Despite the scandal, it will be nearly impossible to prevent him from collecting on the lucrative sum, according to Michael Spekter, an attorney specializing in defending federal benefit packages.
“Even if you’re fired for misconduct, unless you are found guilty of treason, you can get your retirement benefits that you’ve earned through your years of public service,” he said. “They don’t dock your pensions.”
Spekter has represented hundreds of federal employees during his 30-year career and has never seen a worker lose his pension.
Lawyers for the two agents told the Washington Post each man has between 17 and 18 years of service with the agency.
The Secret Service refused to comment on additional personnel matters. However, several federal law enforcement sources say that agents must have at least GS-14 seniority to qualify as supervisors—standards that also apply to the Secret Service.
Federal law enforcement supervisors working out of the D.C. metro area earn between $105,211 and $136,771. The positions qualify for pensions worth 2.5 percent of average highest salary over a period of three consecutive years, multiplied by years of service.
GS-14 supervisors receive pensions worth between $47,000 and $61,000 annually.
Since Chaney is retiring, he can collect on his pension almost immediately and could collect until age 83—the most recent average lifespan estimates for federal law enforcement officers, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
Over his lifetime, he could receive between $1.65 and $2.15 million in retirement.
Stokes, the fired agent, also qualifies for his pension and will begin collecting at age 62, which would earn him up to $1.3 million over his expected lifetime.
The Washington Free Beacon estimate could be on the low end of the spectrum.
Once in retirement, the agents will continue to enjoy a Cadillac health insurance plan while paying minimal premiums. They will also enjoy annual cost of living adjustments, which increase pensions based upon the consumer price index. Retirees enjoyed a 3.6 percent pay bump in 2012.
Scandals involving government or political employees often raise questions about whether they are entitled to such generous taxpayer-funded benefits.
The debate last surfaced when former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with more than 50 criminal counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. Public outcry led the state pension board to review his benefits, though Sandusky will continue to collect state checks until his trial is complete.
Andrew G. Biggs, a former principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration, said pension benefits are viewed as money in the bank, regardless of who is holding the money.
“At some point you have to consider whether the employee earns this money or the employer does,” said Biggs, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “If you get fired in the private sector, you get to keep the money that’s in your 401(k).”
Frank Keegan, a pension expert at State Budget Solutions, said the employer-employee debate is complicated in the public sector.
“It’s the taxpayer’s money, not the government’s,” he said. “If people violate the public trust, taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay the pension costs for the rest of [the employee’s] life.”
Some state and local governments have passed laws that strip public officials and employees of their pensions if they are convicted of felonies or otherwise violate the public trust.
The most notable case to date has been that of the imprisoned former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. State Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whom the Democratic governor considered appointing to Barack Obama’s Senate seat, stripped Blagojevich of his $65,000 pension following his corruption conviction in 2011.
Beginning in 2019, however, Blagojevich will begin cashing $13,000 checks from the federal government for his congressional pension. He will also be halfway through his 14-year prison term.
The Secret Service is reviewing the conduct of nearly a dozen agents, as well as forcing those allegedly involved to undergo polygraph tests.
Biggs said the government’s exhaustive investigation digs at the root of the problem: office culture. He said the extensive guest list at the wild party—up to 20 military and Secret Service personnel and an equal number of prostitutes—demonstrates an agency culture akin to the General Service Administration’s lavish Las Vegas trip.
“If you want recourse, you don’t go after their pensions; you make it easier to fire federal employees,” he said. “I don’t know what happened over there, but if we give everybody their due process, we are going to get people paying attention.”
Agency officials have told congressional committees in the House and Senate that more heads are likely to roll—and take their lucrative pensions with them.