Lewis touts plan to cut pay for Congress, reduce pensions

2014-07-08T13:01:00Z 2014-07-11T09:44:09Z Lewis touts plan to cut pay for Congress, reduce pensionsBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette

HELENA — Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis released a plan Tuesday to clean up Congress that calls for cutting members’ $174,000-a-year pay by 10 percent and eliminating their “gold-plated” pensions.

What’s more, Lewis said, members of Congress should not be paid until they pass a joint budget resolution, which hasn’t occurred in more than 1,000 days.

“Washington is broken,” Lewis said at a press conference on the grounds of the Capitol. “Congress is creating problems instead of solving them. Congress has a 7 percent approval rating. Everywhere I go in Montana, all 56 counties, you hear from people. People are sick and tired of Congress not working together, not getting the job done.”

He offered a number of other proposals of what he called his “Clean Platform” to fix Congress.

In a poke at his Republican opponent, Ryan Zinke of Whitefish, Lewis proposed extending the “cooling off” rules to super PACs making independent expenditures on behalf of a former chairman or founding members running for public office. Zinke in 2012 formed the Special Operations for America, a Super PAC that raised money to oppose President Barack Obama’s re-election.

That same PAC has run advertising in support of Zinke’s congressional campaign during this election cycle. The Montana Democratic Party and two Washington, D.C., groups have filed three complaints with the Federal Election Commission accusing the group of illegally coordinating with Zinke. Zinke has denied the allegations.

In response, Zinke’s spokeswoman, Shelby DeMars, questioned Lewis proposing ways to clean up Congress “when he has done nothing but be part of the problems since he started working for (U.S. Sen. Max) Baucus.” Lewis worked for Baucus for 12 years, most recently as his state director, before resigning in August 2013.

DeMars called Lewis “more of the same.”

“At a time when Montanans need and deserve real leadership and when Lewis was working on Capitol Hill, Zinke was leading 3,500 troops in Iraq and was real leader,” DeMars said.

Lewis called for doubling the “cooling off” or waiting period to two years for former members of Congress to become lobbyists. Under Lewis’ plan, he would lower the salary threshold to $48,456 (Montana’s median household income) from the current $130,000 so the “cooling off” rules would affect more congressional staffers before they could become lobbyists.

Lewis also proposed requiring full disclosure of trips that members of Congress and their aides take at the expense of private groups.

He called on Congress to change the federal Freedom of Information act to cover members of Congress, who now are exempt from the law.

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