Washington insight

November 19, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- When House Speaker Newt Gingrich becomes a private citizen again in January, he might be able to earn a few bucks posing as a poster boy for retirement planning; his congressional career is an advertisement for how not to do it.

When the young Turk from Georgia joined the House in 1978, he refused to participate in the congressional pension system, claiming it was too rich a deal. He relented in August 1989, but by then his principle had cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Despite the fact that his four years in the higher-paying speaker's job will boost his pension by 28 percent, Mr. Gingrich still is likely to receive only $24,900 in annual pension benefits, according to the National Taxpayers' Union.

That's a lot less than the $75,000 annual pension he would have gotten if he had joined the plan right away. Mr. Gingrich will have to wait another seven years, until he's 62, to begin drawing his pension.

When it looks like your husband is going to be the speaker of the House of Representatives, what do you do? Lunch with Marianne Gingrich, of course. Bonnie Livingston, who met her husband Bob when they were in college, said that Mrs. Gingrich shared pointers with her during a "wild week." What did she learn? "In general, do what you want to do, and enjoy," Mrs. Livingston said.

From the March 21, 1868, issue of Harper's Weekly, as noted on Harper's new Web site, www.Impeach-andrewjohnson.com: "The excitement in regard to the impeachment in Washington appears, indeed, to be confined almost entirely to the newspaper men. . . . On the morning on which the public printer was to deliver the impeachment articles to the House, the whole force of newspaper correspondents, to the number of fifteen or twenty, assembled in the lobby to await his arrival."

Pub Date: 11/19/98

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