Nice Work If You Can Get It


For those of you who haven't been following the Tennessee Waltz scandal, here's a quick review courtesy of the Associated Press:

The current federal investigation, nicknamed the "Tennessee Waltz," examined how state contracts were awarded during former state Gov. Don Sundquist's administration.

The fallout has led to multiple arrests, and state Sen. John Ford has resigned from office after more than 30 years in the Senate. Besides Ford, Sens. Kathryn Bowers and Ward Crutchfield; Rep. Chris Newton; and former state Sen. Roscoe Dixon were charged with taking bribes from a phony company created by the FBI.

Ford also was charged with threatening to kill a witness.

And that's just so far—more charges may be on the way.

Now turn to today's Tennessean:

The elected officials indicted in the FBI's "Tennessee Waltz" bribery sting could pocket a combined $119,000 a year from the taxpayer-subsidized state pension plan for the rest of their lives—even if convicted of the charges against them.

The biggest checks would go to Sen. Ward Crutchfield, D-Chattanooga, who at 76 is in line for $62,256 per year from the state pension plan. He has declared his innocence.

Meanwhile, two former senators under indictment have applied for their pensions: John Ford of Memphis, who will get about $30,000 a year, and Roscoe Dixon, also of Memphis, who will receive $16,400 per year.

There is a law on the books that forbids legislators convicted of felonies from receiving pensions, but because of the way it is written, four of the five former or sitting legislators under indictment can still collect that retirement benefit even if they are convicted.

$16,400 a year ain't a lot, but I'll bet it's more than they pay in the prison laundry. $30K is a pretty good deal for threatening to kill somebody. And $62,256? Crutchfield will have the snazziest cell on the block.