Friday, August 17, 2012

Privileged: Pete Starks Kids Draw Social Security Benefits

I've really been neglecting to follow the faltering re-election campaign of 40-year Congressman, Pete Stark, who has been facing the first stiff opposition he has seen since the dawn of the Ford Administration. The latest trouble? A controversy over his minor children, whose dad is a multi-millionaire and Congressman, receiving Social Security benefits:
The campaign of Rep. Pete Stark, the East Bay Democrat in a contested re-election race against fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell of Dublin, confirmed to the Chronicle that Stark’s children do receive Social Security benefits as allowed under the law, and that he has stopped paying his dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 
Stark campaign consultant Michael Terris wrote in an email that Stark “fought his entire career to protect Social Security from those who would dismantle it. Congressman Stark has been paying into the system for many years. And yes, like all Americans, he and his family intend to collect the benefits to which they are eligible. 
Stark, 80, earned his M.B.A. at UC Berkeley in 1960 and went on to make a fortune early in his career starting a successful bank in Walnut Creek. Stark’s net worth is estimated as high as $27 million and is ranked as the 74th wealthiest member of Congress.
I will stipulate right now that what Stark is doing is perfectly legal. His children are entitled to recieve these benefits and there's no reason why they should reject them, but still...
According to the Social Security Administration, “4.4 million children receive approximately $2.5 billion each month because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired or deceased. Those dollars help to provide the necessities of life for family members and help to make it possible for those children to complete high school. When a parent becomes disabled or dies, Social Security benefits help to stabilize the family’s financial future.” 
Under the rules, children can receive benefits if they are minors and are the biological or adopted children (or stepchildren) of the Social Security recipient, and the parent is retired.
What's funny is the media and Stark's political opponents could have brought this up anytime in the last 15 years, but haven't. It's no great mystery why everyone's piling on now. Stark is too old and addled to continue in his currect occupation. He was thought to be so far gone that he was passed over for the chairmanship of the House Ways And Means Committee, a post that should have gone to him under the House's normally iron-clad seniority rules. The local media, which was always happy to soft-peddle Stark's endlessly ugly personal attacks and dirty politicking, is now publishing every unflattering story it can find. There's no harm since, thanks to California's new "non-partisan" primaries, the Democrat Stark is facing...another Democrat in November. 

It's not often we see what the world would look like if a Democrat were held to the same reporting standards as a Republican. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

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