How Many Times Can You Retire From Government?

Texas Republican John Cornyn supplemented his Senate salary with a trio of public pensions last year from his days as a Texas judge and elected official—a practice some fiscal watchdog groups have attacked as “double dipping.”

Cornyn, who is the minority whip and the No. 2 ranking Republican in the Senate, reported collecting $65,383 in public retirement benefits in 2012 in addition to his $174,000 salary as a U.S. senator.  

Cornyn’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Elected to the Senate in 2002, Cornyn is a former district judge, Texas Supreme Court justice, and state attorney general. In 2012, he collected pensions from three separate state retirement programs.

The biggest of Cornyn’s pensions—$48,807— is from the Judicial Retirement System of Texas. He served on the state Supreme Court from 1991 to 1997.

He reported another $10,132 in retirement benefits last year from the Employees Retirement System of Texas—the pension fund for state elected officials and workers. Cornyn served as Texas attorney general from 1999 to 2002.

In a series of financial-disclosure amendments that he began filing last July, Cornyn disclosed that he had actually been collecting that $10,132 annual pension as far back as 2006. He had not listed it on his original disclosure reports from 2006 to 2010.

Cornyn also reported a $6,444 retirement distribution from the Texas County and District Retirement System. He was a state district judge from 1985 to 1989, according to his official bio, when the governor appointed him presiding judge for the Fourth Administrative Judicial Region of Texas, where he oversaw judicial administration for a 22-county region.

Cornyn, 61, is not the first or only prominent Texas Republican to draw both a public pension and a public salary. In December 2011, it was revealed that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was supplementing his $150,000 governor’s salary with a state pension of more than $92,000.

“I think it would be rather foolish to not access what you’ve earned,” Perry said in the midst of the 2012 presidential primary.

Cornyn, unlike Perry, is drawing his pensions and salary from different levels of government. His salary is supported by the federal government, while his pensions come from state and local government.

Cornyn is up for reelection in 2014.

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