With the congressional elections inching closer, Democratic U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey and her Republican challenger Joe Carvin are trading barbs over the more than $10,000 annually the veteran lawmaker receives in state pension in addition to her $174,000 a year taxpayer-funded salary.
"This is the kind of thing that drives taxpayers crazy. It's not even the money that people find so offensive; it's the breach of trust the public feels when they learn about politicians gaming the system," said Carvin spokesman Bill O'Reilly.
Lowey is one of the wealthiest members of New York's congressional delegation with a net worth of $14.3 million, according to her recent financial disclosure. Before she made her way to Washington, Lowey worked for 12 years with New York State -- which included a stint as Assistant Secretary of State under former Gov. Mario Cuomo -- making her eligible to collect an annual state pension of $10,302.
"This is yet another example of how the political class in America has stacked the deck against the average taxpayer," O'Reilly said.
Carvin's campaign, which is trying to gain traction in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans, is making Lowey's personal wealth an issue and has called on her to "give back" her state pension.
Lowey campaign spokesman Matt Dennis dismissed Carvin's calls, pointing out that Lowey donates her pension and additional income to national and local charitable organizations.
"The real question is why Joe Carvin has wasted 4 days telling voters that his top priority has nothing to do with creating jobs or getting our economy back on track," Dennis said in a statement. "That's not the kind of Congressperson the lower Hudson Valley needs."
Carvin, 57, a hedge fund manager, brings a portion of his huge personal wealth to the House race. He has pumped $1 million of his own money to gain advantage in the House race. He raised $75,500 in individual contributions in the quarter that ended June 30, according to the Federal Election Commission filings.
His campaign points out that he has refused to accept the $17,000 salary for serving as Rye Town Supervisor and has not signed up for the state's retirement system.
Most of Lowey's personal wealth comes from her husband, Stephen, who is a partner in the White Plains law firm Lowey Dannenberg Cohen & Hart, P.C. The couple reported more than $600,000 in capital gains in 2011, with no liabilities.
Lowey, 75, is running for her 13th term in office. Congressional redistricting this year cost her much of southern Westchester County, an area that she has represented since 1988, most recently as the 18th District congresswoman. The district has now expanded north and will now include portions of Rockland County.
She had raised $1.6 million as of June 30, according to FEC filings.