URBANDALE, Iowa — Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, decrying ethical lapses in Washington and singling out fellow Republicans, on Thursday called for stripping the federal pensions from those convicted of using their office to abuse the public trust.
Campaigning in Iowa, the former Massachusetts governor said his proposal wasn't aimed at a specific individual but rather was a response to the deteriorating ethical climate in the nation's capital.
"Frankly, I'm particularly disappointed in our own," Romney said. "Maybe you expect it of Democrats. You shouldn't, I'm just kidding a little bit. I certainly don't expect it of Republicans."
Washington has been reeling from a series of scandals, from those involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for lying and obstructing justice in a probe of the leak of a CIA operative's identity to the latest inquiry of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
Federal investigators are looking into Stevens' dealings with a wealthy oil field services contractor.
"I expect more of people in my own party. We speak about high ethical standards and we should be an example of those high ethical standards," Romney said.
In opening his latest trip to the first caucus state, Romney took a swipe at cities which have declared themselves sanctuaries from enforcement of immigration laws. As punishment, he suggested cutting at least some federal funding to these cities.
"We're telling immigrants to come here and we won't follow the law," Romney said. "We send hundreds of millions of dollars to these cities, even billions. We ought to stop doing that."
Romney said he would examine what sort of funds could be halted. "It wouldn't be police funds or something of that nature," he said. "I'll look at the kind of money we're going to cut off."
He mentioned New York City, home to one of his rivals for the nomination, former mayor Rudy Giuliani. The city, however, has never officially declared itself a "sanctuary city."
Last month, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told Congress that the city protects residents' confidentiality when they report a crime or seek medical care or education, and its policy complies with the 1996 immigration law.
Romney offered his ethics proposal during a town hall-style meeting, and then expanded on it when he met with reporters afterward.
"In my view, those people who abuse the public trust while serving in government by virtue of committing a felony, should be stripped of their federal pensions," he said.
He said a similar law was on the books in Massachusetts when he was governor.
In pursuing the GOP nomination, Romney is casting himself as a Washington outsider and criticism of ethical missteps in the capital tends to resonate with voters. The recent scandals, however, have involved a significant number of Republicans and is considered one of the reasons for the GOP's loss of congressional control in last year's elections.
Romney said his proposal would apply to both elected officials and those who are appointed to serve in government.