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March 7, 2008

Might the ugly Clinton pardons start getting some campaign traction?

As I have noted previously, P.S. Ruckman over at Pardon Power is doing a great job keeping track of how the Bill Clinton's ugly clemency record could be a big issue in Senator Clinton's presidential campaign.  Here are some notable recent posts on this topic:

The first post linked above discusses this new USA Today article, headlined "Archivists block release of Clinton papers."  Here are excerpts from this lengthy article:

Federal archivists at the Clinton Presidential Library are blocking the release of hundreds of pages of White House papers on pardons that the former president approved, including clemency for fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich.  The archivists' decision, based on guidance provided by Bill Clinton that restricts the disclosure of advice he received from aides, prevents public scrutiny of documents that would shed light on how he decided which pardons to approve from among hundreds of requests....

The decision to withhold the records could provide fodder for critics who say that the former president and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, have been unwilling to fully release documents to public scrutiny.  Officials with the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., criticized Hillary Clinton this week for not doing more to see that records from her husband's administration are made public....

In January 2006, USA TODAY requested documents about the pardons under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The library made 4,000 pages available this week. However, 1,500 pages were either partially redacted or withheld entirely, including 300 pages covering internal White House communications on pardon decisions, such as memos to and from the president, and reports on which pardon requests the Justice Department opposed....

Former president Clinton issued 140 pardons on his last day in office, including several to controversial figures, such as commodities trader Rich, then a fugitive on tax evasion charges. Rich's ex-wife, Denise, contributed $2,000 in 1999 to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign; $5,000 to a related political action committee; and $450,000 to a fund set up to build the Clinton library.

The president also pardoned two men who each paid Sen. Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham, about $200,000 to lobby the White House for pardons — one for a drug conviction and one for mail fraud and perjury convictions, according to a 2002 report by the House committee on government reform.

March 7, 2008 at 11:57 AM | Permalink


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Just to summarize:
Pres. Clinton pardoned the fugitive-husband of a person who contributed $7,000 to HRC's campaign and $450,000 to the Clinton library.
Pres. Clinton pardoned two individuals who had paid HRC's brother $200,000 to get them the pardon.

Both these pardons intimately involve Hillary Clinton, and I think there are entirely legitimate questions that she should be asked regarding these pardons.

The Clintons (Hillary and Bill both) are absolutely shamless in what they will do/say to win, and absolutely ruthless in abusing the power they gain after they win.

Posted by: | Mar 7, 2008 1:15:24 PM

What annoys me about this is not the lack of disclosure so much as the (im)plausible deniability they hope to secure. He was pretty clear about the "two for the price of one" message in 1992. Fair enough. That means you can tackle the criticism; Senator Obama has certainly been forced to defend his spouse.

What is truly amazing is the way that some otherwise intelligent people will go to great lengths to attack Senator Obama and defend the truly indefensible policy positions of Senator Clinton, such as Jeralyn over at TalkLeft. In the area of crimininal law reform, there is only one progressive candidate left standing in this campaign. It is not Senator Clinton.

Posted by: Alec | Mar 8, 2008 12:15:38 AM

I hope that there is some traction. Those that grew up in Hope, Arkansas, believe in hope, even though their spouses deride others who preach the gospel of hope. Traction on this issue is achieved when people know the facts. I did not know some of the facts in this article and I will tell my friends and neighbors. Hillary's BROTHER (was his "Hugh"?) received a huge fee for obtaining a pardon for a client? Why does the media never get to ask her any hard questions? Thank you Doug for this article. More on this topic please.

Posted by: mpb | Mar 9, 2008 5:40:36 AM

Alec, Barack Obama is pretty easy to criticize on the criminal justice front. No responsible politician talks in terms of the "just-us" system, which Barack Obama has done. In addition, his pandering on the Jena Six issue was repulsive.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 9, 2008 12:38:40 PM

Okay, this is bizarre.

The power to pardon is one of the few non-reviewable powers in the federal constitution. It cannot be constrained by Congress nor can it be reviewed by federal courts. (The collateral consequences of pardoned conviction are still governed by other sets of laws.)

Yet, despite the fact that any president can pardon anyone for any reason at all (heck, he could even sell pardons on Ebay), the politicals amongst us think that there something illegal or unethical about Clinton’s choice of pardons. I don’t get it. Why does it matter? Heck, Clinton isn’t even president, and Bill Clinton can’t run for president again. Once Bill Clinton pardoned someone it is truly a moot issue.

Federalist, While I realize that your cultural background is such that you couldn’t be expected to provide specifics, perhaps you can provide specific quotations from Sen. Obama and then explain why he is legally incorrect. Calling things “repulsive” doesn’t make your position correct. Likewise, considering that Sen. Obama is hardly the first person to allude or identify to class disparities in our system of justice, why do you think it is “irresponsible” (or some other lay word) for him to make such statements.

After all, we do live in a country where more poor people are sent to jail than rich people. The guidelines are prejudiced in favor of the lives of rich people (as they should be). Likewise, poor people simply will never make decisions about what the 4th amendment means (in terms of a "reasonable" search) because poor people are (rightly) kept out of law schools, and the judiciary. Instead, 4th amendment “privacy” generally has more to do with middle and upper-middle class people think "reasonable expectations of privacy" means. Miranda is generally viewed though what a middle or upper-middle class person would regard as an assertion of a right to counsel. (I.e. Most middle class people simply don’t talk to cops without lawyers and have arranged for non-intrusive meetings with prosecutors rather than the kind of treatment that the poor people deserve during their interrogations.) The 1st amendment probably treats the rich and poor equally, but I can’t be too sure.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the system the way it is, but there is nothing incorrect about claiming that the poor in the country are treated differently than the rich.

(I do not vote, and I don’t care who becomes president. You can elect anyone you want. The whole thing is rather silly.)

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 11, 2008 12:11:11 PM

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