With a backlog of applications at the Justice Department, high-profile criminals and their well-connected lawyers are appealing directly to President Bush for special consideration on pardons and clemency, the Washington Post reports. Among those seeking presidential action are former junk-bond salesman Michael Milken, who hired former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson to plead his case for a pardon on 1980s-era securities fraud charges. Two politicians convicted of public corruption, former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Ca.) and four-term Louisiana governor Edwin W. Edwards (D), are asking Bush to shorten their prison terms.
The president has used his pardon powers rarely during seven years in office, granting 157 pardons out of 2,064 petitions, and only six of 7,707 requests for commutations, says former Justice Department lawyer Margaret C. Love. Aggressive appeals for clemency at the end of an administration are not unusual, but they can raise concerns about influence peddling and fairness, particularly if the president and his legal advisers are not fully transparent. During his last days in office, President Bill Clinton prompted investigations by pardoning 140 people, including his brother, former real estate partner Susan McDougal, and fugitive financier Marc Rich. White House officials and former deputy attorney general Eric Holder, a contender for attorney general under President-elect Barack Obama, testified in Congress about the last-minute pardons.