In his six-year tenure, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has pardoned 529 people, usually issuing a few pardons each month to minor drug offenders convicted more than 10 years ago, reports Stateline. Beebe's pardoning practices are increasingly rare among governors, who fear political backlash if a pardoned criminal should reoffend. Clemency decisions have proved costly for recent Republican presidential candidates, including Beebe's Arkansas predecessor, Mike Huckabee, who faced tough questions after Maurice Clemmons, a man whose sentence Huckabee commuted, was linked to the murder of four police officers near Tacoma.
Many governors in the national spotlight, such as Wisconsin's Scott Walker, New York's Andrew Cuomo, and Massachusetts' Deval Patrick, have granted no pardons at all. Governors don't have a an example of pardon leniency to follow in the White House—President Obama granted just 22 pardons in his first term, the lowest number of any president since George Washington. These days, many governors are more inclined to pardon a turkey for Thanksgiving or a pig for a bacon festival, than to grant restored rights to a convicted criminal. The reason for the drop in the number of governors' pardons since the 1960s is political, argues P.S. Ruckman, a professor of political science at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill., and author of the blog, Pardon Power. “Some governors think, 'why should I do this? It won't benefit me politically and it might hurt me.' There's some very crass political calculating going on,” says Ruckman, “and people suffer because of it.”