Election seasons are an especially bad time for people seeking pardons for federal offenses. Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush did not pardon anyone during their campaigns for a second term.
And Obama, who hasn’t pardoned anyone since November 2011, has pardoned people at a lower rate than any of his recent predecessors, according to a report Friday by the non-profit investigative organization ProPublica. .
Obama has pardoned only about one of every 50 people “whose applications were processed by the Justice Department,” according to ProPublica’s Dafna Linzer.
At the same time in their presidencies, Reagan has pardoned one of every three applicants, Bush I had pardoned one in 16, Clinton had pardoned one in eight and Bush II had pardoned one in 33.
Pardons don’t wipe away convictions, but they restore full rights to vote, get business licenses and so forth. Commutations, on the other hand, mean early release from people serving federal prison sentences.
Obama has been leery of granting commutations as well. He has so far commuted the sentence of only one person, a woman with terminal leukemia, the report found.
Under Reagan and Clinton, people seeking commutations had a one in 100 chance. Under George W. Bush, that fell to about one in 1,000. But under Obama the odds fell to less than one in 5,000.
Unclear why Obama has declined to show at least as much mercy as his predecessors. It could be that the Justice Department,which sends its recommendations to the White House, doesn’t endorse many applications.
Or maybe he’s a bit leery of issuing pardons in the wake of the infamous Clinton pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.