Monday, November 24, 2008

The President: Bush By the Numbers

To date, Bush has used the clemency power 179 times (171 pardons and 8 commutations of sentence). The term is not yet over, but some cannot resist noting how stingy Bush has been with pardons in comparison with previous presidents. Here is the information you are guaranteed not to find elsewhere: Presidents who have exercised the pardon power less than Bush include George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, William H. Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, James Garfield and George H.W. Bush.

In the first term, Bush (like most presidents before him) granted the highest number of pardons and commutations (20) in the fourth and last year.

In Bush's second term, the most active year to date is the second year, with 44 pardons and 1 commutation of sentence. For Bush to grant the highest number of pardons and commutations in the fourth year of the second term, we would have to see at least 13 additional acts of clemency. With the month of December still ahead, it seems reasonable to expect Bush will top the mark set in the second year of the term.

Even with this last round of pardons, December remains Bush's most prolific month for pardons and commutations (see updated chart here).

The geographic trends we noted in a previous post have become more stark. Three more pardons have been granted from the State of Texas, extending its lead over every other state (at 20 pardons). Florida remains in second (with 14). Georgia picks up one, but remains in third (with 11). In contrast, only 9 pardons have come from California and only 1 has come from the State of New York.

Finally, we cannot help but note that one of the commutations that Bush granted today went to John Forte, who has been on our Pardon Watch List for some time now. We recently noted that the Grammy-winning African American recording artist, who maintained his innocence in the face of a drug trafficking charge, was smacked with a mandatory sentence of 14 years. His clemency application was supported by singer/songwriter Carly Simon.

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