Monday, March 9, 2009

Wyoming: Pending Request

Ruffin Prevost of the The Gazette Wyoming Bureau has written a great piece highlighting the clemency application of 72-year old Charles C. Rumsey, who plead guilty to one federal felony count of wire fraud and aiding and abetting in March of 1997. Rumsey says the conviction was the result of the fact that he unwittingly bought some cheap - but fraudulent - airline tickets. The punishment was a mere $4,000 fine and probation. But, of course, Rumsey was also branded a convicted felon - for what he sees as "a very minor offense" - and stripped of his right to own a gun for hunting. Along the way, the article notes:
P.S. Ruckman, a pardon expert and professor of political science at Rock Valley College in Illinois, said that many of those who seek presidential pardons do so because they want to be able to own a gun and hunt ... Seeking restoration of civil rights through presidential pardons has become more common over the past 60 years, Ruckman said, adding that the pardon power was previously used more to commute sentences.

... After Harry Truman granted a handful of pardons to individuals who had not applied for them, Dwight Eisenhower took up the issue, pledging greater transparency, Ruckman said, but the process remains cloaked in secrecy. Modern presidents have delegated the process to deputy attorneys general and have typically issued pardons near the end of their terms, offering no explanations or justifications, he said. “The process was more transparent in the early 1900s than it is right now. Back then, the annual report of the attorney general listed every person pardoned … and had remarks from the attorney general or president explaining the reason why,” he said.
Prevost says Rumsey’s grandfather was "a well-known sculptor from a wealthy and politically connected family." But the article also notes that, while the media tend to focus on the clemency applications of wealthy and powerful individuals, the typical applicant (and recipient) is neither.

Taking it a step further, the article notes that it is difficult to trace clemency decisions to political donations because - among other reasons - "up in the big-money areas" political donations cross party isles. Prevost writes, "Public documents available from the Federal Election Commission show that Rumsey made $10,700 in political contributions over the past four years, split about evenly between Democratic and Republican candidates and groups."

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