Monday, March 4, 2013

Daily Caller: Obama-Invited Criticism

Clemency scholars have long noted that, when presidents exercise clemency rarely, and irregularly, they invite higher levels of scrutiny. The Obama administration has been a model of rare and irregular clemency. In over four years, over 8,000 new clemency applications have come in. The output? A measly 39 pardons and a single commutation of sentence, all granted on four separate days. This record cries out, indeed, BEGS for scrutiny! Why these 40, among so many thousands? And, of course, it doesn't take a lot of time to investigate so little action, and it takes oh so little imagination to find room for complaint.

If there are no complaints about clemency recipients, there will be complaints about the nature of their offenses. If there are no complaints about clemency recipients or the nature of their offenses, there will be complaints about the timing of clemency grants. If there are no complaints about clemency recipients, the nature of their offenses, or the timing of clemency grants  ... then someone will focus on those who supported clemency applications, or the lawyers who may have assisted applicants ... or who they are related to, or who they "know." Sparse clemency activity invites this kind of scrutiny.

Now comes the Daily Caller, noting:
President Barack Obama pardoned two convicts represented by a prominent Chicago-area lawyer who contributed to Obama’s presidential and Senate campaigns and crossed paths with him during his early political career, records reveal. 
More specifically, it is observed that:
J. Steven Beckett, the Urbana, Illinois-based attorney who represents Kozeliski and Ragee, contributed $1,000 to Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign and $1,000 to Obama’s first presidential campaign. Beckett has also contributed to Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. 
As it happens, the applications for Kozeliski and Ragee were filed back when Bush was president, but, no matter. That's the way these stories fly. The Daily Caller might have just as well noted that, among the population of Obama's clemency warrants, Illinois is the state most represented. Or, it could have noted that the only commutation of sentence that has been granted (from over 6,700 applications - new and old) has been given an applicant from Illinois, and the application was supported by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. The average clemency grant in the Obama administration has featured an application filed 4.6 years ago. But the fastest application took only 1.4 years to process. And it was from - you guessed it - Illinois.

The point being this: the problem is not Prof. Beckett. He is a lawyer. He helped well deserving applicants file an application. That is where it should end, for any rational observer. The real problem is the Obama administration or, more specifically, the DOJ and the OPA. As long as pardons are as common as bull's eye lightening strikes, the criticism - right or wrong - will rain from the sky. See story here.

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