Monday, December 28, 2015

Chronicle on Downey Pardon: Embarrassing

The San Francisco Chronicle notes Gov. Brown "has been more generous with pardons than former governors," which is true. And the Chronicle can "generally applaud him" for that. But, says the Chronicle, his recent pardon of Robert Downey, Jr. "raised a number of eyebrows around the state, and for understandable reasons." Why?

Because Downey's offense was so recent? Nonsense. It was a 1996 conviction. Because Downey has not lead a respectful, law-abiding life after serving his sentence? Nope. Because Downey has not exhibited signs of remorse and rehabilitation? Nope. Because Downey did not get the sentence he deserved? Nope.

No, the Chronicle (speaking for others?) says Downey is a "star" (!!!) and:
... was the world’s best-paid actor this year ($80 million according to Forbes magazine). So it’s easy to imagine that Downey’s recent pre-pardon contributions to Gov. Brown — $5,000 to Brown’s re-election campaign and a $50,401 donation to the Oakland School for the Arts, a charter school that Brown helped found in 2000 — are a drop in his bucket from his perspective. They still look bad ... it was unseemly for Downey to offer generous political contributions to the governor, and it was unseemly for the governor to accept them. If pardons are granted solely on the basis of exemplary behavior, then the behavior of everyone involved needs to look exemplary.
We are not sure how the percentage of Downey's total wealth that is given to charity is related to the price of tea in China but, in our view, the only thing that looks bad is the San Francisco Chronicle. We think it is a good thing - indeed, a fantastic thing - that a former convict earns a degree of wealth after serving his sentence and then has the wherewithal to give back a little. Further, demagoguery re "rich" people is not very exemplary - excepting some legal criticism of the pardon, which the Chronicle does not offer. Should political contributions (aka First Amendment activity) disqualify someone from clemency? No, not at all. The burden should be a little heavier for eyebrow raising critics because - as we all know - there will always be critics.

If the Chronicle - or the mysterious eyebrow raisers it represents - thinks Downey is undeserving, it should explicitly say so, and meticulously make its case. Otherwise, the interest in Downey's wealth, charitable contributions and First Amendment activity is nothing more than prurient and embarrassing. See the Chronicle's clumsy analysis here.


beth curtis said...

Bravo - this is why I love you.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

Right back atcha, Curtis! :-)

the Editor

Anonymous said...

Actually you are incorrect. The money the Downy gave to the governor and state can be considered a bribe. Hence why the pardon must be taken as suspect.

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

Yes, of course. Anyone can consider anything. Absent some serious argument the pardon was not deserved, the consideration is frivolous nonsense.

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