In Presidential Pardons, It Helps to Have the Right Pals

It also helps to be white: ProPublica
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 6, 2011 7:17 PM CST
Whites are far more likely to get a presidential pardon than blacks: ProPublica.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – ProPublica has wrapped up a two-part investigation into the very subjective world of presidential pardons, and one thing is not so subjective anymore: If you are white and happen to know someone in Congress, your chances of getting a pardon just went way up:

  • Minority odds: Part one of the investigation rests on a central fact: White people have been four times as likely as minorities over the past decade to land a pardon. Blacks fare the worst of any minority. "I'm just astounded by those numbers," says the official who led the Justice Department's pardons office from 1998 to 2008. Read the full piece here.

  • Who you know: Part two finds that nearly 200 members of Congress have personally written on behalf of a pardon-seeker since 2000. And while that doesn't guarantee success, it clearly makes a difference: Those with a lawmaker's support were three times as likely to succeed. A Justice Department spokesman says congressional influence plays no role in the process, but the former department honcho quoted in part one notes, “If the official does know the person, it gives it some weight.” Read the full piece here. Or read about a specific intervention by Michele Bachmann and Norm Coleman here.

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