White criminals seeking presidential pardons are nearly four times as likely to succeed as people of color, a ProPublica examination has found.
Mitt Romney has boasted about granting no pardons as Massachusetts governor from 2003-07, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry has pardoned 178 people in his nearly 11 years in office.
In 1974, President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon before he could be prosecuted in the Watergate scandal shocked the country. It also tested a friendship of some 25 years when Jerald terHorst, Ford’s press secretary and biographer, resigned in protest.
ProPublica found that whites are almost four times as likely as minorities to be pardoned. To break the pattern of bias, experts say, would require reconsidering the subjective factors used to judge applicants.
Records obtained by ProPublica show that members of Congress weighed in on a wide variety of pardon applications, but having powerful friends was by no means a guarantee of success.
Letters from members of Congress triple a criminal's chances of receiving a presidential pardon. Roger Adams, longtime pardon attorney at the Justice Department, acknowledges that lawmakers' support adds "weight" to applicants' prospects.
To avoid repeating a scandal like his predecessor’s, George W. Bush gave career lawyers in the Justice Department far-reaching authority to choose who got presidential pardons. The result: Whites are nearly four times as likely as minorities to win a pardon, even when the type of crime and severity of sentence are taken into account.