The other night I covered the pardon problems of Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty. Now a new GOP pardon problem comes to life. This one doesn’t involve a presidential candidate, but rather a former President and aTea Party darling:
Though it’s typically pardon-empowered governors who must fret about their felons in the closet, legislators can also have some cause for worry. Case in point: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who might need to explain her support for a pardon for a donor named Frank Vennes.
Vennes was convicted in 1988 on money-laundering charges, and pleaded no-contest to illegally selling a gun and aiding in a cocaine sale. He claimed he discovered religion while in prison, and went on to become a well-known donor – in fact, he was a top giver to Bachmann’s 2006 congressional campaign.
She reportedly wrote in a pardon letter to then-President George W. Bush in 2007, “Mr. Vennes is truly a unique man in that he is not asking for a pardon that he may achieve personal success. By the grace of God, this has been done. Mr. Vennes is seeking a pardon so that he may be further used to help others.”
Well, that depends on the meaning of helping others—in 2008, the feds raided Vennes’ home as part of a probe into a massive Ponzi scheme.
Vennes was indicted a few weeks ago. Bachmann also wrote another letter saying she acted to “hastily”.
Luckily Vennes is a white-collar criminal. Could you imagine if he was a murderer or rapist? I’m sure that wouldn’t have mattered to Bachmann, as the almighty dollar outweighs anyones safety.
Bachmann’s case also highlights a serious problem in our system of justice. It shows that money does buy you freedom. If this were some poor guy, who got busted years ago for drug use and did his time, he would never be granted the same attention as someone who sits there and donates big money to a politician. Talk about whoring out the power of your office. It’s just another great case for publicly financed campaigns and getting rid of donations.
One thing that does amaze me when talking about these stories is hearing the right fall back to the “well Democrats do it too” defense. It’s something we hear time and time again, and they are right. But what they are forgetting is that the Democrats who were to quick to parole have been highly scrutinized by the media and even Congress. Look at Bill Clinton. Almost every pardon he issued was the topic of some congressional investigation. And it was going on before Clinton. Remember Michael Dukakis? He was another Democrat who got raked through the public coals on leniency.
So I’m not saying let’s focus solely on the GOP pardon problem. What I’m saying is that it should be given the same amount of scrutiny as Democrats have received. No sticking fingers in the ear and going “nah nah, I can’t hear you”. It’s time for Republicans to own up and be responsible for their past decisions – no matter how bad they were.