On his way out the door, disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued some pardons and clemencies for prisoners in the state. This is pretty standard for chief executives as one of their final acts in power, whether they’re run out of office by scandal, voters, or term limits. And it’s something that needs to end.
Bill Clinton was the first known example of monetizing this effort, collecting a bunch of money to fund his presidential library by selling pardons, most notably to tax cheat and felon on the run Marc Rich.
But corruption aside, the idea of lame duck politicians letting anyone out of prison is a monumentally bad idea.
No matter which side of the political aisle you’re on, you can list examples of people who’ve received either a pardon or clemency by a President or a Governor in the final days of their administration who would not have gotten such treatment had there been the opportunity for accountability for the person granting it. Do you really think Barack Obama would have let the traitor Bradley Manning out of prison if he had to face voters again? Would he have freed unrepentant terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera if he or his fellow Democrats had to face voters in the immediate aftermath of it?
The answers are obviously no. And I’m sure liberals could say the same things about Republican pardons.
Pervert Andrew Cuomo, on his way out the door, fired off a bunch of get out of jail free cards too. Being forced to resign in disgrace didn’t strip the then Governor of his power to grant favors to friends and supporters, but it should have.
One of the people put on track to get out of prison is the father of awful District Attorney in San Francisco, Chesa Boudin. If you want to know why the streets of San Francisco are covered in homeless junkie, spent needles, and human waste, look no further than Boudin. Crime is no longer a crime, not because the laws were changed, but because Boudin won’t prosecute the criminals, no matter how red-handed they are caught.
Boudin’s parents are a couple of left-wing terrorists who were involved in a robbery in which 2 police officers and a security guard were murdered back in 1981. Neither pulled the trigger, but both were neck-deep in the crime. His mother did her time, then was, as is usually the case for progressive terrorists, became a professor at a major university, in this case Columbia. His dad continued to rot in prison because he was the get-a-way driver as the murder took place. Andy Cuomo set him up for release form prison because liberals take care of their own.
Cuomo, who had plans to run for reelection next year, hadn’t done anything to free Boudin’s father or any of the other criminals he set free when he thought he’d have to face voters again. He knew it would be used against him, and many of the victims of the people he was letting out still have family in the state. But once he wasn’t going to be held accountable, he let his pen fly.
The pardon and clemency power of executives is absolute, and it should be. But it should come with limits on time. A Constitutional Amendment should be passed, both federally and in states, to pause the power starting 6 weeks before an election and keep it suspended until a successor is sworn in if the incumbent loses, or restored immediately if they are reelected. This would give voters a chance to weigh in on those pardons, either by hold the incumbent accountable or their fellow party member looking to succeed them.
The amendments should also grant legislatures the power to overturn pardons and clemencies by super-majority vote should the executive granting them resign or be removed from office, if those pardons or clemencies are granted within a 6-week window of them leaving office.
There is currently no accountability for corrupt favors being granted to friends, donors, or families of supporters. It wouldn’t strip the pardon power from anyone, it would frame it in a way that comes with consequences and safeguards. Our Founding Fathers likely didn’t imagine a corrupt politician granting favors or selling their power on their way out the door, so we need to step up and take care of it.