Clinton's pardon of Rich inexcusable

Published 2:02 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2001

U.S. Representative
The Rich Pardon
Many pundits predicted former President Bill Clinton would miss the bright lights and headlines he commanded when he was in office. 
However, the controversies over the past few weeks, everything from the cost of rent for his New York office, to missing White House furniture to the controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, might make even the former president wish for a few quiet days out of the spotlight.
To that end, President George W. Bush was right when he said last week it is "time to move on" beyond the storms of the past few days.   
It is clear the new president has many important items on his agenda and apparently Mr. Bush doesn't want the controversy surrounding the former president to detract from his plans for the future. 
Without question, the pardon of Mr. Rich appears to be the most troublesome aspect of Mr. Clinton's headaches these days.  
There's an old saying in south Alabama that if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.  
And thus far, Clinton loyalists have had a hard time putting any positive spin on the former president's decision to pardon Mr. Rich.  
Even the former president himself, who recently said the decision was his and his alone, was left searching for words in an attempt to defuse suggestions that the pardon was in return for numerous high dollar contributions made by Mr. Rich's former wife, Denise Rich.
Reportedly, Ms. Rich gave more than $1 million to the Democratic party, plus $450,000 to Mr. Clinton's presidential library fund and another $70,000 to a fund established for the campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.  
She also gave $10,000 to the former president's legal defense fund, as well as personal furniture to the Clintons worth $7,375.  
Both Ms. Rich and the former president have said there was no connection whatsoever between the donations and their support for her former husband's pardon.   
For the moment at least, the controversies have served if nothing else as a major distraction to the Democratic party as its leaders find themselves without control of the White House, the House and the Senate for the first time since 1952.  
Pardon Inexcusable
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Mr. Clinton's pardon of Mr. Rich is both inexcusable and indefensible.  
That said, barring a major development from one of the House and Senate committees that has been charged with looking into the Rich pardon, it appears little can be done to undo this wrong. 
For the past 17 years, Mr. Rich has pursued an expensive and exhausting effort to avoid going to federal prison.  
All this time, however, he has reportedly maintained a lifestyle fit for "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," living in luxurious homes in Switzerland and Spain.  
A wealthy commodities trader, Mr. Rich fled the United States in 1983 after being indicted on charges of cheating the government out of $48 million in taxes and trading with Iran while American hostages were held in Tehran.  
Mr. Rich, and his partner, Pincus Green, fled the country and never faced trial.  Mr. Rich took the added measure of renouncing his U.S. citizenship rather than face federal charges.  
Protocol Breached
One thing already learned from the Senate Judiciary Committee investigating the Rich pardon is that "none of the regular procedures were followed" in President Clinton's pardon of either Mr. Rich or Mr. Green, according to U.S. Pardon Attorney Roger C. Adams.   
Mr. Adams told the committee last week how his office was informed the pardon was under consideration after midnight on the morning of January 20, just a few hours before President Clinton's term would come to an end.  
In fact, it appears the pardon attorney's office was so unprepared for the request from the White House that a staffer had to conduct an Internet search to gather more information about the two fugitives.  Only then, it seems, did the pardon attorney recognize that Mr. Rich was a fugitive from justice.  
What next?
Committees in both the House and Senate have promised to conclude their investigations as soon as possible.  
Unfortunately, as Mr. Adams noted in his testimony to the Senate last week, "if the president decides not to follow the procedure which is every president's right if the president doesn't want input from my office; if he doesn't want involvement from the Justice Department, I can't force [it] down his throat."  
I'll do my best to keep you informed on the latest twist to the Rich pardons in future columns. Until then, take care and God Bless.

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