The Political Roots of Executive Clemency
Andrew B. Whitford
University of Georgia - Department of Public Administration and Policy
Holona LeAnne Ochs
Howard University; University of Kansas - Department of Political Science
American Politics Research, Vol. 34, No. 6, pp. 825-846, 2006
It is a widespread conventional wisdom that presidential pardons - the only way for offenders to remove or eliminate all disabilities that arise from a federal or military offense - are political. We move beyond this belief and assess the relative contribution of the president's own policy agenda, other policy agendas present in the separated powers system, and external social conditions on the president's dispensation of federal pardons. We estimate a time series model of the president's aggregate dispensation of clemency appeals (requests for pardons) and find that the probability of denials for executive clemency reflects the president's own agenda and ideological position. We show that evidence appearing to support direct effects of Congressional attention to criminal justice issues and the homicide rate is spurious. In sum, while the president dispenses pardons as part of a system of separated powers, how he exercises this unilateral power depends mostly on his own policy positions.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 42
Keywords: Clemency, president, unilateral power, Constitution
JEL Classification: H11, K10Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 13, 2006
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