Bush's top pardon prospects.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Nov. 20 2008 7:00 AM

I Beg Your Pardon

The top prospects for a last act of Bush clemency.

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Texas Border Patrol guards:good chance. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are serving sentences of 11 and 12 years, respectively, for the nonfatal shooting in the back of an unarmed Mexican drug runner in February 2005. A jury found that the two border patrolmen then tried to cover up the shooting. Their requests for pardons have won support from numerous Republican congressmen, including Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, who introduced the Congressional Pardon for Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean Act. Bush left open the possibility of pardons for both men during an interview with a Texas TV station.

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TEAM BUSH

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Scooter Libby: You betcha! Cheney's former chief of staff, who also served as assistant to the president, was convicted of perjury and of obstructing the FBI's investigation of the leak of former CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. In June 2007, he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a hefty fine. Bush commuted the prison time, but only a pardon will allow Libby to practice law again.

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James Tobin: good chance. Tobin was Bush's 2004 New England campaign chairman and raised more than $200,000 for the president's re-election bid. He was indicted in October for making false statements to the FBI in connection with the bureau's investigation of the plot to jam Democratic Party phones in New Hampshire in 2002. Tobin was convicted in 2005 for his actual role in that scheme, but that conviction was overturned on appeal in 2007. His fundraising prowess and the overturning of his earlier conviction—in connection with the same case—make him a good pardon candidate.

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Tom Noe: unlikely. Noe was a prominent Ohio Republican fundraiser for Bush-Cheney '04. He was sentenced to 27 months in a federal prison for illegally funneling money to the campaign. Two months later, he was also found guilty of theft, money laundering, forgery, and corrupt activity related to Ohio's rare-coin investment scandal. Noe might have a shot if his only offense were connected to campaign funding. But his Ohio crime was one of a number of nasty Republican scandals that badly damaged the party's standing in the 2006 midterm election.

CONGRESS

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Sen. Ted Stevens: possible. Now that the 85-year-old Alaska Republican, who was found guilty last month of corruption, has lost re-election, members of his party might push for a pardon for him—after all, he spent the last 40 * years in the Senate. Stevens seemed to dismiss the need for a pardon while the votes were being counted; late Tuesday, he was tight-lipped about the whether he would ask Bush for clemency.

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Bob Ney:no chance. The former Republican congressman from Ohio was sentenced to two and a half years in prison after he acknowledged taking bribes from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney was on the Abramoff-sponsored golfing trip to Scotland at the heart of the case against David Safavian, the former White House procurement officer who was also caught up in the scandal. A pardon of Ney could refocus public attention on cushy relationships between Republicans and lobbyists over the last eight years—relationships that a humbled GOP would rather forget.

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Randy Cunningham:no chance. The former Republican congressman from California pleaded guilty in 2005 to federal conspiracy charges to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion. He was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison and ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution for all the fancy gifts he racked up from lobbyists. "The Duke" has a pardon attorney, and a number of people have written to the Justice Department in support of clemency. But Cunningham's naked abuse of power tainted Republican rule and contributed to steep party losses in 2006.

Others convicted in the Cunningham scandal:

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Brent Wilkes:possible. Wilkes, a defense contractor, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in February for furnishing Cunningham with yachts, vacations, and other luxury items in exchange for lucrative contracts. Wilkes cooperated with federal investigators in the Cunningham case, and that could help him win a pardon.