The Political Roots of Executive Clemency
American Politics Research, Vol. 34, No. 6, pp. 825-846
Posted: 25 May 2007 Last revised: 20 Jan 2015
Date Written: 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 five broad ways that federal pardons may be systematically influenced by the policy agendas present in a separated powers system. We model the aggregate dispensation of clemency appeals (requests for pardons) using Prais-Winsten regression and find that the probability of denials for executive clemency reflects the president's own agenda and ideological position, Congressional attention to criminal justice issues, and the homicide rate. In sum, both policy signals and the political processes they signify permeate the presidential pardons process.
Keywords: Presidency, executive branch, pardons, clemency, executive privilege, criminal justice, separated powers, policy signals, policy agendas
JEL Classification: H11, K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation