They beg his pardon

THEY BEG HIS PARDON…. This ought to be interesting.

With a backlog of applications piled up at the Justice Department, high-profile criminals and their well-connected lawyers increasingly are appealing directly to President Bush for special consideration on pardons and clemency, according to people involved in the process.

Among those seeking presidential action are former junk-bond salesman Michael Milken, who hired former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, one of the nation’s most prominent GOP lawyers, to plead his case for a pardon on 1980s-era securities fraud charges. Two politicians convicted of public corruption, former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) and four-term Louisiana governor Edwin W. Edwards (D), are asking Bush to shorten their prison terms.

It remains to be seen how Bush will respond to these requests as his term ends. The president has used his broad pardon powers rarely during seven years in office, granting 157 pardons out of 2,064 petitions, and only six of 7,707 requests for commutations, according to an analysis by former Justice Department lawyer Margaret C. Love.

Aggressive appeals for clemency at the end of an administration are not unusual, but they can raise concerns about influence peddling and fairness, particularly if the president and his legal advisers are not fully transparent, pardon scholars say.

Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball recently noted how “stingy” Bush has been on pardons, and highlighted how “tricky” it will be for the president to consider applications regarding members of his own administration — including Scooter Libby and CIA officers who used Bush-approved “enhanced interrogation” techniques.

ProPublica’s Dafna Linzer had a good item the other about what to look out for, breaking down convicts by category and rating the likelihood of presidential clemency on a scale of zero to four “Get of Jail Free” cards. Using Linzer’s guide, pay careful attention in the coming weeks to the fate of Texas Border Patrol guards Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, Libby, New England phone-jammer James Tobin, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, and Sen. Ted Stevens.

If Bush family history is any guide, pay particular attention to the president’s activities on Christmas Eve.