Opinion

Unfair to Democratic crooks?

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(MSU journalism professor Eric Freedman has been reporting on government and politics since 1976. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting in 1994 as a statehouse reporter for the Detroit News.)

President Donald Trump’s lame-duck pardons have drawn righteous wrath — corrupt politicians, war criminals, nefarious political operatives and personal friends whose convictions were erased or prison sentences eased because of their close ties with the outgoing president.

In Michigan, former U.S. Rep. Mark Siljander, a Republican, is no longer a certified ex-felon.

That’s thanks to his pardon for obstructing justice and serving as a foreign agent for an Islamic charity that hired him to lobby Congress to be removed from a list of organizations that allegedly supported terrorism.
He pleaded guilty to those crimes and in 2012 received a one-year federal prison term.

Siljander initially won the Southwest Michigan seat in 1981 to finish the term of fellow Republican David Stockman, who stepped down to become President Ronald Reagan’s budget director. He then won reelection twice before his 1986 primary defeat.

He is one of four corrupt GOP former members of Congress to receive lame-duck pardons. The others are from Texas, New York and California.
Trump has given a free pass to other Republican politicos, including pardons to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio (contempt of court) in 2017 and, most recently, Utah state Rep. Philip Lyman (trespassing on federal land) and former Florida county commissioner Mary McCarty (honest services fraud).

One high-profile Democrat also received a big break: Last February, Trump commuted the 14-year sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (wire fraud, conspiracy, false statements and corrupt solicitation of funds.

But what about Michigan’s corrupt Democratic politicians? We have plenty of contenders. Don’t they also deserve to benefit during the irrationality of the president’s pardon pandemic?

If so, disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick should be at the top of the list. His lengthy corruption spree and the high price tag to Detroit and Michigan taxpayers for his wrongdoing rival that of several of Trump’s pardoned corporate criminals.
Kilpatrick is doing his time at Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution in Louisiana and is scheduled for release on January 18, 2037, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Shouldn’t Monica Conyers, the former Detroit City Council member who received a 37-month prison sentence for accepting a bribe, be on the official forgiveness register?

How about Diane Hathaway, the Democratic state Supreme Court justice sentenced to a year and a day in the clink for bank fraud?

Or former state Sen. Bert Johnson of Detroit, who got 90 days for conspiracy to commit theft?

Or former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and is awaiting sentencing.

If the president is awarding presumptive pardons for those not yet convicted, he could keep such indicted Democratic officials as Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars (bribery and wire fraud) on the priority list.

And if Trump could posthumously pardon suffrage advocate Susan B. Anthony, convicted of illegal voting — he’d call it election fraud today, wouldn’t he? — couldn’t he do the same for the late U.S. Rep. Charles Diggs Jr. of Detroit, who received a three-year sentence for mail fraud?

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