Monday, August 29, 2005

Kentucky Governor Pardons Everyone Involved In Hiring Scandal

From the Associated Press (Via

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Gov. Ernie Fletcher on Monday granted blanket pardons to current and former members of his administration who have been charged in an investigation into alleged improper hiring.

The move came on the eve of Fletcher's appearance before a grand jury investigating his administration's hiring practices.

"I cannot allow state government to continue to be consumed by this game of political 'gotcha,' paralyzing our ability to serve you, the people of Kentucky," Fletcher said at the Capitol Rotunda.

Fletcher said he would appear before the grand jury but would not testify. The grand jury was impaneled in June and has charged nine current and former members of Fletcher's administration with misdemeanor violations of the state's personnel law for allegedly basing hirings on political considerations rather than merit.

Some of those charged are senior members of the administration, including deputy chief of staff Richard Murgatroyd and acting Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert. Fletcher said the senior managers provided "inadequate oversight" of younger people.

Also among the nine is a former Fletcher administration member who has been indicted on 22 felony counts of evidence or witness tampering.

Fletcher said anyone who violated the law could face penalties imposed by two administrative agencies that are also investigating.

Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo said in a statement that Fletcher has "slammed the door on the public's right to know what wrongs his administration has committed."

Fletcher, a Republican, repeated his accusation that Stumbo has been carrying out a political vendetta and compared most of the charges that have been brought to minor violations of fishing laws.

A spokesman said state government paid $1,200 for satellite time to beam the governor's remarks around the state.

Prosecutor Scott Crawford-Sutherland has said the grand jury's investigation will continue even if Fletcher issues pardons.

Fletcher's decision was criticized by Democratic state legislators, with Rep. Kathy Stein saying the pardons are grounds for the General Assembly to consider his impeachment.

"He is showing a broad disrespect for the criminal justice system that every other citizen in the commonwealth must live with," Stein said.

Mike Duncan, a Kentuckian and general counsel to the Republican National Committee, said Fletcher should be commended for the pardons.

"I think the governor made the right decision because we need to move the state forward," Duncan said.

Joe Gershtenson, director of the Center for Kentucky History and Politics at Eastern Kentucky University, said pardons could cut both ways with voters.

"Pardons are risky, absolutely," Gershtenson said. "They inevitably create at least some perception that there's some guilt. Why pardon if somebody isn't going to ultimately get convicted?"

I suppose this will be the new Republican strategy to avoid prosecution in criminal cases. Pardon the alleged wrongdoers right after the indictments and blame the case on "overzealous" investigators.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Plamegate case isn't headed into similar waters. Republicans have already been laying the groundwork for tarring special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as "overzealous" in his pursuit of the people involving with leaking covert CIA agent Valerie Plame's name to the press. Preznit Bush will be loathe to lose both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby if Fitzgerald comes down with conspiracy, perjury and/or obstruction indictments, so why not just issue blanket pardons to everyone involved? He can say (and Paul Begala suggested a similar strategy for Bush to offer Plamegate pardons at Huffingtonpost), "The government must operate at a time of war. Karl and Scooter are essential to the operations of this administration and as such I cannot let them be forced to defend themselves against an overzealous, partisan prosecutor."

Why not? If Bush pardons Libby and Rove, his poll numbers probably won't go much lower than they already are. Let's face it, there's about 33% of this country who think George W. Bush is the second coming of Jesus H. Christ and would be happy to crown him Caesar if Karl Rove so wanted. Those 33% won't care if Bush pardons Rove and Libby to avoid criminal prosecutions. I wouldn't be surprised if Bush pardons Jack Abramoff down the road too, and I would certianly expect him to issue pardons for Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, and Tom Delay if any of these republican party stalwarts are indicted or convicted in the Indian casino scandal.

And Tweety-Bird Matthews keeps telling us how the Republicans won the 2004 elections because of "values" and "morals".

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