- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

President Bill Clinton granted Marcos Arcenio Fernandez one of 396 pardons doled out during his eight-year tenure — but Mr. Fernandez said his gratitude doesn’t extend to Hillary Clinton.

In fact, the 73-year-old Floridian is not only voting for Donald Trump, he donated $80 to the GOP nominee’s presidential campaign.

“The way things are going now, I’m 100 percent with Bill but not with Hillary,” Mr. Fernandez, who was pardoned for smuggling a boatload of marijuana into the U.S., told The Washington Times. “I don’t like her attitude, and I don’t like, you know, the things that go on around her.”

Many of Mr. Clinton’s pardons were controversial at the time, with even fellow Democrats saying they appeared to be political payback for friends and allies.

But aside from a few high-profile exceptions, those who were granted clemency do not seem to owe much allegiance to the family, at least when it comes to their wallets.

Most of the pardoned have avoided political donations altogether, according to Federal Election Commission records. And of those that have given, many were active only in down-ballot elections, donating to Republicans and Democrats running for Congress but skipping the presidential race.

One man whose mail fraud conviction was pardoned by Mr. Clinton even donated $1,000 to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s run for Congress in 1999, according to Federal Election Commission records.

At the presidential level, however, those that did give were just as likely to pony up for Mr. Trump or Sen. Bernard Sanders, Mrs. Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic primary, than for the former first lady.

That was the case for Robert H. Wendt, a lawyer in St. Louis who contributed $700 to the Sanders campaign, even though he acknowledged Mrs. Clinton pleaded his case for a pardon of his conviction for conspiracy to aid in an escape from a federal prison.

“I know that Hillary Clinton was instrumental in her husband’s decision [to grant the pardon]. Because of this great personal debt and my deep belief in loyalty, it may seem both curious and disloyal that I urge my fellow citizens to get behind Bernie Sanders,” he wrote in an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in March. “I do so because of my deep belief that Sen. Sanders is leading a political revolution that has the only real chance of restoring democracy to America.”

Mr. Wendt told The Times that he is reluctantly getting behind Mrs. Clinton now that she is the Democratic presidential nomination, mostly because he opposes Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“I have all the same concerns,” he said of Mrs. Clinton. “But I think the guy who is the opposition is mentally unfit. I think he is a dangerous man.”

Although Mr. Wendt has not yet donated to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, he said he would probably make a “small contribution” closer to the end of the race.

Among Mr. Clinton’s pardons was a reprieve for his secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Henry Cisneros, who had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of lying to the FBI.

Mr. Cisneros has been a major Democratic donor, and his $2,700 contribution to Mrs. Clinton last year isn’t a surprise. He also donated to her successful 2000 and 2006 Senate campaigns.

Mr. Clinton also pardoned former Arizona Gov. John Fife Symington III, a Republican who, despite the benevolence from the Clintons, has remained a prominent GOP donor, including a $5,000 donation to a political action committee supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in this year’s primary.

P.S. Ruckman Jr., a political scientist who runs the blog PardonPower.com, said for major political figures, it’s not surprising a pardon would change their political stripes.

But for those who aren’t steeped in politics, he said, it is surprising that the ultimate constituent service — a presidential pardon — didn’t engender more loyalty.

“Here are these people, they received really an extraordinary act from a president these days, and yet it didn’t seem to sway them or change them,” he said.

Mr. Ruckman said there’s a long history of the pardoned turning their backs on those who pardoned them — dating back to Thomas Jefferson.

James Callender, a political journalist who had been jailed under the Alien and Sedition Acts, received a pardon from Jefferson. But Callender then demanded Jefferson appoint him to be postmaster in Richmond. When Jefferson refused, Callender began a series of articles alleging that Jefferson fathered children with one of his slaves, Sally Hemmings.

“So there’s your first known ingrate,” Mr. Ruckman said.

Among those recipients of Clinton pardons who gave to Mr. Trump this year is a man convicted of making plates to counterfeit money. There are also several drug offenders.

One of those, Mr. Fernandez, who as a teenager fled with his family from Cuba after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, said he doesn’t trust Mrs. Clinton to protect his Social Security income or combat illegal immigration that he said is “ruining this country.”

“Immigration is bringing lots of things into this country [like] crime. Somebody’s got to pay for it. You’re going to pay for it. I’m going to pay for it, whether it is with money or it is with suffering,” said Mr. Fernandez.

“The other side is the other way around. They want to bring more people in,” he said. “They don’t even know who they are.”

Mr. Fernandez, who served in the Marine Corps and said that he was stationed at Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis, expressed regret about his criminal past. He said he hasn’t had a brush with the law since receiving the pardon.

“I’m sorry I did what I did,” he said. “I worked all of my life. I never got a penny out of the government.”

The Sanders donors included a man convicted of civil disobedience for a Vietnam War protest who fled and went into hiding using a false name.

The Clinton donors, meanwhile, included George T. Brabham, who was pardoned for a conviction of making a false statement or report to a federally insured bank. He pitched in a total of $100 to Mrs. Clinton’s effort, according to FEC records. He did not return messages left at the insurance business he owns in Austin, Texas.

Alfredo Regalado, who owns a bail bonds business in Edinburg, Texas, didn’t return messages inquiring about his $1,700 contribution to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He was pardoned after being convicted of failing to report the transportation of more than $10,000 in currency into the United States.

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