WASHINGTON — It wasn't just first family brothers and friends calling the White House seeking presidential pardons. Rock star Don Henley, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., veteran newscaster Walter Cronkite, Lady Bird Johnson, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford and a long line of lawmakers also were in there pitching.
Before Bill Clinton granted his 141 pardons and 36 sentence commutations, just hours before leaving office, the White House and Justice Department received calls and letters from a "Who's Who" of America's rich, famous and influential.
A member of the House Government Reform Committee, which is looking for evidence of pardons-for-dollars, called the White House seeking presidential clemency for a constituent. Committee co-chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., says he pushed for that pardon for financier Michael Milken, but it wasn't granted.
Members of the ex-presidents club lobbied for two pardons.
Carter, who called Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich "disgraceful," asked Clinton to offer clemency to Patty Hearst Shaw, who was kidnapped in the 1970s by the radical Symbionese Liberation Army, joined the group and helped rob a bank. Ford wrote in favor of former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., the one-time chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who served time for misusing public funds. Both received pardons.
Former White House counsel Beth Nolan said requests rolled in from everywhere.
Henley, a singer and songwriter, called Clinton's senior aide Bruce Lindsey to urge Clinton to reduce the sentence to time served for Thomas Waddell III, who had been sentenced for conducting an illegal gambling business. Clinton commuted the sentence.
"He (Henley) called my office a number of times, and I think I ultimately spoke to an assistant of his," Lindsey said. "He (Waddell) was a man who was involved in gambling in California and was now very active in . . . trying to help other people break out of that."
Schlesinger wrote a letter of support for Samuel Loring Morison, a former naval intelligence analyst found guilty of espionage and theft for leaking classified satellite photos to a magazine. Morison was pardoned.
Several foreign heads of state also weighed in on pardon applications, Nolan said.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak raised the Rich pardon with Clinton several times, according to presidential aides. And former Rep. John Brademas, D-Ind., called White House chief of staff John Podesta to pass along a message from King Juan Carlos of Spain. An Israeli official had asked the king to call the White House to support the Rich pardon, and Brademas passed the King's interest to Podesta.
Cronkite, President Lyndon Johnson's widow Lady Bird Johnson and former Johnson speechwriter Liz Carpenter all backed the successful pardon application of Ruben Johnson, an Austin banker (no relation to the Lyndon Johnson family) convicted of receiving kickbacks he says were actually developers' fees.
"He's known all these people for years," Ruben Johnson's lawyer, Denise Tomlinson, said. "They knew that he had an illegal sentence."
Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, who was found not guilty of taking illegal gifts, supported Clinton's decision to grant seven pardons and a commutation for others caught up in a $23 million investigation that accused Espy of being too cozy with the food industry he regulated.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and several lawmakers stood up for Mel Reynolds, a Chicago Democrat convicted of lying to obtain loans and of illegally diverting campaign money for personal use. Reynolds' sentence was commuted. And Jackson wrote letters in support of two former officials of his PUSH organization: Dorothy Rivers and John Bustamante.
Bustamante, a pillar in Cleveland's black community, pleaded guilty in 1993 to a federal charge of defrauding an insurance company. He was pardoned. Clinton's decision to commute the sentence of Rivers, who was convicted of tax evasion and stealing from a federally funded organization, drew ire from federal prosecutors in Chicago.
"We were never asked for any input. We were not aware that this was being considered," said Randy Samborn, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar in Chicago.
All these requests were joined by calls from the Clintons' siblings.
Sen. Clinton's brother, Hugh, received $434,000 for helping two pardon seekers. He said he would return the money. Her other brother, Tony, pushed for the pardons, granted a year ago, of a Tennessee couple, Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory.
But the adage: "It's not what you know, but who you know" doesn't always ring true.
Clinton's brother, Roger, got a pardon on his 1985 cocaine charge. But while he put in a good word for several other pardon applicants, they weren't granted