Finneran Loses Bid for Presidential Pardon

In my previous post, I commented on former Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran’s lobbying efforts to secure a last-minute presidential pardon for his guilty plea two years ago to federal obstruction of justice charges. On his way out of the White House door yesterday, former President George W. Bush declined to grant Finneran that presidential pardon. Bush gave no reason for his inaction. Some legal and political observers were surprised, given the lobbying connections Finneran recruited in this effort, notably four former Massachusetts Governors, including former governor Paul Cellucci, who has close ties to the Bush family. In their joint letter to Bush, the four former governors wrote that Finneran has been punished enough, and that he has “suffered daily taunts and ridicule from those who feel every elected official is a “common thief.”

Whether our former governors wished to acknowledge it or not, those “daily taunts” come from none other than Finneran’s own colleague at radio talk show station WRKO-AM 680, Howie Carr. Carr is a well-known critic of State House operations and politicians in general, but many observers, including myself, think that Carr’s unrelenting broadcast and published criticism of Finneran may be a ratings ploy to generate more attention and listenership to the station. Regardless, Finneran now looks even worse than he did before this pardon effort. In a piece the Boston Globe was preparing on this story, Finneran reportedly did not return calls from the Globe seeking a comment.

I’m not surprised that Bush declined to grant the petition. Leaving the Oval Office with one of the lowest approval ratings of any President in modern U.S. history, the last thing Bush needed was more criticism in granting a pardon to someone who hadn’t even met the five-year post-conviction waiting requirement, before being eligible to apply for a presidential pardon. As I reported previously, next on Finneran’s to-do list is getting his license to practice law reinstated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Finneran had a hearing on Monday January 20 2009 before the Board of Bar Overseers, the state agency that regulates the legal profession in Massachusetts. Meeting behind closed doors, the Board heard competing arguments on its own previous recommendation that Finneran’s license to practice be suspended for two years. That suspension began in January 2007. Opposing the Board’s two year suspension recommendation is the agency’s own Bar Counsel: That person has recommended complete disbarment.

The decision is expected to be issued next month, in February. I suspect that the Board will veer away from disbarring Finneran. My sense at the moment is that most members would consider that action too harsh, but Beacon Hill is no stranger to seeing strange things happen. We’ll have to wait and see.