After Michigan Governor Rick Snyder reorganized the state’s parole board, he told its new members he had an interest in granting pardons to prevent a criminal conviction from being an economic barrier to applicants. Then, in March 2015 he granted a rare pardon to a politically connected lawyer convicted on drunk driving.
When questioned about the pardon, Snyder said he had no political or financial ties to attorney Alan Gocha, Jr. “He never contributed to my campaign, nor had any financial connection at all”, said Snyder, who also pointed out that he just following the Michigan Parole Board’s recommendation.
What Snyder failed to mention is that the 10 parole board members were installed by him in 2011 after he dismissed the previous 15 members in a reorganization. Six of the dismissed board members subsequently sued. They won a judgment awarding their salary until their contracts expired, but that judgment was vacated on appeal.
Michigan Department of Correction spokesman Russ Marlan told the Michigan Information and Service that Snyder told the current parole board members of his interest in pardoning applicants “Where the (criminal) conviction was a significant barrier to advancing economically, something that was preventing them from securing employment or may cause the loss of their employment.”
Everybody, people convicted of crimes are denied employment due to their criminal record. Gocha said his 2007 DUI conviction was a “black cloud” that limited international travel and interfered with negotiations with Wall Street bankers.
In his application for a pardon, Gocha listed his church, a law school speech, and board membership at the State Chamber of Commerce as charitable or civic activities. He omitted that Snyder appointed him to the 2011 Talent Investment Board, nor did he say that he gave $26,500 to the Chamber’s political action committee from 2011 to 2013.
Neither Snyder or Gocha elaborated on ETC Capital, a private equity firm backed by 5-Hour Energy’s billionare founder Manuj Bhargava, who employs Gocha for $250,000 annually, donating $2.5 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) The day that donation was made, RGA paid $3.2 million for ads to back Snyder’s re-election.
“I’ve met [Gocha] several times”, said Snyder. “I didn’t meet with him about this (pardon)”. Despite denying connections or influence was a factor, the fact remains that Gocha is only 1 of 11 pardons granted out of about 750 applications filed since Snyder took office.
Sources: Detroit Free Press, Associated Press
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