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Former President Bush granted last-minute pardon to contributor's son


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While former President Bill Clinton has come under fire over last-minute pardons linked to wealthy donors who contributed to the Democratic Party and to his presidential library, CNN has learned about a pardon granted by former President Bush to Edwin Cox Jr., whose family contributed nearly $200,000 to the Bush family's campaigns and to Republican campaign committees from 1980 to 2000, according to documents obtained by CNN.

Time magazine, which first reported the story on its Web site Tuesday evening, also reports that Cox's father, Texas oilman Edwin L. Cox Sr., contributed at least $100,000 to the George Bush Presidential Library near Austin, Texas.

Bush pardoned Cox on January 18, 1993, two days before leaving the White House. Cox, a former Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission chairman, pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 1988, served six months in prison and paid $250,000 in fines.

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CNN has obtained a copy of a memo sent by James Baker, then White House chief of staff, to C. Boyden Gray, then White House counsel, on November 24, 1992, concerning a pardon for Cox.

In the memo, Baker writes, "Former Texas Gov. Bill Clements called me and asked me whether or not the president would consider a pardon for Edwin Cox, son of Ed Cox, who is a longtime supporter of the president's."

Baker copied the president, and asked Gray to let him know "what, if anything" he could tell Clements.

Time magazine reports that while the Justice Department vetted the Cox pardon application, an official with the former Bush administration said it was rushed through at the last minute.

Time also reports that 11 months after the pardon was granted, Cox Sr. made a pledge to the Bush Presidential Library. Time reports Cox's name is etched in gold on the exterior of the library as a "benefactor," with benefactors contributing between $100,000 and $250,000 -- the exact size of Cox's donation to the library is unknown because the Bush library has declined to release the amount each of its benefactors has contributed.

Cox Sr. is a trustee of the Bush Presidential Library.

CNN has learned that members of the Cox family contributed $8,500 to the former president's presidential campaigns, $31,500 to George W. Bush's gubernatorial and presidential campaigns and $153,500 to Republican campaign committees. The total amount contributed could be more since soft money did not have to be reported before 1991.

According to the Time article, a woman who identified herself as an assistant to Cox said that Cox's contribution to the Bush presidential library was not at all related to the pardon. She said Cox gave because "President Bush is a longtime friend."

Gray told Time that he could not recall the case or Baker's note, but said Baker's mention of Cox being a "longtime supporter" would not have affected the president's decision.

"It was boilerplate to put it in," Gray told TIME.

Gray told Time that he did not see any problem with Cox's contribution to the library because it was made after the pardon. Time also reports that no one politically linked to Bush is known to have been paid to pursue the Cox clemency.

In the case of Marc Rich, the fugitive financier that Clinton pardoned on his last day in office, Rich's ex-wife contributed $450,000 to the Clinton library before the former president pardoned her husband.

"What's semi-toxic for Clinton was raising money for the library while he was still in office and letting people know, by the way, we're open for pardons, too," Gray told Time. "We never solicited Mr. Cox's application."

Another difference between the Cox and Rich cases is that while Rich fled the country and was never prosecuted for the crimes of which he was accused, Cox admitted making false statements about collateral to back his loans, and served time in prison and paid fines for his crimes.

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