SAVANNAH, Ga. - A Savannah auto dealer and his family donated money to the Republican National Committee and to President Bush's campaign before receiving a presidential pardon this week for falsifying a loan application.
Dale C. Critz Jr., the president of Buick-GMC-BMW-Mercedes-Benz dealership Critz Inc., was one of 16 people granted pardons Thursday by the president.
The auto dealer was convicted in 1989 of making false statements on a loan application. A U.S. District Court in Florida sentenced him to three years on probation.
Mr. Critz said he first filed his clemency application in 1998 in an effort to get his "mistake" behind him. When contacted Friday, he issued a prepared statement to the Savannah Morning News.
"In 1986, I was working as an entry-level salesman for a Florida automobile dealership group," he said. "I was 27 years old and made a mistake that I have regretted ever since. I cooperated fully with the FBI and U.S. attorney in 1989.
"I'm sorry that it happened. I am also very thankful that I have been officially forgiven for this."
A review of Federal Election Commission records shows Mr. Critz and his father have made several donations to the Bush campaign, the RNC and other Republican candidates. His father has been a political donor since at least the early 1990s - before the clemency application was filed.
On April 7, 2003, Mr. Critz donated $500 to the RNC. On June 23, 1999, his father, Dale C. Critz, donated $1,000 to the Bush-Cheney campaign. He also supported Mr. Bush's re-election campaign with a $2,000 donation on Sept. 30, 2003.
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Savannah Republican, and former Republican U.S. Rep. Max Burns also have received donations from the Critz family.
A presidential pardon amounts to federal forgiveness for one's crime, while a commutation cuts short an existing prison term. Since 1977, presidents have received about 600 pardon or clemency petitions a year, but only about 10 percent are successful. The U.S. Department of Justice is responsible for reviewing each clemency case and making recommendations to the president.
"Campaign donations are not in any way considered during the analysis," Justice Department spokeswoman Kathleen Blomquist said.
Telephone calls to Mr. Critz's attorney, John Hogan of Miami, were not returned Friday.
Six of the federal offenses involved in the 16 pardons and one commutation issued Thursday were for drug crimes, while others included bank fraud, mail fraud and the acceptance of a kickback.
Even after adding this week's pardons and one sentence commutation to his record, Mr. Bush remains one of the stingiest presidents in terms of federal forgiveness. He now has issued 113 pardons and commuted three sentences.
Since World War II, the largest number of pardons and commutations - 2,031 - came from Harry Truman, who served 82 days short of eight years. Other recent presidents issued hundreds each, although Mr. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, handed out only 77 pardons and commutations in his four years in office.
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