NEW YORK – Marc Rich got one. Why shouldn’t you?
Now you can have your own personalized pardon from former President Bill Clinton. And it will only cost you $6.95 on the auction and trading Web site eBay. That's a bargain when compared to the many millions of dollars Rich spread around in his lobbying effort to secure his presidential absolution.
Gary Carlson, 56, of West Chester County, N.Y., said he’s sold about 500 of the bogus pardons on eBay, which are printed on official-looking paper with the recipient’s name typed in bold letters across the top. They are signed by "William Bubba Clinton."
"People seem to be really happy with these," he said. "They get all excited. I did this as kind of a joke, but people get into this [to make] a political statement."
Carlson said he borrowed from the text of the real pardons Clinton granted — and was sharply criticized for — as he left office.
"Now, Therefore, I, William Bubba Clinton, President of the United States … do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto (fill in name) for all offenses against the United States which he, (name), has committed…" the phony pardons read.
One of the most controversial of the real pardons handed out in January was to Marc Rich, the fugitive financier living in Switzerland and indicted in New York in 1983 on federal charges of fraud, tax evasion and participation in illegal oil deals with Iran. He was listed as an international fugitive wanted by the Justice Department when Clinton absolved him of the crimes just before he stepped down from the presidency.
Rich’s pardon sparked a widespread and ongoing investigation — and provided late-night comedians and Clinton bashers with fresh fodder.
Carlson said many of the online buyers have purchased his fake pardons as gag gifts. The highest bid so far has been about $18, he said.
"I had one woman who used it as a greeting card to keep in touch with her relatives," he said, adding that a police captain, a handful of judges and several politicians have been among the buyers and recipients.
A Chicago-area native and self-proclaimed Clinton fan said she bought seven of the pardons for friends and customers of the plumbing wholesale supplier she works for.
"They’re cute," explained Victoria Schoone. "They exemplify how stupid the whole ‘Pardongate’ was."
Schoone said she gave one to her ex-husband, a Clinton foe, to spite him.
"He would never get off his soap box against Clinton," she said. "He hates Clinton so much, so this was a slap in the face."
A spokesman from eBay said the company monitors — and generally forbids — the sale of joke items, but said the pardons fall within the realm of what’s allowed to be traded on eBay.
"We simply do not want to see the site used for pranks," said eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove. If someone is caught peddling such a product, he said, "we will remove it immediately and suspend the person selling the item," usually for a period of 15 to30 days.
Since the pardons are not being marketed deceptively on eBay, however, they are legit.
"We do allow items up that can serve as gag gifts," Pursglove said. "Clearly somebody was trying to have some fun with this."
Carlson, who also sells the bogus documents through www.pardon.bigstep.com, doesn’t produce and trade any other political satire items and said he hasn’t seen anything comparable around for either President George W. Bush or former Vice President Al Gore.
More straightforward political items were hot during election season, according to Pursglove. The most popular products, he said, were those associated with whichever presidential candidate was ahead in the polls at the time.