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A last-minute Bush pardon for Michael Milken?

January 16, 2009 | 11:08 pm

L.A. Weekly's Nikki Finke reports today on Hollywood chatter that billionaire Michael Milken is spending big bucks lobbying for a pardon by President Bush before he leaves office Tuesday.

The 62-year-old Milken, of course, is the finance legend who built the modern junk bond market in the 1980s while at Drexel Burnham Lambert, only to have the government indict him on racketeering and other charges in 1989. He pleaded guilty in 1990 to lesser counts of conspiracy and fraud related to illegal securities trading after denying the much broader array of allegations.

Milken Milken, who served almost two years in prison after his guilty pleas, is barred from the securities industry. He has spent the last 15 years on philanthropic efforts and his Milken Institute think tank in Santa Monica.

From Finke:

Now I'm hearing from sources that current-day philanthropist Michael Milken is "spending a bundle" trying to get George W. Bush to pardon him by January 20th. My insiders say the amount is in the seven figures to highly connected consultants and attorneys. It'll be interesting in today's climate of economic crisis to see whether Bush succumbs to this influence peddling for Milken who was the poster boy for Wall Street greed in the 1980s.

Newsweek reported in November that Washington lawyer Ted Olson, who was solicitor general during Bush's first term, had submitted a pardon request on Milken’s behalf.

President Clinton apparently considered a pardon for Milken in 2001. blogger and onetime Milken employee Dean Rotbart argued passionately for a pardon in a Dec. 17 post.

I’m just speculating, but one factor that could work against Milken is public outrage over Wall Street’s conduct of the last two years in funding the subprime mortgage catastrophe. Bush would be pardoning a man who was the king of 1980s subprime securities -- junk bonds.

Bernie Madoff's alleged $50-billion Ponzi scheme also might give the White House pause before pardoning a high-profile Wall Street figure now.

We’ll know by noon EST on Tuesday.

-- Tom Petruno

Photo: Michael Milken. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times