With the potential of a scandal to mark one of his last official acts as commander in chief, President Bush has yanked back a pardon he awarded to a man accused of steering poor and minority people toward overpriced mortgages and loans with hidden costs.
Isaac Toussie, one of 19 people that Bush pardoned on Tuesday, had been convicted of mail fraud and making false statements to the Housing and Urban Development Department.
In the rare presidential revocation of a pardon, White House press secretary Dana Perino said that Bush made his decision "based on information that has subsequently come to light."
Turns out that Toussie’s father donated $28,500 to the Republican Party, just before his son petitioned the White House for the pardon. Perino said that neither the White House counsel's office nor the president had been aware of a political contribution by Toussie's father that "might create an appearance of impropriety. … Given that, this was the prudent thing to do."
She also said that the details of Toussie’s prior criminality weren’t completely clear before the pardon.
Toussie admitted falsifying finances of prospective homebuyers seeking HUD mortgages. He got five months in prison and five months' house arrest, a $10,000 fine and no restitution, The New York Daily News reported.
Toussie also pleaded guilty to having a friend send his local county a letter that falsely inflated property values.
"I am glad somebody at the White House woke up," said Peter E. Seidman, whose client was a victim of Toussie’s. The pardon was "gut-wrenching” for his clients and left him "baffled," he told The Daily News. "I was angry at how money, power and influence seemed to trump justice," said Maxine D. Wilson, who bought one of Toussie's homes on Long Island in 1996.
Finally, she said, "somebody paid attention. Somebody stepped back and made us feel equal."