Friday, May 21, 2010

Fred Malek & The VA Government Reform Commission

Today, I appeared on the Politics Hour with Mark Plotkin on WTOP to discuss Fred Malek and Governor McDonnell's Government Reform Commission. You can listen to the show by clicking here.

Back in January, Governor McDonnell signed an executive order creating his Government Reform Commission. In general, I think a bipartisan blue-ribbon task force focused on government reform is a great idea. There are many things about Virginia's Government that ought to be looked at - Bipartisan Redistricting, Two Term Governors, Transportation Funding, Reforming City-County Authority, Criminal Justice Reforms, greater use of technology, green energy reforms.

We have split party control of state government right now. If we are going to get anything done, we will need to have Republican and Democratic ideas considered. For this Commission to be effective, it needs to be an honest broker of ideas that will propose bipartisan solutions that merit investing taxpayer dollars at a special session. If the Commission turns into a partisan exercise, the special session will be a waste of time and taxpayers' money.

When I first heard about Fred Malek's appointment, I was concerned because of his history with the Nixon Administration, but I figured I would let it pass. Later, I learned more. Recently, I came around to the idea that he's the wrong choice for three reasons.

Strike One. In 1971, Malek prepared a list of 13 Jews to be fired or laid off at the request of Bob Haldeman after Nixon became convinced that a "Jewish cabal" was cooking employment statistics in the Department of Labor. After initially denying any involvement and being confronted with written evidence by Bob Woodward, Malek claimed he fought Nixon's request, was sorry for his involvement in the affair, and was outraged anyone would suggest he was involved in actual firings. He was forced to resign as Vice Chair of the Republican National Committee. He became involved in Jewish philanthropy and was ultimately forgiven by many national jewish organizations.

At that time, there was one memo that Richard Nixon was refusing to disclose. In 2007, that memo was released after Nixon's death. In the memo, Malek wrote:
"These moves do not go as far as I would have preferred," writes Malek in the September 1971 memo, "but represent a reasonable compromise that I feel will make the BLS a more responsive and effective unit." Nixon's Jew Count, The Full Story, Slate, 9/27/07.
That is a very different story from what he told the public. The inconsistency between the written record and his explanation leaves his credibility suspect.

More importantly, Virginia needs to leave its history of discrimination behind. Virginia has a whole history of anti-jewish discrimination that I discussed on the Plotkin Show - half of my family lived it. Nominating people like this continue to rip the scabs off old wounds.

Strike Two. In 2006, Malek and his firm paid dual fines for violating federal security laws when he gave a $375,000 do-nothing job to an individual in exchange for a contract to manage $75 million of Connecticut state pension money.

This was only four years ago. It is important to note that Malek was fined personally for $100,000 and not just his company which was separately fined another $150,000. Someone in charge of government reform should not have a record of shading dealings with state government within the last four years.

Strike Three. On May 7, 2010, Governor McDonnell announced the members. He named Fred Malek as Chairman. Five days later, Fred Malek wrote the Governor's PAC a check for $25,000. There is no question that donors and supporters are going to get appointments, but writing a $25,000 check within five days of receiving a major appointment does not really build the kind of spirit of "government reform" that taxpayers would hope could be brought to the table. Plus, it completely undermines the idea that this commission is going to be seriously bipartisan.

I'm sure Fred Malek is a bright guy, has a lot of experience running companies and probably has some good ideas and experience. I have no problem with his presence on the commission. He just shouldn't lead it.

I hope the Governor reconsiders.

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