Fred Malek, Then and Now

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, February 4, 2006

"We garnered from reliable sources in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the Commission was preparing to sue the University of Texas for discrimination in the hiring of faculty. This could be disastrous for Texas. When queried, Bill Brown, Chairman of the EEOC, agreed not to pursue it. I will continue to follow this situation closely."

-- June 7, 1972, memorandum from Fred Malek, special assistant to President Richard Nixon, to H.R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff.

When Mayor Anthony Williams visited The Post in December to make a pitch for the stadium lease agreement that he had negotiated with Major League Baseball, I asked him why he had chosen to endorse the Washington Baseball Club (led by Fred Malek, a Washington venture capitalist) over other groups competing for ownership of the Washington Nationals.

Williams said the Malek group had spent more time and money trying to attract baseball to Washington, and that as investors in the group, Malek and other members had done a lot for Washington. For the record, I am personally acquainted with several members of Malek's group. Their character, integrity and honesty are beyond reproach. Other members, less well known to me, have sterling reputations.

Still, since the meeting, I have been pondering the nature and extent of Fred Malek's contribution to the nation's capital. This much I know: Malek is a wealthy Republican who can be seen around town at black-tie charity events and fundraisers, and in haunts where the rich, famous and politically powerful gather. He's close to the presidential family, he once co-owned the Texas Rangers with George W. Bush, and he reportedly will be number one among equals if the Washington Nationals are sold to his group.

"Fred Malek" also happens to have been one of the first names I heard in the summer of 1970, when I began a fellowship in the office of the late John Veneman, then undersecretary of health, education and welfare. Word came fast: Keep out of the way of deputy undersecretary for management Fred Malek. "Hatchet man" was the sobriquet most often applied to him because of his alleged ruthlessness in paring the workforce and ousting those deemed disloyal to the Nixon administration.

Malek's deeds did not go unnoticed. In the fall of 1970, he was rewarded with a White House appointment as Haldeman's personnel chief. Hearts at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare lifted at the departure of a gung-ho partisan who would do anything to advance GOP interests. How much wasn't learned until years later.

The memorandum quoted at the beginning of this column was a report on the progress of the "responsiveness program," a scheme designed, organized and implemented by Malek in 1972 to politicize the federal government in support of Nixon's reelection. (The Senate Watergate committee reported that Malek later said the claim of having stopped action in the Texas EEOC case constituted puffing on his part.)

The Malek memo also claimed another accomplishment: The steward of a dockworkers union local in Philadelphia, an active Nixon backer, had been accused of being responsible for illegal actions of the union's president. The Pennsylvania Committee to Reelect the President asked that the Labor Department rule in the steward's favor. It did, Malek claimed, adding that "this action had a very strong impact on the local ethnic union members."

Malek's responsiveness program was extensively investigated by the Senate Watergate committee. The panel found that the program was aimed at influencing decisions concerning government "grants, contracts, loans, subsidies, procurement and construction projects," decisions regarding "legal and regulatory actions," and even personnel decisions that affected protected "career positions" -- all to advance Nixon's reelection.

Malek, the committee determined, also called for channeling federal grants and loan money to blacks who would support Nixon's reelection efforts and, conversely, away from minorities who were considered administration foes. Equally striking, Malek wanted the program to be falsely structured so that Nixon and the White House would be dissociated from it in the event of a leak.

" No written communications from the White House to the Departments -- all information about the program would be transmitted verbally . . . documents prepared would not indicate White House involvement in any way."

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