By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 3, 2010; B01
Frederic V. Malek, who is among Washington's wealthiest Republican power brokers, is discovering that even a single problematic episode in government service can be hard to shake.
As Malek assumes a widening role in national and Virginia politics, Democrats are calling attention to the recent disclosure of more memos that detail his part in carrying out President Richard M. Nixon's program to enforce ideological and religious purity.
Malek previously has been implicated in Nixon's crusade against Jews, and in 1988, he resigned from the Republican National Committee because of it. He has apologized for his involvement but always has denied playing a central part.
Now, the 22-year-old controversy has resurfaced, with Democratic lawmakers in Virginia complaining about Malek's appointment by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) as chairman of a panel studying the state budget deficit. McDonnell said he was unaware of Malek's role in the controversy.
Democrats say that documents recently posted on the National Archives Web site "raise new questions about Mr. Malek's involvement in targeting and removing Jews from their jobs," said Jon Vogel, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "As the chairman of the American Action Network, which has pledged to spend $25 million this year targeting Democratic members of Congress, Mr. Malek needs to answer the disturbing questions about his role and why these documents contradict his previous accounts." The American Action Network describes itself as a nonprofit group that promotes "center-right policies."
Malek did not return a phone call seeking comment, but Mark Corallo, a spokesman, said: "As Mr. Malek has said before, he has made mistakes in his life for which he has apologized, atoned and learned from."
In addition to chairing Republican Sen. John McCain's campaign finance committee in the 2008 presidential race, Malek is an adviser to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Thirteen times in the past decade, he has written checks to Republicans for more than $20,000 apiece, and his total contributions over the past two decades exceed $1.03 million.
The documents about Malek's work as Nixon's special assistant are part of formerly restricted material from personal files that the Nixon library made public in January. A note posted on the National Archives Web site mentions Malek's reputation under Nixon as "the hatchet" because of his tenacity, and says the documents show that Malek "supplied Nixon with a list of thirteen people he thought had Jewish surnames" at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At the time, according to Nixon's Oval Office tapes and other official documents, the president was enraged by what he and his aides called a Jewish "cabal" at the bureau, and they blamed the group for making gloomy economic forecasts.
The memos suggest that Malek's role lasted at least from February to December 1971. In a February memo to Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, for example, Malek described statistician Harold Goldstein, who he said had mishandled a news briefing, as "a competent civil servant" without partisan bias. But Malek added that "we might be better served if a Republican partisan handled these briefings in the future."
Haldeman responded with a request in March 1971 that "we take on and completely rearrange" the bureau, to which Malek responded that he had "a general plan of attack" to analyze the attitudes of all key people, including their "loyalties." Malek wrote on July 14 that "the temporary bad press and morale problem are small prices to pay for quickly transforming the BLS into a responsible and effective unit of this Administration."
On July 26, Malek aide Dan Kingsley sent Malek 13 names that included the people's age and length of service; he described them as "key" employees without mentioning the word Jewish. But Haldeman asked Malek that day for more information on the "demographic breakdown" of key bureau personnel. In a July 27 memo to Haldeman, which has previously been the subject of news reports, Malek responded that only one of 50 top personnel was a registered Republican and that "13 out of the 38 fit the other demographic criteria that was discussed."
Three days later, Kingsley wrote a memo to Haldeman -- signed by Malek -- describing the 13 as "ethnics," their euphemism for Jews, and clarifying which of the larger pool of top personnel were "ethnics." The memo includes the following annotation: "It is interesting that of the top 17 positions, 10 are ethnics." It was followed by Malek's typed initials: "FVM." Reached in Florida, Kingsley said he did not recall these interactions.
In a September 1971 memo to Haldeman, Malek explained his wider bureau reorganization to place its "sensitive analytical and interpretive responsibilities" under a new deputy; his plan also would have the effect of removing three of those on the original list of 13 Jews: a division director, a chief statistician and a chief economist.
In December, Malek told Nixon in a further memo that although "considerable progress has been made in reforming BLS," another task remained: transferring out the deputy commissioner -- who was not among the 13 -- to make room for an economist with "high political sensitivity."
According to the National Archives Web site, Malek went on to plan and oversee what the administration called its wider "responsiveness program," which the site described as "a way to gain political support for Nixon's re-election by using federal resources and grants to influence key states and voting blocs, especially minority groups."
In 1988, when details of the anti-Jewish campaign emerged, Malek told The Washington Post that "if I had even been peripherally involved or asked to alter someone's employment status" because of their religion or ethnic affiliation, "I would have found it offensive and morally unacceptable, and I would have refused."
He has since told interviewers that he is not an anti-Semite, said that he initially refused Haldeman's order and called his involvement in the episode the biggest mistake of his life.
Since the incident, Malek has donated money to the America-Israel Friendship League, and currently sits on its board. In response to the controversy over Malek's appointment in Virginia, Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a recent statement that "I am pleased to call Fred Malek my friend," and that except for his experience compiling a list of Jews for Nixon, "he has no record of being anti-Jewish." Both Corallo and a spokesman for the ADL declined to say whether Malek had contributed money to the group.
When asked Tuesday about Malek's connection to the Nixon program, McDonnell said that he "did not know about this background," that the episode was old, that Malek had apologized, and that what matters is that Malek is a successful businessman. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has known Malek socially for several decades, said in a separate statement that she has "great respect, trust and admiration" for him and that "he has no bias of any kind whatsoever."