By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 5, 2010; B06
RICHMOND -- Businessman and major Republican donor Frederic V. Malek, now serving as an adviser to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, said Friday that his decision to compile a list of Jews for former president Richard M. Nixon was the biggest mistake of his life.
"I've apologized so many times . . . over the past 40 years for that unfortunate decision of mine to follow the direction of the president,'' Malek told reporters. "Over my five decades of career, I've made mistakes. That was the biggest one I have ever made in my life. I think I've apologized and atoned for it. I've learned from it, and it's time to move on."
Malek has been under intense scrutiny since McDonnell (R) named him chairman of his government reform commission last month. Several Democrats have called on the governor to remove Malek from the commission for his role in the Nixon administration and, more recently, because of a $100,000 civil fine he paid related to the work of his firm, Thayer Capital Partners, with Connecticut's pension fund.
"We did fail to disclose,'' Malek said of the fine. "We paid a fine. It was some time ago. We did make a mistake on disclosure, and we learned from that at our firm."
Malek, who was in Richmond for the commission's first meeting, said he never considered stepping down as chairman.
"Look, we have a crisis in the state budget,'' he said. "This is the time we have to focus on reforming government and making it simpler, more effective and more cost-effective, and more consumer-friendly."
Earlier in the day, a visibly angry McDonnell blamed Democrats for continuing to attack Malek.
"To those Democrats that just want to complain, that aren't interested in government reform, that don't want to get things done, I tell them to stay out of the way,'' he said. "Watch us reform government. I'm here to get things done, not to engage in partisan rhetoric."
Last week, McDonnell said he did not know about Malek's history with Nixon or his civil fine when he selected him. He said Friday that he has since spoken to Malek about both issues, but declined to elaborate.
"I have great confidence in Fred Malek from his days at West Point, Harvard Business School, serving U.S. presidents and turning Marriott Corp. around,'' McDonnell said. "He's the right guy to help lead us.''
The commission is charged with searching for ways to save hundreds of millions of dollars while making government more user-friendly. It will consider closing some of the state's 130 agencies, putting more forms online, eliminating annual reports and selling the state's 350 liquor stores.
Del. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria), who has been strongly critical of Malek's role on the commission, said he was pleased with the tone McDonnell set at the first meeting.
"I've said all along it's an important commission, and I support the work of the commission,'' Englin said. "I just don't want the work of the commission to be sullied by Malek."
Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.