Allow me to introduce you to Leslie Wolfe, who, if you believe Conservative Digest, has got to be one of the most sinister figures in Washington. Wolfe has been in charge of federal efforts to promote sex equity in education. For her efforts, she has earned the enmity of that magazine, which, under most circumstances, would be a badge of honor. But Dr. Wolfe, described as a "monarch" in the April issue, has been the target of an absolutely scurrilous attack that may well have cost her her job.
Wolfe, a GS15, has, according to the magazine, turned the Women's Education Equity Act program "into a money machine for a network of openly radical feminists." (Presumably they are less of a threat to the Republic than covert radical feminists.) According to the magazine, Wolfe has been "imperiously guarding her fiefdom. Her policies violate both regulation and the mandate of Congress. Her disdain for the President and the people she (ostensibly) serves ill-equips her to faithfully execute her duties. She deserves a swift dethronement."
The CD article, according to a preface, is an "account of ultra-Left activists in the Reagan administration from a concerned employee in the Education Department. The employee has asked to remain anonymous."
The preface goes on to say, "(WEEAP) is not a large program, with only a $6 million budget. But in the hands of Ms. Leslie Wolfe, a radical feminist, WEEAP today is funding hard-Left women's groups."
In the best tradition of McCarthyism, Wolfe is accused by one anonymous person, with the evidence strong on inflammatory labels and very short on facts. According to those familiar with what has happened, Wolfe first learned of the attack when she was called into the office of Jean Benish, a Reagan administration appointee and Wolfe's supervisor, who told Wolfe she had been reading about her and tossed a copy of the magazine in her lap. That was Friday, April 9.
That Monday, Benish sent Wolfe a memo telling her that she, Benish, was henceforth taking on all policy-making in WEEAP. On Friday, April 23, Benish notified Wolfe that she was being detailed by Benish to the office of management, effective that Monday.
Benish could not be reached for comment. Anne Graham, an assistant secretary for public affairs, says the Reagan administration wants to get rid of WEEAP. "It's my understanding they had specific goals and they have been met." She said Wolfe's transfer had been contemplated for months. Asked about its connection to the CD attack, she said, "none to my knowledge whatsoever."
Congress, however, has made it clear that it believes WEEAP still has work to do. The program enjoys the support of Democrats and such Republicans as Rep. Margaret Heckler and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who was instrumental in rescuing it from absorption in the Reagan administration block grants last year.
CD's bill of attainder against Wolfe states that WEEAP has funded "special-interest groups and the usual coterie of Wolfe's radical associates."
According to Dr. Bernice Sandler, director of the Project on the Status and Education of Women of the Association of American Colleges, this "radical" coterie includes: the Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of Delaware, the Alaska Dept. of Education, the University of Virginia, Midland Lutheran College, Georgia State University, Planned Parenthood, New Mexico State University, and the Organization of Chinese-American Women. "These are all mainstream groups," Sandler says, "trying to get at the problems women face in colleges so they can participate in education the same way their brothers do."
Wolfe was transferred on the day that grant applications were due. The Congressional Caucus on Women's Issues is circulating a letter to Education Secretary T.H. Bell stating that the removal of Wolfe at the critical funding period raises "serious questions" about the department's willingness to carry out Congress' wishes, and requesting her reinstatement. "We are appalled that the Department would remove a career civil servant employee, whose competence has never been in question, from her position because of unfounded accusations in an anonymous Conservative Digest article," says the letter.
Perhaps, as Graham claims, Wolfe's transfer had nothing to do with the CD attack. But the circumstances suggest that a publication using smear tactics of the worst sort has influenced government policy and the career of a civil servant. That kind of thing happened in the Fifties and the country paid dearly. It should not be allowed to happen again.