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Posted at 9:10 AM ET, 09/ 8/2010

Connecting the dots on McDonnell's 'streamlining' panel

By Peter Galuszka

Is there a Koch connection to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's 31-member commission on government streamlining?

The Kochs are brothers David H. and Charles who run Wichita-based Koch Industries, a petroleum-based conglomerate that is the second-largest privately held company in the United States. They are hard-right political activists with a libertarian, anti-Obama bent, who, according to a recent New Yorker profile, "believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry -- especially environmental regulation."

Among the Kochs' many donations are millions of dollars for the Arlington-based Mercatus Center, a "market-oriented" think tank tied to George Mason University. One Democratic strategist has described Mercatus as "ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington."

Maurice McTigue, a former New Zealand politician and a vice president at Mercatus is on McDonnell's commission. McTigue, who was known as a government streamliner in New Zealand, has advised states such as Louisiana on cutting state functions.

A spokeswoman for Mercatus says that, except for McTigue, there is no direct tie between the McDonnell commission and the think tank. A source close to the commission reports that McTigue sits in on meetings of subcommittees other than his own. Also, correspondence from a McDonnell staffer that was supplied to me by a source suggests that Mercatus is playing a bigger role by helping the commission "flesh out potential recommendations and ideas."

The governor's goal is to cut back on state spending, privatize as many entities as seem appropriate, end redundancies and make state government more transparent. These may seem like worthy goals to some. But one wonders if it really means having the state throttle the poor and sick and let companies have their way with the state's rivers, lakes and air, along with the Chesapeake Bay. Will consumers be protected from predatory firms? Or would that be off-limits for state regulators?

Other questions have been raised about the makeup of McDonnell's commission. It is being chaired by Fred Malek, a former Army Green Beret and Nixon administration staffer who was involved in President Richard Nixon's efforts to identify Jews at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Malek has said he did so reluctantly and later apologized.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | September 8, 2010; 9:10 AM ET
Categories:  Chesapeake Bay, Fairfax County, HotTopic, Va. Politics, Virginia, development, economy, energy, environment, health care, taxes, transportation  
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