McDonnell says his vetting is fine, Malek's past a 'non-issue'
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) Wednesday defended the vetting that goes into his appointments to government and voluntary posts, a day after he said in a radio interview the he didn't know about businessman Fred Malek's controversial past before naming him to chair a government reform commission.
McDonnell said he has chosen good people who he trusts to fill all posts and dismissed criticisms of Malek or the process that led to his selection as the partisan griping of Democrats who don't want to cut government spending.
"We're doing a fine job vetting," McDonnell said. "I've known Fred Malek personally for five or six years. He's an outstanding businessman, and he's going to do a great job heading this commission."
As an aide to President Richard Nixon, Malek in 1971 drew up a list of employees he believed were Jewish who worked in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, after Nixon feared he was being targeted by a "Jewish cabal." The incident has been the subject of considerable public scrutiny over four decades--and Malek has apologized for it repeatedly. But McDonnell says he didn't know about it before choosing Malek to head his panel earlier this month.
He also didn't know that the former president of Marriott Hotels and Northwest Airlines had agreed to pay $100,000 fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2004 related to work his investment firm did for the Connecticut state pension fund in 1998.
McDonnell said he has hired "great people for the cabinet" and cited other members of the 31-person government reform commission--including Bill Leighty, who served as chief of staff to Democratic governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and former Norfolk mayor Democrat Paul Fraim--as a sign his vetting is sound.
"This is an attack by a handful of partisan Democrats that don't want to work with me to be able to cut spending and reduce the burdens of government on ordinary Virginians. That's really the issue here," McDonnell told reporters.
Malek's defenders include Democratic State Sen. Dick Saslaw and Democratic U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (Calif.), who are both Jewish.
Not surprisingly, Malek's critics have reacted poorly to the idea that they are leveling partisan attacks. "This is not about politics and it's not about liberals or conservatives -- it's about ethics," said Del. David Englin (D-Alexandria) of the SEC fine. "Government reform is too important to be led by somebody so ethically tainted."
And the Democratic Party of Virginia shows no signs of letting up, today releasing a statement from Chairman Dick Cranwell in which he said, "I don't know which is worse, knowing about Malek's past and appointing him to this position anyway, or not taking the time to investigate someone you are appointing to such an important position."
May 26, 2010; 2:09 PM ET
Categories: Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman
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