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Nixon aides discussed job offers to get candidates out of primary races

Think President Obama's aides were the first to consider offering administration jobs to potential candidates for elected office in an effort to get them to drop out of divisive primary races?

Think again.

A never before published memo shows that President Richard Nixon's aides had an elaborate plan to offer jobs to Republicans they believed were a "drag on the ticket" in the months leading up to the 1972 election.

The memo was penned by Nixon aide Fred Malek, now a major national Republican operative and head of a government reform panel in Virginia, and submitted to Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman in 1971. In the memo, Malek dissects every congressional, senatorial and gubernatorial election that would take place in 1972, assessing whether Republicans likely to run in those races would hurt and help Nixon, who was running for reelection.

Ironically for that administration, the crew seemed to have concerns about making sure such job offers were legal. A handwritten note penned in the corner of the memo notes, "Malek: This must be fully approved by AG before any action is taken."

HaldemanMalek

In the memo, Malek wrote that he had worked up the plan with various other White House aides and notes that it was reviewed by Don Rumsfeld. "In sum, we are recommending offering jobs to only three men, all of whom are connected with 1972 Gubernatorial races," Malek wrote.

Those men were John Altorfer, who was considering challenging Gov. Richard Ogilvie for the Republican nomination in Illinois, Republican Gov. Edgar Whitcomb of Indiana, who was term limited but Nixon aides hoped to convince to leave office early and Jim Holshouser, who was contemplating a run for governor in North Carolina. Nixon aides assessed that he "could not run a strong race" and could drag down Nixon in the state.

It's not entirely clear from the memo whether Nixon aides offered jobs to the men. Altorfer appears not to have challenged Ogilvie in 1972 and did take a job with Nixon's Small Business Administration.

Though Malek wrote that he planned to "work out a scenario whereby the Vice President invites Whitcomb to Washington and extends the offer" of assistant secretary of the air force, Whitcomb never did take that job. And he did not leave office early.

And Holshouser, whom Malek notes fellow Nixon aide Harry Dent believed "would lose badly in the election and could drag the President down with him," in fact went on to run for governor and win in 1972.

Despite any of Malek's fears, Nixon won all three states.

The new memo was declassified by the National Archives in 1996 but has not been previously published, said Ken Hughes, the Nixon Tapes Project Editor at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, who released the memo from his collection today.

Democrats have been shining a new spotlight on Malek's work for Nixon because he chairs a political action committee that plans to spend millions to help elect GOP congressional candidates this fall. He is also an advisor to former Gov. Sarah Palin. And Malek was recently named by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to head a panel that will examine ways to make state government more efficient.


By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 3, 2010; 3:34 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Robert F. McDonnell , Sarah Palin  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Miller Center highlights Malek clip from Nixon tapes
Next: UPDATED: Republicans accuse opponents of hypocrisy over Malek, Moran

Comments

First, as you point out, they wanted to make sure that any offers they made were legal.

Second, this article does not allege a direct quid pro quo -- drop out and you'll get this appointment.

Third, do we even know if 18 U.S.C. Sec. 600 was in effect at the time? You might want to see if that was even the law when this transpired or whether that was enacted at a later date.

Posted by: JTR555 | June 3, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

To have one's administration likened to Richard Nixon in terms of underhanded political tactics is not something to be sought after. This alleged act of offering jobs to political candidates is not a bright moment in the Obama administration. It begs the question, where is that "change you can believe in" now? Where is the transparency? What kind of example/precedent does this set for others? None of these tactics should be engaged in by the administration of the commander-in-chief.

If the allegations are true and worse, this might well spell the end to at least a few Washington careers in the Obama Administration. There needs to be an investigation to clear this up.

Posted by: theartistpoet | June 3, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

.........so the point is?

Just proves that we, unfortunately, have a bunch of crooks and thugs running around in the WH! Chicago-style politics does not work in DC for any length of time and the American taxpayer is sick and tired of the 'sociopaths who are so in love with themselves' they can't see reality.

Wake up America and get the emperor with no clothes out of office along with his loony groupies.

Posted by: imaginemore | June 3, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Whoa - for the post to compare Obama's administration to that of Richard Nixon's signal the death knell to Obama and all those in the Seante and House that support and vote with him on all his socialist bills.

Posted by: Realist20 | June 3, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Your home page headline claims Nixon's WH "used" similar tactics....your article says

"It's not entirely clear from the memo whether Nixon aides offered jobs to the men"

So, your point was what? Mis speaking?

Posted by: contrary | June 3, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Excellent reporting. This is just the sort of timely expose that established the Washington Post's name. I look forward to 2048 when you will begin breaking timely news stories about the Obama administration.

Posted by: krush01 | June 3, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Excellent reporting. This is just the sort of timely expose that established the Washington Post's name. I look forward to 2048 when you will begin breaking timely news stories about the Obama administration.

Posted by: krush01 | June 3, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

well, not that even the MFM is willing to admit Ear Leader is at least as crooked as Nixon, can we please throw his regime out of office and start restoring the country?

you bozos helped elect this corrupt, would be tin horn dictator by covering up his penchant for unsavory people and activities, ignoring the multitude of distasteful facts about his background and history. is there any chance you'll finally start publishing those details, or will you continue to carry water for the First Failure?

Posted by: redc1c4 | June 4, 2010 12:21 AM | Report abuse

So now we're using Nixon as a model?

Obama/Biden 2008: "CHANGE you can believe in!"

Obama/Biden 2012: "But the Republicans did it too ..."

I'm no fool, I know the Republicans are just as bad (maybew worse) when they're in power. It doesn't matter. If this is "politics as usual" that does NOT make it OK. It only makes it that much more imperative that we deal with the endemic corruption and skullduggery in our "political class" before they finally take away our freedom to do so!

We need to drop this juvenile "two wrongs make a right mentality" that BOTH parties use to justify all sorts of slights and even crimes against the Republic and its citizens! Until we ALL stop playing these foolish finger-pointing and start demanded ALL the criminals, even those with who we may share a political affinity, be called to account, we will NEVER have REAL change.

Posted by: andrew23boyle | June 4, 2010 7:07 AM | Report abuse

"Think President Obama's aides were the first to consider offering administration jobs to potential candidates for elected office in an effort to get them to drop out of divisive primary races?"

No, I did not think that. And that is not the point anyway. First, the issue is not who "were the first to CONSIDER offering administration jobs. . . ." [emphasis mine] The point is who did in fact violate the law by actually offering a job in return for a candidate dropping out of a race. Second, what does the Post intend to do about the current administration's putative breaches of federal law? There was a time when the Post would investigate such matters. I will not hold my breath waiting for an investigative series on the Obama administration's unlawful attempts to subvert elections.

Posted by: libertasdon | June 6, 2010 3:42 AM | Report abuse

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