Nobody ever accused Fred Malek of being stupid. Malek is lead investor of the Washington Baseball Club, the group that Washington Mayor Anthony Williams would most like to see acquire the Washington Nationals from Major League Baseball. Williams is retiring at the end of his current term. Among those running to succeed Williams is D.C. Council chair Linda Cropp. More than anyone else on the City Council, Cropp has resisted lavish subsidies for the new stadium to be built for the Nationals.
You can guess the rest of the story. Two weeks ago, Cropp, a Democrat, received $2,000 from Malek, who lives not in D.C. but in the Virginia suburbs, and is a loyal Republican. According to the Washington Post, partners in the Washington Baseball Club have given Cropp "at least $8,000" for her mayoral run. In fairness to Malek I should point out that the Washington Baseball Club didn't open its wallet until after Ted Lerner, another potential Nationals buyer and D.C. nonresident (he lives in the Maryland suburbs), lavished $8,000 on Cropp's mayoral bid. So, I suppose the principal lesson here is that, for a political candidate like Cropp, a highly principled reluctance to extend taxpayer subsidies to sports teams can yield big dividends.
Too bad Bud Selig isn't running for anything. Allan H. "Bud" Selig is the commissioner of baseball, and he has to decide soon whether Malek's group will be allowed to buy the Nationals. Selig happens to be Jewish, and it was Selig who suspended Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott and fined her $25,000 after she was quoted in the New York Times praising Hitler. (When she wouldn't stop making ethnic slurs, Major League Baseball's executive council forced her to sell the team.) You don't have to be Jewish to be offended by anti-Semitism, of course, but Jews naturally tend to take greater umbrage than gentiles. I bring all this up because in 1971—the same year, ironically, that Washington lost its last baseball team—Malek oversaw what we can probably call the last official act of anti-Semitism ever undertaken by the United States government. At President Nixon's request, he provided the president with a list of supposed Jews working in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not long after, two employees on the list were demoted. (Click here for the whole story.)
For the last couple of years, the Washington Post, whose Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein initially broke the Jew-counting story, has soft-pedaled it. But God bless Post columnist Colbert King. On the Post's Feb. 4 op-ed page, King dug deep into Malek's history as a Nixon hatchet man and found out some things even I didn't know. As a White House aide, Malek apparently ordered, on blatantly political grounds, that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission not sue the University of Texas for discriminatory hiring practices and that the Labor department exonerate a Nixon-supporting shop steward on the Philadelphia docks who was under investigation. These actions, which Malek rather foolishly wrote up in a memo—one that, Malek would later claim, greatly exaggerated his influence—caused the Senate, in 1982, to deny Malek confirmation for the post of U.S. Postal Service governor. Commissioner Selig? You may want to take a look at this.
[Update, Feb. 11: King's column prompted a letter from Walter Isaacson, president and chief executive of the Aspen Institute, assuring the Post's readers that Malek, "a friend and a board member of the Aspen Insitute," was "neither the greatest saint nor the worst sinner in the Nixon era" and deserves a second chance. I would answer that I have no problem with Malek using the position of unpaid trustee at the Aspen Institute to wash away his sins--it's their nonprofit, not mine--but that does not entitle Malek to the public honor of owning a baseball team, and to receiving public subsidies from the District of Columbia. I accept that whoever ends up owning the Nationals will reach into my D.C. taxpaying pocket to help build a baseball stadium. But I don't care to subsidize a stadium built to enrich Nixon's Jew-counter.
Note that Isaacson, a former journalist, does not explain in his letter which sins occasion Isaacson's plea to give Malek a second chance, even though that would seem to be at least one of the story's "five Ws." Indeed, the following day the Post ran a correction to Isaacson's letter explaining that an editing error had changed Isaacson's meaning. Isaacson never intended to say that King "made good points" in his op-ed, the Post explained (presumably because that would suggest that King's elucidation of Malek's long-ago sins constituted "good points"). Rather, the correction stated, King made only one "good point," i.e. that "people deserve a second chance."]
Fred Malek Jew-Counting Archive: