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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > A Memo from Malek

Neglected in the vast materials documenting the Nixonian corruption is the calculated White House criminality against the trust of millions of taxpay­ers who finance the federal government.

More evidence of this con­duct is contained in a White House memorandum, dated March 17, 1972, and marked “Extremely Sensitive —Confidential,” from Nixon aide Fred Malek to H. R. Haldeman.

THE MEMO lays out a plan for disbursing federal funds specifically to help re-elect the President or otherwise buy votes by manipulating federal ac­tions.

The Malek plan, mani­festly illegal, was to induce or pressure government agencies to channel funds to groups or geographic areas deemed essential for the November election.

Malek wrote that, while the Department of Com­merce had already respond­ed to prior White House re­quests for a dozen favorable grant decisions “which otherwise would not have been made,” the “potential is much greater.”

Malek elaborated: “In the Commerce Department, for example, there is nearly $700 million in funds re­maining in this fiscal year and over $700 million in next fiscal year which could be redirected in some man­ner.”

HE NAMED the Econom­ic Development Administra­tion ($275 million), the re­gional action planning commissions ($40 million) and the Maritime Adminis­tration ($230 million) as major areas for emphasis within the Department of Commerce.

Deputy Director of the powerful Office of Management and Budget under Roy Ash until he resigned last week, Malek is known for his meticulous political planning.

He wanted his program to proceed with precision, specifying that “the politi­cal priorities would be spelled out in terms of key states and major voting bloc groups upon which de­partmental action could have an impact. The de­partments would be updat­ed as needed, as the politi­cal priorities evolve.”

THE TYPES of activities Malek wanted covered were what he called “positive decisions (project grants, contracts, loans, subsidies, procurement and construc­tion projects), and negative actions (taking legal or regulatory action against a group or governmental body, major cutbacks in programs and relocation of department operations).

He also wanted follow-through, asserting that, “under this program, the departments would be ex­pected to cultivate the lead­ers of organized groups which are affected by the department to gain their support and the support of their groups for the Presi­dent’s re-election.”

There Os: one aspect of how the White House work­ed to have taxpayers fi­nance its re-election cam­paign and involve civil servants as well.

Having spelled out the de­tails, Malek noted some possible drawbacks: that the plan would be leaked to the public and that the President would be associ­ated with the program.

To avoid these risks, he ordered that there would be no written communications from the White House to the departments. Any other documents would be writ­ten, he said, to “give the impression that the pro­gram was initiated by the department head without the knowledge of the White House.”

WITH UNDILUTED cynicism, Malek then pro­ceeded to assert that “the departments must be given a clear understanding of what is expected of them in carrying out the program, as well as the President’s full backing of the program. To demonstrate presiden­tial support, it should first he covered briefly at a Cabinet meeting.”

In a subsequent confiden­tial Malek-to-Haldeman memo of June 7, 1972, Malek reports that the re­sponse to his plan “has been fairly good” from such high level officials as HUD Secretary George Romney, Secretary of Labor James Hodgson, Secretary of Com­merce Peter Peterson, Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, Secretary of Transportation John Volpe, Budget Chief Cap Wein­berger and, of course, John Mitchell lie noted examples of the program’s success, such as: the Department of Labor was asked to award a $2.2-million migrant labor program contract in Texas to a pro- administration group after reversing its public commitment to award the monies to anoth­er recipient.

HOW is the public to re­spond to the Malek plan and other similar abuses from the highest governmental levels? Perhaps some ques­tions can provide some an­swers:

Could this plan have been carried out if (1) there was a strong campaign reform enforcement agency; (2) if there had been an independ­ent special prosecutor’s of­fice; (3) if the freedom of information laws were stronger and had effective sanctions; (4) if Congress got down to work and exer­cised its awesome monitor­ing powers over govern­ment programs; (5) if just one of the hundreds of gov­ernment employees from the Cabinet down had blown the whistle on this systematic lawlessness, or (6) if the laws clearly provided citi­zens with the right to chal­lenge in court government agencies and employees for breach of their fiduciary duties to voters and taxpay­ers?

These questions raise the larger issues beyond Water­gate — the issues of govern­ment accountability, citizen participation, a more effec­tive congressional check of the executive branch and the role of money and power.

Watergate’s watershed must focus on these larger issues if Americans are to shape a meaning from this historic corruption so that it cannot happen again to deteriorate the quality of law and the standard of liv­ing in its broadest sense.