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Geoffrey Dunn

Geoffrey Dunn

Posted February 3, 2009 | 01:22 AM (EST)

Dog Eat Dog: Palin Patron's Checkered Past


There she is...the former Miss Wasilla, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, entering the deep bastion of America's corporate elite, The Alfalfa Club, in "a black satin evening gown and matching wrap" that doesn't quite look like it's been worn too often in the Last Frontier. Proper moose hunting attire it is not, even if one is hunting from an airplane.

Video footage of Palin's entrance reveals that she was accompanied by her fellow Alaskan pit bull in high heels, Meg Stapleton, who headed up the GOP hit squad in Alaska last fall when Palin was on the campaign trail with John McCain; and a couple of elder stiffs in black ties behind them, one of whom looks ever much like her Alaska security detail, Bob Cockrell (one wonders, was he there on state time?), and the other like her latest right-wing Republican patron du jour, Fred Malek--the notorious "hatchet man" for Richard Nixon who only a few years ago was busted by the SEC for investment fraud.

By all accounts, it was a fairly tepid affair, as these things usually are, at which Palin gushed her way up to that renowned pal of terrorists, President Barack Obama, made nice-nice, as politicians often do, and returned to her table to sharpen her stiletto. That would be the same Barack Obama whom she trashed on the campaign trail for "pallin' around with terrorists" and declaring that "he's not one of us."

Palin was in Washington, allegedly to advocate for the interest of her state, but given the fact that she formed a PAC last week in Virginia, it was clear that she was there to promote her own political ambitions and to establish a national platform from which to launch her campaign for the presidency in 2012.

The night before, Malek hosted an even more intimate dinner at his home for Palin and her former running mate, McCain, who hadn't seen each other since that fateful evening in Phoenix, when McCain made his concession speech and Palin was left with tears in her eyes, forbidden from delivering a speech of her own.

In many ways, Malek would seem to provide the perfect entrée into Washington's conservative corporate elite for Palin. He fits nicely into the circle of corruption that has followed Palin throughout her political career. In a current blog of his, Malek declares that "Palin will have an important role in the future of the Republican Party."

During the embryonic days of Watergate in the early 1970s, Malek served as a special assistant to Nixon in his corrupt bid for re-election, where he palled around with the likes of real terrorists, including H. R. Haldeman, John Erlichman, Charles Colson and E. Howard Hunt. Malek distinguished himself in the Nixon circles by providing the anti-Semitic president with information about the number of Democrats and "important Jewish officials" working in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nixon was convinced that a "Jewish cabal" had taken over the agency.

Timothy Noah of Slate, in a brilliant series of investigative reporting, has dubbed it "the last recorded act of official anti-Semitism by the United States government."

The incident was first brought to light by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their celebrated work, The Final Days. Malek, who Noah has dubbed "Nixon's Jew counter," has attempted to minimize his role in the affair. But as Noah points out, recently released documents reveal that Malek played a central role in getting those who were suspected of being Jewish (Malek based his assessment on surnames) removed from their posts in the BLS. "These moves [removing Jews from the bureau] do not go as far as I would have preferred," Malek wrote in a secret memo to Haldeman, "but represent a reasonable compromise that I feel will make the BLS a more responsive and effective unit."

Following the Watergate revelations and Nixon's shameful departure from office, Malek left government and headed into the private sector, where his behind-the-scenes activities in hotel management, airline ownership and investment packaging were far less scrutinized.

A decade later, Malek resurfaced in Republican circles, when he was temporarily placed in charge of the 1988 Republican National Convention, only to be forced to resign because of the Nixon controversy. Four years later he served as campaign manager for George H. W. Bush's unsuccessful re-election bid against Bill Clinton. The Republicans lost the federal government, but Malek had been politically rehabilitated.

In the private sector, while Malek built up a massive investment portfolio and founded Thayer Capital Partners, he ran afoul of the SEC. It was a sleazy affair--involving undeclared political payola-- that has been fully recorded elsewhere. Suffice it to say that Thayer Capital paid a civil penalty of $150,000, and Malek personally paid a fine of $100,000. Then McCain named him as national finance co-chairman of his campaign.

Malek would feel right at home in Alaskan politics. But there's one sordid tale in Malek's background that might give Palin the pit bull some pause. As Washington Post columnist Colbert King reported a few years ago, Malek was involved in a gruesome incident in his home state of Illinois, shortly after he graduated from West Point.

In the early morning hours of August of 1959, sheriff deputies outside of Peoria discovered a vehicle covered in blood and a group of drunken young men, also covered in blood, nearby. Some were hiding in the bushes. The men told the deputies that they had accidentally hit a dog. Then their story changed. And then it changed again. Finally, one of them confessed. They had captured the dog and had barbecued it in a nearby park. The deputies returned to the scene and found a skinned and gutted canine on a spit in the park. An empty booze bottle was also nearby. Fred Malek was one of the five young men arrested for the crime, though the charges against him were eventually dropped.

Malek's come a long way since that drunken barbecue and canine slaughter. But the Alaska pit bull had better watch her back.