January 9th, 2016

Kemp Forum 2016

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Jack Kemp’s message of hope and compassion mixed with fiscal conservatism, lower taxes, less government, and individual empowerment guided me throughout my years in business and politics.  His lasting impact on the Republican Party and conservatism will also be honored today as seven Republican White House hopefuls take the stage at an event in South Carolina that bears his name.

It’s fitting that the Jack Kemp Foundation would host an event on “Expanding Opportunity.”   After all, when others spoke of malaise and an America in decline in the 1970’s, Jack spoke of an “American Renaissance.”  This forward looking optimism is what defined Jack’s personality and brand of conservatism, and in many ways a broader idea of the American dream.

It is also fitting that House Speaker Paul Ryan – whom I met for the first time as he was working for Jack at Empower America – will moderate the event along with South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

The candidates in the race for the White House could certainly use a dose of optimism, as Gerry Seib for the Wall Street Journal put it.  Perhaps tomorrow will serve as a jumping off point, as the forum honors the vision and legacy of Jack Kemp.  For a race that has been filled with the kind of bombastic rhetoric and negativity that my great friend would loath, we certainly could use it.

December 16th, 2015

Five Takeaways from Last Night’s Debate

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This was a real debate

I said before the debate that voters are going to begin to demand more substance as we move into 2016, and tonight’s debate certainly gave the candidates the opportunity to give it to them.  The narrow focus of the debate allowed the candidates to get their hands dirty on substantive foreign and national security issues.  CNN did it’s best to pit the candidates against each other, but after all, the point of debates is to allow each candidate differentiate him or herself from the other.

Jeb Bush had a breakout night; Rubio and Christie more than held their own

For the first time in the campaign, Jeb Bush came out swinging against Trump and did so effectively.  Quite possibly the best line of the night went to Governor Bush when he told the real estate mogul that he “couldn’t insult his way to the presidency.”  This was a big step for Bush and a signal that his campaign is ready to start playing tough.  Truly a break out night for the former Florida Governor, who demonstrated knowledge, depth, toughness, and spirit and was effective in eviscerating Trump’s bombastic and unrealistic proposals.  Christie and Rubio also held their own last night, looking poised and confident throughout the debate.

Trump took a hit

Any fall for Trump is surely to be gradual and not sudden, but there’s no question that he was outshined by the more seasoned pols on the stage last night.  Trump seemed caught off guard when asked to about the “nuclear triad,” a mistake that Senator Rubio seized upon immediately.  Trump isn’t leaving the picture anytime soon, and he likely did what he had to do to keep his spot atop the polls, at least for now.

Leadership will be essential in 2016

The current state of world affairs is going to require candidates to demonstrate that they are capable of being Commander in Chief, which will require making quick and decisive decisions.  Christie shined in a moment following an exchange between Senators Rubio and Cruz, and scored points with his emphasis on action over the Senators pontificating.  My prediction is that this will continue to play a major role, and those with executive experience will start to outshine the less experienced candidates in the race.

Still a long way to go until election day

In the last debate of 2015, we’re reminded that we still have a long way to go before primary voting starts and even longer before the general election.  There’s still plenty of time left for candidates to make their case, and some voters are just beginning to tune in.  We have a great group of candidates and we are in store for an exciting election year in 2016.

November 21st, 2015

ICYMI: “Republican Governors: A winning Machine”

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 1:32 pm
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In 2009, Governor Haley Barbour and I setup the Executive Roundtable at the RGA to add some financial weight behind GOP governors across the country.  At the time, there were only 19 Republican governors.  Today, those ranks have grown to 32, and a lot of that can be attributed to the hard work we’ve put in at the Executive Roundtable and the RGA as a whole.

The prolific fundraising and execution by the RGA has allowed Republicans to play both offense and defense in races across the country.  We defended 22 seats vs. the Democrats 14 in 2014, and picked up seats in deep blue Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

As the Finance Chairman at the RGA for the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the best and brightest up and coming members in the Party.  Many of them have led their states back from tough economic times by implementing common sense conservative reforms.  A handful of these governors are running for President this cycle, and more are likely to seek the White House in future elections.

Our bench is deeper than ever before, and I’m confident that it will be our current and former state executives that will continue to lead the Party at both the state and the national levels.

For a good read on the fantastic work the RGA has been doing, check out Kevin Robillard’s recent article in Politico, “Republican governors: A winning machine.”

November 3rd, 2015

How to Pick a President

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 10:55 am
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As we contemplate the lengthy process to pick a Republican nominee for President of the United States, it’s worth considering how we should go about it.

It seems abundantly clear at this point that we should value beyond all else the candidate who is glib and the master of sound bites. The candidate needs to be entertaining, pithy, and fast on his or her feet, with the ability to counter punch and deliver that devastating blow. Real experience in solving problems, substantive depth, and the proven record of being able to do what you say, well, that’s so yesterday.

How do we know all this?  The media unanimously declared it following last week’s debate, and of course the voting public listened and responded accordingly. And after all, look how well these criteria worked in the past two elections of President Obama.


It’s only early November, and the spectacle of having 10 candidates on stage in each debate has muddled up the process and distracted the party form having a serious conversation.  This time around the GOP was supposed to have a better handle on the debates.  But the drivel that came out of the third Republican debate best example yet of a departure from serious dialogue in favor of sound bites on matters of little consequence.

Cutting down on the number of candidates on the debate stage would help encourage a more substantive examination of the candidates’ policy positions.  Otherwise, we’re going to be stuck with the meaningless and debilitating contest that’s been going on since the Summer.

When experience and proven accomplishments are overlooked, we end up with an inferior candidate.  Let’s get the conversation back on track and start talking about real issues.

October 29th, 2015

Statement Supporting Paul D. Ryan As Speaker of The House

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Congressman Paul D. Ryan has proven himself to be a knowledgeable and thoughtful leader with the policy background and political acumen to lead the House of Representatives. He has been the go-to budget expert in the House and will bring a clear and compelling message on economic reform to the Speaker’s Office.

Having know him since he was an intern to the great Jack Kemp at Empower America, where I served on the Board of Advisors, I know of his great intellect and consistent and high integrity.

During his tenure in the House, Congressman Ryan has championed the cause for a smaller, more efficient, and less costly government.  He has worked diligently as Chairman of the House Budget and Ways & Means Committees to confront our country’s biggest problems.

Congressman Ryan has been tested on the national stage as a Vice Presidential candidate and I am confident he has what it takes to unite the party and advance a conservative governing agenda as he moves to Congress’ top spot.  I would like to congratulate Mr. Ryan for becoming 62nd Speaker of the House and I wish him the best of luck as he takes on this enormous responsibility for the country and for the Republican Party.

October 9th, 2015

Problems in Managing the Federal Government

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 4:29 pm
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Recently a friend of mine emailed me a 1970 memo I wrote for then Office of Management and Budget Director George P. Shultz.  At the time I was serving as Deputy Under Secretary of Health Education andWelfare and was all of 33 years old. A couple of years later I was named Deputy Director of OMB and had a chance to put some of my thoughts into action, aided by a great team I assembled including Paul O’Neil, Frank Zarb, John Sawhill, and Colin Powell.

Our goal was to put the “M” into OMB and to accomplish this we set out to introduce business practices into the federal government, especially those related to management and new ways to increase efficiency in the federal bureaucracy.

In the memo I outlined priorities for the new OMB, and as a result I came up with what I saw as the major problems in managing the federal government, and offered some initial recommendations.

I’ve written about this topic quite a bit over the years.  I published a book (Washington’s Hidden Tragedy: The Failure to Make Government Work). It discussed the many failures of managing the government and offered solutions.  I also touched on this issue in a column for the Daily Caller last year, but it’s worth revisiting, as so much of this is still relevant today.

You can read the memo in it’s entirety here, but I’ve outlined some of the major points below.

Lack of Management Expertise in Top Positions

There’s really no question that people in key management positions in the federal government – department officials, agency heads, and program chiefs – often have little to no training or background in management.  Unlike the private sector, government positions are often filled with people who posses a high degree of technical expertise, but have yet to prove themselves as effective managers.

Separation of Management from Policy Development

This occurs all too often when policy is developed without consideration as to how it will be implemented (think rollout of healthcare.gov).  Having a management strategy in place from the beginning is important to avoid serious mistakes further down the road.

Neglect of Less Visible Tasks

Top officials tend to focus on high profile problems especially during the launch of new initiatives and programs.    Everyone wants to look good for political leadership, which places an emphasis on focusing on the hottest political topics at the time.  Once attention shifts to a new program or the political mood changes, important management priorities are often neglected.

General Inability to Gauge Results

One of the biggest observations I’ve made over the years is the fact that it’s much more difficult to hold people accountable in government positions, because there is really no reliable metric to grade effectiveness.  Simply put, it’s difficult to know whether someone is doing a good job in government or not.


Bureaucracies often spring up as the result of individual pieces of legislation creating a vast system of walled off government programs that serve similar purposes.  This can lead to massive redundancies and waste in government.  For example, in his 2014 report to Congress, GAO Comptroller Gene Dodaro explained that “it’s impossible to account for how much money is wasted through duplication, in part because the government doesn’t keep track of which programs each agency is responsible for.”

Poor Working Relationships with State and Local Governments

The tension between state and federal governments has increased significantly during the current administration.  As Chairman of the Finance Committee at the Republican Governors Association, I regularly hear complaints from our members about overreach and interference from the Federal government.

We face many of the same challenges today that we did in 1970, and there’s no clear cut way to solve all of them.  However, since my experience in government and the publication of my book, I’ve been fortunate to hold CEO positions in the private sector as President of Marriott Hotels and of Northwest Airlines. This has given me a good sense of what works, and what doesn’t work when it comes to management.  And most importantly, leadership starts at the top, and one of the places to start may be to change the management coming out of the oval office.



September 26th, 2015

Statement on House Speaker John A. Boehner’s Retirement

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 9:42 am
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Speaker John Boehner always considered himself a regular guy who was given the chance to do a big job.  Throughout his 25-year House career and reign as Speaker, he certainly rose to the occasion.  His legacy leaves behind a strong record of conservative accomplishments and lifetime achievements.

I always thought that Speaker Boehner did everything he could to give us the best chance to stand up to President Obama and advance a conservative agenda, and he proved time and time again his ability to strike a deal and work out the differences in his own party.

There are certainly big shoes to fill but I am confident that the bench is plenty deep for a new leader to emerge at the helm of the House of Representative.  Kevin McCarthy has proven to be a more than capable Majority Leader and would make an impressive choice for the job as someone who could lead the Republican Party and House.

As John moves on to the next chapter in his life, I wish him and his family the best of luck and success in whatever comes next.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

July 28th, 2015

10 Years of Baseball in Washington

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 8:38 am
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President Ronald Reagan in 1985 called on Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth to restore “a tradition which has long been absent from the city—the presidential privilege of throwing out the first ball.”  It took another 20 years before baseball would make its way back to DC, but today, the proud tradition of our great national pastime in our Nation’s Capitol lives on.

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of bringing baseball back to Washington.  To coincide with the anniversary, the Newseum will honor the Nationals with an exhibit starting this week.  This is a great time to celebrate how far the team has come in such a short time, but it’s also a time to look back on the progress we’ve made here in DC and the wider community.

There was a time not too long ago when crime and poor city management were rife in the District.  There were many areas in the city that needed to be cleaned up, and Congress had to intervene and oversee the city’s financials.

Baseball was in a similar state of panic.  In the mid 90’s, baseball was still reeling from the devastating strike that produced the longest work stoppage in the game’s history.  The World Series was canceled, fans stopped showing up to ballparks, and team revenues tanked.

Major League Baseball decided to step in and save one of its most financially distressed teams, The Expos, whose hometown of Montreal is better known for hockey.

Business and city leaders in Washington saw an opportunity.  Mayor Tony Williams commissioned a study that showed clear evidence that Washington could support a Major League team.  The Mayor asked me to lead a potential owner group that would partner with the city, setting off what became one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

Along with business and city leaders, we setup the Washington Baseball Club with the goal of moving the Expos to Washington.  To do that we needed to select a great site, convince the DC city government to help build a world class stadium, and ultimately convince MLB to move the team to DC.

We had a great group of partners including Jeff Zients, Steve Porter, Paul Wolff, Frank Raines, Jim Kimsey, Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan and David Bradley and a fantastic executive director, Winston Lord.  We worked diligently for two years and finally succeeded.

When news came that DC was getting the team, we had tears in our eyes with pride that we had helped our great city achieve its goal of providing a Major League team for the many baseball fans in our city.

While we came in second to the strong and capable Lerner Family in a lengthy but fair process to purchase the team, we are grateful of the role we all played.  The hard work to bring baseball back to our nation’s capital has been an overwhelming success, and we can thank the Lerners for the way they have built the team up over the years.

In 2005, President George W. Bush took to the mound at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC to throw out the first ball, restoring the tradition of baseball in our nation’s capital.

Today, the Nationals are sitting at the top of the NL East, and young stars like Bryce Harper and pitching ace Max Sherzer are dazzling the District and baseball fans across the country.  And South West DC seems to be building up as fast as the team’s fan base has.

The Nationals are a reminder for all of us who grew up around the game watching our heroes take to the field.  Today, kids in our city have the same opportunity to grow up around a team and immerse themselves in this wonderful sport and learn its lessons of hard work, discipline and team spirit.

Nationals’ fans will have the opportunity this summer to relive some of the greatest moments in our team’s history when the Newseum opens its doors this week to showcase 10 years of baseball in DC.  Those old Expos and Senators would be proud; our Nationals are building proudly on their heritage and offering their fans bright prospects for the future. That’s exactly what a great home team should do for its fans.

July 20th, 2015

Statement on the Retirement of Abe Foxman

file under Uncategorized - Fred Malek @ 10:35 am
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Abe Foxman has dedicated his entire life’s work to combating prejudice, extremism and intolerance across the nation and throughout the world. For three decades at the helm of the Anti Defamation League he has lead the charge excoriating anti-Semitism, hate crimes and all forms of bigotry, gaining him the respect of popes, presidents and people of all faiths.

We should honor Mr. Foxman’s commendable service as he retires from his post today, but remember there is still much more work to be done. Prejudice is still all too common even in our advanced society, and we must continue to combat hatred with ideals of equality and civility.

Last year I was honored to receive the Anti Defamation League’s Achievement award, and truly proud and humbled to have that award presented to me by my good friend Abe Foxman. Thank you for your lifetime of service, Abe, and I wish you the best of luck as you move on to the next chapter in your life.

June 30th, 2015

Reacting to the Supreme Court’s Decision

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Our government functions within a system of checks and balances.  By design, each branch of government is regularly at odds with the others to prevent the abuse of power.  There are certainly instances when this structure produces outcomes that elicit polarizing responses from different groups of people.  The Court’s decision last week to expand the definition of marriage is case and point.

We live in a country that encourages dissent and freedom of speech.  But if the Republican Party is serious about winning national elections, we must respect decisions handed down by the High Court and work within the confines of our Constitution and reality to promote a governing agenda for the American people.

Abolishing the Supreme Court, as some have suggested, is not only unconstitutional, but to me, deeply concerning.  Furthermore, pursuing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Court’s decision would be a gross waste of resources and would almost certainly crash and burn.  This brash rhetoric is not only bad for our Party but also bad for the country.

Republicans running for President would be wise to keep their eye on the prize: winning the general election and laying out a vision for the country that focuses on jobs, the economy and expanding access to the American Dream.

The American people are paying close attention to how our candidates respond to this.  I’ll be paying close attention as well.