Republicans nationwide have long relied on Washington venture capitalist Fred Malek to haul in big bucks for their committees and campaigns, but this year the silver-haired Malek is doing double duty of sorts.
Early this year, Malek, 73, founded the American Action Network, a self-styled “action tank” — rather than a think tank — which boasts a 501(c)(4) advocacy arm that is trying to raise $20 million to $25 million to help elect dozens of GOP Senate and House candidates in such key states as New Hampshire, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Malek wrote a large check to launch the network and chairs its operations. He works closely with its top leaders — former Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, the CEO of the network, and Rob Collins, a former chief of staff to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is president of the advocacy operation.
At the same time, Malek has been doing yeoman’s work roping in large individual donors for the Republican Governors Association which under the leadership of Mississippian Haley Barbour has witnessed a humongous jump in fundraising.
Malek, who raised lots of cash for the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain in 2008, was tapped by Barbour about a year ago to recruit wealthy donors to give at least $25,000 to join the RGA’s executive roundtable. Since Malek became chairman of the program, the program’s membership has soared from under two dozen to more than over 500.
The roundtable’s burgeoning roster is a big reason why the RGA pulled in a whopping $19 million in the second quarter this year — more than double what it did in the first quarter — and is on track to raise record sums this election cycle.
Malek has attracted big donors nationwide, but sources say that — working with Barbour — he has had especially good luck in New York tapping some Wall Street GOP sugar daddies, such as Paul Singer, the CEO of hedge fund Elliott Management. This April, Singer wrote a $500,000 check to the RGA. “There’s a lot of buyer’s remorse on Wall Street over the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress,” Malek told the Center.
To help lure big checks, Malek has organized several events with prominent governors so that donors can spend some quality time with them in relaxed settings. One example: Last summer donors were invited to a posh hotel in Aspen, Colo. (where Malek, a McLean, Va., resident, has a second home), to attend a weekend of meetings, dinners, and golf with several governors, including Barbour, Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty, and Texas’ Rick Perry.
Former RGA finance chairman and lobbyist Ron Kaufman of Dutko Associates says that Malek’s success at RGA money harvesting “makes our efforts pale by comparison.”
Malek’s career in Washington goes way back to the first Nixon administration when he held several posts before becoming deputy director of Nixon’s re-election campaign in 1972. Malek ran the re-election campaign of George H.W. Bush in 1992 and co-chaired the finance effort for McCain in 2008.