Jack Prebis (Ethiopia 1962-64) who was later an APCD in Ethiopia (1965-67) sent me this photo from his days working in ACTION. This ’sit in’ happened in 1975, I believe. RPCVs were protesting Nixon/Ford Administration cutting the Peace Corps budget. Some Volunteers occupied Peace Corps offices when the agency was located in its original site, the Maiatico Building at 806 Connecticut Ave. They hung banners out the windows. The office then closed and the staff went home. No one called the police.
The head of ACTION at the time was Mike Balzano. Balzano was an avid Nixon supporter. Walking down the halls one time, he was heard to say “I can just smell the hate the RPCVs have for me in the air.”
Balzano made a concerted effort (complete with mandatory seminars and questionnaires) to ID and get rid of the Kennedyites and fill the Peace Corps with folks of his own political ilk. He personally interviewed potential staff, even for entry level positions. He questioned a secretarial applicant wanting to knew about her political beliefs, wanting to know if she voted Republican. (It might be that Democrats did the same, but I never heard of it.)
Some background on Balzano. He was a White House Staff Assistant from February 1972 through March 1973. He worked under Charles Colson on “blue-collar” and “white ethnic group” concerns. Balzano acted as a liaison between the Nixon Administration and various segments of the population, including labor, Catholics, Poles, Slovaks, Italians, Greeks, Ukranians, Lithuanians, Estonians, and other Eastern European groups. Nixon appointed Balzano head of ACTION in 1973. In August 1974, Nixon would resign his office, a victim of Watergate. Charles Colson, Michael Balzano’s good friend, and known as the “hatched man” in the White House, would spent seven months in jail for his Watergate dealings. He would come out of jail a Christian.
While he was in the White House, Balzano monitored for Colson these groups and concerns: busing, crime, Eastern Europe, Radio Free Europe, patronage, ethnic representation in government, Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union, Vietnam, the Ethnic Studies Heritage Programs Act, and the Higher Education Act. The 1972 election was also a focal point. The support of the various groups was seen as both a goal for Balzano and as a measure of the success of the Nixon Administration in the first term.