New Jersey Democratic congressman Tom Malinowski fought against the establishment of the national sex offender registry as the top lobbyist for Human Rights Watch, according to a review of congressional records and lobbying disclosures.
Prior to assuming office, the Democrat opposed a 2006 crime bill that imposed tougher penalties on sexual predators, including a permanent record on the national sex offender registry for violent offenders who victimized children. He and his fellow lobbyists argued in a letter to Congress that "no legitimate community safety justification" exists to create such a registry, which they warned will put offenders "at risk of retaliation and discrimination."
"Crime, even a crime that involves sexual misconduct, should not be license to run roughshod over principles of fairness and proportionality," the group wrote in the letter signed by Malinowski's colleague. "Human Rights Watch urges you to vote against [the sexual offender bill]."
Malinowski first rose to prominence when the Obama administration tapped him to become assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor at the State Department in 2014. The White House chose him because they liked Malinowski's reputation as a "good guy lobbyist," according to the Center for Responsive Politics, but Malinowski's earlier efforts to block a widely popular effort to hold sex predators accountable complicates his legacy as a Beltway lobbyist.
As a freshman representative, Malinowski has frequently touted his tenure at Human Rights Watch to bolster his credentials as a human rights crusader. His campaign did not respond to requests for comments about whether the congressman stands by his previous lobbying efforts against the sex offender bill.
Malinowski served as Human Rights Watch's Washington director between 2001 and 2013, pushing the agenda of a nonprofit group that is praised for its humanitarian work but criticized for its alleged anti-Israel bias. The group's executive director promoted an op-ed tying white supremacy to Zionism and blamed Israel for growing anti-Semitism in Europe. Malinowski lobbied on a wide variety of bills during his 12-year tenure, including the sex offender legislation, according to lobbying disclosures.
The crime bill passed both the House and the Senate via voice vote in 2006, indicating bipartisan support for the legislation. In addition to the national sex offender registry, the bill also imposed tougher punishments for sex offenders by expanding the death penalty and requiring higher minimum sentencing for offenders. Malinowski's team opposed these tougher punishments as well, arguing that harsher sentences are arbitrary and excessively cruel.
Malinowski is running a tough reelection campaign against GOP state senate leader Tom Kean Jr. The most recent poll, conducted in April, showed the two candidates neck-and-neck, with Kean holding a slight lead.