Six individuals who worked at Human Rights Watch between 2003 and 2007 said that Rep. Tom Malinowski was not involved in lobbying against the creation of a national sex offender registry when he served as the group’s Washington director.
“It wouldn’t have been his job, nor would it have been his interest,” said Jamie Fellner, who was the director of the Human Rights Watch U.S. Program. “I can’t imagine that he would have been shown anything to do with the crime bill.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is spending $250,000 on a controversial cable TV ad alleging that Malinowski lobbied on behalf of sex offenders while working for Human Rights Watch.
“That just wasn’t even true,” said Corrine Carey, who worked as a researcher in the New York office of Human Rights Watch from 2003 to 2006. “Tom Malinowski had zero involvement in that issue.”
Malinowski said in a New Jersey Globe debate with his Republican opponent, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., that the claim was factually inaccurate.
“The idea that I would support sex offenders when I’ve spent my entire life fighting that kind of people as a human rights activist, as a diplomat around the world … It’s obviously preposterous,” the congressman said. “They think if they keep repeating this garbage, there will be some people who eventually believe it, and we know who the model for that kind of politics is right now.”
The Globe spoke with current and former Human Rights Watch employees and all backed up Malinowski’s claim.
“That was my baby,” Carey said of the issue. “I vaguely remember him, but I never had any dealings with him. I never talked to Tom Malinowski. He was never in any of the meetings.”
Jennifer Daskal, a former counsel to the Assistant US. Attorney General who was serving as advocacy director for Human Rights Watch’s U.S. program at the time, told the Globe in August that Malinowski played no role in the group’s decision to oppose a national sex offender registry.
“He was not involved in this issue at all,” said Jennifer Daskal, who was the advocacy director for the group’s U.S. Program. ““It was a long time ago, but I have no recollection of him being involved.”
Daskal said that Malinowski was working on foreign policy issues, something that Carey and four other Human Rights Watch staffer affirmed.
“I never had a conversation with him while working at Human Rights Watch,” Carey explained. “The U.S. program was separate and apart from what the Human Rights Watch does abroad.
Malinowski’s name appeared on a lobbying report regarding the bill, a point that has played heavily in the NRCC’s defense of the accuracy of the ad.
“By virtue of his supervisory and managerial involvement in the lobbying activities of an organization on record as opposing the bill instituting the national sex offender registry, such a statement is, in fact, true, it is not the claim the advertisement makes,” said Christine Fort, the counsel to the NRCC in a letter obtained by the Globe. “Rather, the advertisement states that Congressman Malinowski was the top lobbyist for a ‘group that strongly opposed’ the registry.”
Three Human Rights Watch staffers reached by the Globe say that the organization routinely added Malinowski to lobbying disclosures because he ran the Washington office.
Malinowski and Daskal were listed on the crime bill report. Daskal acknowledged that she lobbied for the bill, and it is her name that was included on statement published in the Congressional Record.
One senior Human Rights Watch staffer, who asked not to be identified by name, said that the inclusion of Malinowski on the lobbying report was done in “excess of caution.”
“Tom never fulfilled requirements as a lobbyist under the Lobbying Disclosure Act,” the individual explained. “There was a period of time (that) we just automatically did that.”
Fellner, who became the group’s senior counsel before retiring, backed that up.
“Anything Human Rights Watch was doing in Washington, his name would be on it,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean he had anything to do with it or even that it was run by him.”
A 2007 report published by Human Rights Watch on sex offender laws in the United States acknowledged the participation of fourteen people affiliated with the organization as taking part in the preparation and writing, including Carey and Fellner. Malinowski’s name was not included.
The Washington Post fact-checked the NRCC ad and gave it “four Pinocchios” – a rating awarded to a mostly-false ad.
In her letter, Fort disputes that.
“The advertisement speaks for itself – and is completely true in every respect,” she said.
Script: “In every city, in every neighborhood, around every corner, sex offenders are living among us. But Tom Malinowski tried to make it easier for predators to hide in the shadows. Malinowski worked as the top lobbyist for a radical group that strongly opposed the national sex offender registry. Law enforcement praised the national sex offender registry that Tom Malinowski led an effort to stop. After two decades in Washington, Tom Malinowski has become dangerously radical.”