When Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Indiana) tragically died in a car accident earlier this month, it meant that the House Ethics Committee lost its ranking Republican member. And thanks to an overlapping series of Ethics Committee policies and House schedules, the committee’s inquiry into Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes)’s stock trading is now highly unlikely to be resolved before this November’s general election.
The selection of a new Republican member on the bipartisan, 10-member committee is in the hands of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California), and his choice needs to be ratified by the full House Republican conference. Realistically, that won’t happen until the House returns from recess on September 13.
But the Ethics Committee has an internal rule dictating that it does not release decisions in the 60 days leading up to a federal election, which this year begins on September 9 – a sort of safeguard against October Surprises for House members. The committee also has a practice of not making decisions while missing a member, so as to preserve partisan balance.
Malinowski’s failure to disclose a significant number of 2020 stock trades, first reported by Business Insider in March 2021, was referred to the Ethics Committee from the separate Office of Congressional Ethics on July 23, 2021. The committee has not accused Malinowski of any wrongdoing or upgraded their inquiry into an investigation, but it has also repeatedly chosen not to dismiss the matter, as it has done for several other House members in the interim.
Walorski’s death and the ensuing scheduling problems thus keeps the matter stuck in the same limbo that it’s been in for the last year.
Malinowski’s Republican opponent, former Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield), has already hammered Malinowski repeatedly over stock trading. The fact that there’s no chance of a resolution before November means Kean can keep up the attack for months more – though Kean’s first TV ad, released earlier this week, focused on inflation rather than stocks.
The delay also means, however, that the Malinowski campaign won’t have to worry about a negative decision from the committee upending the campaign at the last minute.
Since the committee doesn’t continue inquiries into former members of Congress, if Malinowski loses to Kean this November, the inquiry may simply fade away with him. If he wins, though, the matter of his stock trading will fall to all-new Ethics Committee leadership, as current chairman Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida) is retiring from the House this year.