Most Americans might not know Tom Malinowski's name yet. But come election season in 2018, he'll probably get plenty of attention as Malinowski runs for Congress. As someone who helped jumpstart Congress' interest in investigating Russian election interference, Malinowski can expect extra media attention — and it doesn't hurt that he's competing for one of several House seats Democrats think they can flip to take control of the lower chamber.
Malinowski announced he'd be running for New Jersey's 7th District seat in October. And as a former official in the administrations of both President Obama and President Clinton, Malinowski brings plenty of prior government experience to his resume.
In fact, it was during the final days of Malinowski's tenure at the Obama State Department when he delivered case numbers to a handful of U.S. senators, hoping they'd pick up the thread and investigate further. Those numbers corresponded with several intelligence reports on Russian interference in the recent U.S. election.
And while the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to look into any possible illegal coordination between Russia and President Trump's campaign is an important step, Malinowski thinks it's far from sufficient, which is a factor in why he's running for Congress.
In an op-ed at Politico, Malinowski laid out three necessary steps to "safeguard our democracy." His first suggestion is pretty straightforward: "safeguard our elections." Malinowski points out a handful of glaring vulnerabilities in America's voting process. For instance, many vote on "outmoded, hack-able machines" that lack a backup paper record. If hacking were to occur, this deficit makes tracking the extent of interference impossible.
Malinowski also wants to do more to bar foreign powers from buying influence with American politicians. He points specifically to the threat of foreign money sneaking in through shell companies. Set up in a way that hides the identities of those funding them, shell company purchases can be a stealth mode of purchasing access and/or influence with elected officials. Malinowski cites one example — one-third of Trump condos in South Florida are reportedly owned by limited liability companies (LLCs). Malinowski wants to pass legislation to make that kind of interference illegal.
Malinowski cites a final threat to American democracy — online propaganda. He eschews any kind of governmental interference with the internet itself, but does support pressuring social media companies to do a better job informing users on the credibility of sources. Malinowski also wants rules imposed on political advertising online.
Malinowski's most recent job title was assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor. According to Malinowski's campaign website, his work in the Obama administration included stopping the use of torture, defending the human rights of women and the LGBTQ population, challenging dictators, and protecting "our privacy on the internet," among other goals.
Malinowski is an immigrant from Poland, a background that he says provokes "extra pride in representing our country and fighting to protect our values around the world." After seeing dysfunctional political systems abroad, Malinowski is adamant that Americans not lose sight of the benefits and importance of bipartisanship. He cites specifically his friendship with Republican Sen. John McCain and their joined efforts to champion human rights.
Malinowski is entering a packed Democratic primary, with five other candidates vying to take on the current Republican holder of New Jersey's 7th seat, Rep. Leonard Lance. The Republican is seen as vulnerable, as his vote against GOP efforts to reform health care is seen as a potential turnoff to hardline conservative voters in the district.