Rob Walker, a former staff director at both the House and Senate ethics committees, says he believes Congress would likely find that since Gianforte’s alleged offense was widely publicized and occurred before the election, the committee would not pursue an investigation.
“If elected, I don’t think [Gianforte] would be subject to investigation or discipline based on this conduct,” Walker told ABC News. “If he wins in spite of this, the voters have spoken.”
While Walker acknowledges there is no specific rule to prohibit the ethics committee from opening a probe, the rules do allow for some flexibility to examine a congressional candidate’s behavior that was initially unknown but later revealed.
That sort of investigation into a member’s actions preceding his or her tenure in Congress are generally to safeguard against revelations of inappropriate actions in the course of seeking office — such as campaign fraud. Even if Gianforte is convicted of misdemeanor assault, such an offense probably would not prompt an investigation, according to Walker.