Chris Collins

Collins, FCC Commissioner Criticize NY Use Of 9-1-1 Cash

From the Morning Memo:

Western New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins and Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly are putting pressure on New York to reform the way it utilizes revenue from 9-1-1 fees.

The two men co-authored an OpEd for wide distribution criticizing the state for “diverting” the fees it collects from people’s phone bills to the general fund, rather than using it to support the emergency call system.

Under federal law, states are responsible for the maintenance of their own system. However, Collins and O’Rielly says New York continues to miss out on additional federal funding earmarked to update 9-1-1 technology, allowing public safety officials to receive real time locations and live video feeds, among other things.

“Ironically, the very funding that New York and many others fought for in Congress as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act is not available to New York,” they wrote. “The thought being, if the state is not prioritizing it’s 9-1-1 system, the federal government should not contribute its scarce funding that would allow for more diversion.”

Collins and O’Rielly said the FCC found in its report to Congress this year that New York diverted roughly 41 percent to its general fund and, despite collecting more than $185 million in 9-1-1 fees, used only $10 million to support the call centers.

They said this is a big problem because according to a recent Associated Press article, the state has serious service gaps in rural areas and needs a more than $2 billion upgrade.

“New York’s diversionary tactics must stop.  If the state doesn’t act, we will have to explore ideas at the federal level to bring an end to this practice once and for all,” they threatened.

The two men plan to continue to push the issue while visiting the Niagara County Emergency Management Office on Friday.

Collins Impressed With Zuckerberg Testimony

Western New York Republican Chris Collins came away impressed with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg following his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce committee yesterday. Collins was one of more than fifty members of committee to question Zuckerberg during a more than four hour hearing.

By time Collins got his turn, late in the proceedings, he said he had already got a lot of answers about Facebook’s privacy procedures and how British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used the private information from tens of millions of people without their knowledge.

“Mark Zuckerberg brought the data and answered the questions professionally, very directly, and I think a lot of people were surprised at the answers because you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it,” Collins said.

He said many members of Congress thought Facebook was selling user data for private gain but learned that’s not the company’s model. Instead, it uses data to place ads but does not share that information with advertisers.

He said, in this case, Cambridge Analytica broke the rules and Facebook took action to remedy the problem when it became apparent.

“That was a third-party app developer,” Collins said. “They’ve locked that down very differently now after that happened. It could not happen to that extent ever again.”

Collins said it was a good look for Zuckerberg and the company to appear before Congress and directly answer questions. He said he is satisfied.

“I’m convinced we don’t need new regulations. We don’t need new legislation. I’m happy to have Facebook and others self-police because they know if something gets out of control there will be regulations or legislation,” Collins said.

Rep. Collins: Facebook Unites Democrats and Republicans

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee tomorrow morning for his second day of congressional hearings connected to the website’s privacy practices. Western New York Republican Chris Collins is one of 55 members on that committee that plans to question Zuckerberg

Collins appeared on the Fox Business Network this afternoon to discuss the hearing.

“I know we’re going to hear the apologies but I think we would all agree it’s actions that matter not words,” he said.

The congressman said Facebook made a big mistake in turning a blind eye to privacy issues, particularly regarding British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica which gained access to 50 million users’ private information without their knowledge.

“I will tell you this, Facebook has united Democrats and Republicans which is very hard to do, especially in a mid-term election year to unite Republicans and Democrats in sharing the same concern about privacy,” Collins said.

He said he is particularly concerned with comments from Facebook a few days ago that users could potentially pay to restrict the data to which advertisers have access. Collins said Congress would never allow that to happen.

“In particular, I want to have assurance that Facebook will never charge a customer for privacy, which was what was suggested a couple days ago,” he said when asked what question he has for Zuckerberg.

Collins said he expects members to ask the company to voluntarily provide easy and free ways for customers to opt-out of sharing private information. If the company does not comply he said regulations via the Federal Trade Commission or federal legislation could move forward.

NY-27: Dems Respond To Collins’ 2nd Amendment Question

From the Morning Memo:

Western New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins challenged the two Democrats vying to unseat him to tell the public whether they would support the full repeal of the 2nd Amendment. This comes after retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for the repeal in a New York Times Op-Ed this week.

“The 27th district is one of the most Republican Congressional districts in New York State, with a very pro-2nd Amendment constituency,” Collins campaign spokesman Bryan Piligra said. “At the very least our opponents should let voters know if they support far-left calls to remove our fundamental right to bear arms.”

The campaign said both candidates, current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray and Monroe County businessman Nick Stankevich, attended pro-gun control marches over the weekend and stood with people who support the repeal. Both candidates, however, insisted they don’t actually share those views.

“Give me a break. I’ve never said that once,” McMurray said. “Now I have a question for him: Will he debate me one-on-one before the public so we can have a direct conversation about the 2nd Amendment? Let’s let everyone see exactly where we stand.”

McMurray said he staunchly supports the right to bear arms, but doesn’t think everybody – for instance, people with mental illness or criminals – should have easy access to firearms.

Stankevich expressed the same sentiment in his statement, saying Collins is out of touch politician who is refusing to represent the interest of the district by protecting children.

“On Saturday, I marched with my neighbors and friends for tighter guns laws and regulations,” Stankevich said. “Our neighbors who follow the law deserve freedom to protect their families, and our children deserve the freedom to go to school without fearing for their lives. Collins’ extremist views are not only offensive but also dangerous. Mr. Collins would rather continue to be bought for his inaction.”

Stankevich and McMurray plan to participate in a student forum on guns on April 7. According to the Buffalo News, Collins’ office declined an invitation saying “radical partisans” have co-opted the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida to score political points.

Collins To Meet With Potential Dem Challenger Stankevich

A Democratic candidate in NY-27 is flying to Washington, D.C. today to meet with the Republican incumbent. A spokesperson for Nick Stankevich said he and Rep. Chris Collins plan to meet at 1:30 p.m. to talk about gun reform.

“I want to fight for the people; I will do what it takes to get the job done,” Stankevich said.

His campaign said it began having conversations with Collins’ office when, following the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the congressman sharply criticized Democrats for politicizing the tragedy instead of having a sit-down conversation.

The spokesperson, however, said Stankevich was disappointed Collins refused to hold the meeting in the district or allow constituents to participate.

A source close to Collins confirmed the meeting is indeed scheduled to take place, and noted that although the congressman had a very busy schedule, he made time to sit down with Stankevich in the nation’s Capitol because he is a constituent.

The Republican’s campaign has been critical of local Democratic committees for endorsing current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, who does not live in NY-27, to run against him.

McMurray has publicly challenged Collins to a debate several times. He and Stankevich both plan to compete for the party’s nomination in a June primary.

Collins Tours Gum Factory, Calls For Sugar Reform

Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, is pushing for reform to United States sugar policy when Congress reauthorizes the federal Farm Bill this year. The congressman wants to eliminate quotas on sugar imports which he said have artificially raised the price of the domestic product, sometimes as much as double the world market price.

“When they say, alright, this is how much gum can come in from other places and we can’t reach our demand, you can imagine that’s a ‘get out of jail free’ card for the U.S. producers to charge whatever they want because they know it’s going to get consumed,” he said.

Collins toured the Ford Gum Plant in Akron on Friday. It’s the only major gumball manufacturer remaining in the country and also makes Big League Chew.

The company’s CEO, George Stege, said branded products like the shredded gum have helped keep the company in business because it can charge more. When it comes to gumballs though, he said Canadian companies are dominating the market simply because the sugar is cheaper and they can undercut Ford’s prices.

Stege said all he wants is parity; the ability to purchase sugar at or near the world market price. The company currently employs about 150 people in Western New York

“We think we could grow the jobs here and frankly double the employment here because there are opportunities to go into certain areas if we could meet a certain price point which we can’t do currently,” he said.

Collins said the profit for sugar producers on the other hand, is going directly into their pockets and he’s not concerned about the potential impact changing policy could have on that industry.

“No one should be afraid of competition and I would say absolutely not, in this case fair trade just means you’ve got to play by the same rules and I don’t believe it would hurt our industry at all.”

 

Rep. Collins Dismisses Gun Control Debate Invitation From Erie County Executive

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, D, has invited Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, to participate in a moderated televised discussion about gun control. Poloncarz said he reached out to Collins after seeing the congressman’s February 15 interview with Spectrum News about the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school.

“I’m just certainly disappointed in the Democrats who rushed to the microphone in a disgusting way, frankly, instead of having a sit-down and a conversation of what we can do, but, you know, there’s only so much we can do,” Collins said at the time.

Poloncarz said he took the congressman’s call for a sit-down to heart and a day later the two of them had a roughly 20 minute conversation about the issue. He said as part of that conversation, he asked Collins if he’d be willing to take part in a moderated conversation so the general public could view it.

The Republican has been steadfast that he has no interest in holding a town hall style forum because he said opponents tend to shout and grandstand and those types of forums are not productive. Poloncarz said that while Collins was non-committal to this alternative, he took his response as a maybe.

The county executive reached out to the Western New York public broadcasting station, WNED, who said they would be willing to televise the discussion live.

“I sent a text message to Chris saying let’s do this. Let’s get this done. We sent the letter to his office by email and fax and I think we need to have a common sense conversation about what we can do in this country, which I believe is the passage of common sense gun laws,” Poloncarz said.

Collins’ office quickly dismissed the challenge and accused the county executive of doing exactly what he was upset with in the first place, politicizing the Parkland tragedy.

“It’s comical that Mark Poloncarz – who doesn’t actually have the courage of his convictions to run for federal office –  now wants to be a surrogate attack dog and exploit the Parkland tragedy for his own political gain.  We’re happy to have our own surrogate and co-equal member of county government, County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, educate Mark on the national democrat party’s failure to deliver gun control reform when they had full control of federal government in 2009.  Perhaps they’ll even invite Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who gleefully accepted the NRA’s endorsement in her failed run for federal office.  We look forward to Mark and Stefan’s town hall,” campaign spokesperson Chris Grant said.

Poloncarz, indeed, is not running for Collins’ congressional seat, despite some community efforts to draft him. He said that is proof that this is not an election year stunt.

Currently two Democratic candidates are vying for the 27th District and Poloncarz said he doesn’t think a debate would have an effect on the race.

“We are both leaders in the community and can have a frank, non-vitriolic discussion of the topic. I do not believe this will hurt or help his opponent, only reveal who the leaders are in our community,” he said.

Current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray is the endorsed Democrat and favorite to challenge Collins this fall. He said he loved Poloncarz’s challenge to Collins and on Twitter he did the same.

“I challenge you to a debate on firearms. If you think I’m wrong, say it to my face, show the world how silly I am,” he wrote. “You can bring your gun if it will make you feel safe. Because I bet I could beat you on the range too. And at arm wrestling. And at Scrabble.”

NY-27: And Then There Were Two

Two of the original five Democratic candidates remain as potential challengers to Republican Chris Collins in New York’s 27th Congressional District. Former Erie County prosecutor and Army veteran Sean Bunny announced Wednesday he is ending his campaign.

Earlier this week, candidates Joan Seamans and Tom Casey also pulled out of the race. According to the Federal Elections Commission most recent filings, Bunny had raised nearly $115,000 and had more than $90,000 remaining in his coffers.

The exodus comes following last week’s endorsement of current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray from the district’s eight Democratic county chairs.

“While I am proud of the campaign I ran, I did not become a candidate to hurt the Democratic party or hurt our chances in November. The most important objective is defeating Chris Collins and his anti-WNY agenda this fall. I hope whoever the eventual nominee is, he or she will show the same commitment to service and to WNY’s values that I have believed in since the day I raised my right hand and took my oath as an Army Second Lieutenant,” Bunny said.

McMurray and Monroe County businessman Nick Stankevich are the two active Democratic candidates remaining. Stankevich’s campaign, so far, has declined to comment on his intentions moving forward.

He currently has about $70,000 cash on hand. As recently as late-Wednesday morning the candidate was addressing campaign issues on his Facebook page and has an event planned on March 3rd.

Collins Campaign Goes On The Attack

The reelection campaign for Congressman Chris Collins released a statement Friday laden with jabs at the front-runner to challenge him in 2018. Current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray was endorsed by Turn 27 Blue a coalition of the eight county Democratic committees and activist groups in the district.

“Congratulations to NY-26 resident Nathan McMurray on beating out several actual NY-27 residents to win the support of the Democrat party bosses,” spokesman Bryan Piligra said. “This selection shows the Democrats learned nothing from the 2016 election and are again kicking progressives to the curb by rigging the primary to benefit an out-of-district Hillary Clinton wannabe with an email problem.”

Grand Island does sit just outside the district. McMurray said he’ll move well within the district’s borders if elected.

The rest of the Collins statement attempts to connect McMurray to the Democratic establishment at the local, state and national levels.

“While Nate McMurray was busy at his Grand Island Town Hall Campaign Headquarters currying favor with the Democrat establishment and figuring out how to sell the Cuomo/Pelosi agenda to NY-27 voters, Chris Collins was spending his time delivering historic tax cuts for working families in his district, expanding access to broadband in rural communities, defending our Lake Ontario Shoreline and protecting our Second Amendment rights,” Piligra said.

The spokesman does work in one more dig while tagging out the email.

“Sent from my iPhone – not a government computer,” he wrote.

Piligra confirmed that is not how he typically ends his emails. Last month, the Buffalo News reported McMurray sent campaign-related emails during business hours from his town email account.

There are four other Democrats who have formally announced their intentions to run for the seat. They will have to decide whether they plan to challenge McMurray in a primary.

Turn 27 Blue Endorses McMurray

From the Morning Memo:

Turn 27 Blue, the coalition of grassroots activists and Democratic Party leaders in New York’s 27th Congressional District, endorsed Nate McMurray as its candidate to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Collins. Five Democrats are vying for the seat.

McMurray is the Grand Island town supervisor. He is the only potential candidate against Collins who has held elected office.

McMurray also lives near, but outside the congressional district, (residency is not a requirement for congressional candidates). The coalition said his passion and experience separated him from the others.

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of this group of county Democratic Chairs and grassroots leaders. I’m confident we are going to turn the 27th District blue, and I’m eager to take this fight to Chris Collins,” McMurray said.

Collins, one of President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters and a frequent surrogate on his behalf, has been a prime target for Democrats this mid-term election, despite the fact that his district his overwhelmingly Republican. Turn 27 Blue came together roughly a year ago.

Over the past several months, the coalition has hosted several forums in different parts of the district. Erie County Democratic Committe Chairman Jeremy Zellner said his biggest takeaway for this development is that voters are ready for change.

“From the pending ethics investigation against him to his decision to ignore his district in favor of his wealthy donors, people were fed up with Chris Collins and his cronies,” Zellner said. “Chris Collins’s arrogant disregard for his constituents and his support for extreme policies that directly hurt New Yorkers has remade NY-27 into a competitive district.”

It is unclear following the endorsement if the field will clear for McMurray, or if other candidates will seek a primary.