Chris Collins

Collins Dismisses ‘Questionable Accounting’ Accusations

From the Morning Memo:

Western New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins quickly dismissed accusations he manipulated the finances of a company for which serves as chairman of the board.

The Buffalo News detailed the allegations yesterday made in court documents that were filed as part of a lawsuit from ZeptoMetrix former chief executive.

“He made certain allegations, certain hyperbole, which happens, not an ounce of truth in any of them and we settled 24 hours later with him. It’s unfortunate this is even a news story because it’s not,” the congressman said.

In the suit, former CEO Greg Chiklis claimed Collins used “questionable accounting practices” – including paying more than $500,000 a year to “phantom employees” and pushing accountants to deliver favorable findings for an annual audit. The congressman said he did nothing wrong, and insisted Chiklis was merely disgruntled.

“These accusations are without any merit whatsoever,” Collins said. “It was simply our former CEO who decided, who did resign from our company and did not like the terms of the contract that he had with the non-compete clause. He sued us to nullify the arbitration clause and the non-compete clause in his contract. He was not happy with those even though he signed the contract.”

Regardless of the congressman’s claims, some of his potential challengers this fall pounced on the report.

“As a public servant and a business person, I am disturbed and offended by Collins’ clear lack of integrity. The citizens of New York’s 27th District deserve better,” Democratic candidate Nate McMurray said. “If elected, I will represent all the people of our district, and uphold the rule of law.”

“If Collins’ wants to spend his time lining his own pockets, he should resign from office and accept whatever legal consequences ensue. I look forward to bringing real representation back to the 27th.”

Another Democratic candidate, Sean Bunny, said Collins prioritizes his personal wealth over his constituents. He pointed out that the ZeptoMetrix allegations aren’t the only accusations the congressman has recently faced, with an ethics investigation continuing into his actions with another biomedical company, Innate Immunotherapeutics.

“Enough is enough,” Bunny said. “Our families deserve a congressman who will fight for Western New Yorkers’ interests, not just his own. Let’s elect a representative whose name will be in the news for making our region stronger, not simply for defending himself and the administration against a constant barrage of misconduct accusations.”

Collins has also maintained he did nothing wrong in discussing Innate Immunotherapeutics with friends and colleagues.

As for ZeptoMetrix, the congressman said that’s not a distraction either, noting the extent of his involvement in the company has been limited to attending a board meeting for one hour every three months.

Collins Shocked ‘Grinch’ Cuomo Advocates For Gov’t Shutdown

Republican Rep. Collins called out his frequent verbal sparring partner, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for suggesting a federal government shutdown would be preferable to Congress passing the federal tax reform bill.

“It is shocking that Grinch Andrew Cuomo is advocating for a shutdown of the federal government because he didn’t get his way on denying New York’s working families a tax cut of $100 or more in their monthly paychecks,” Collins said in a statement.

Collins is a vocal supporter of the reform measure, which he has said repeatedly will result in a major tax cut for middle-class voters in his Western New York district.

Cuomo on the other hand, has railed against the bill, calling it a politically-motivated action that would purposely punish more heavily-taxed Democrat-dominated states like New York.

The governor has been particularly vocal about the proposed cap on the state and local property tax deductions, otherwise known as “SALT,” which he said could have a dire effect on New York’s 2018-19 budget. Cuomo has predicted widespread property tax hikes and property value drops if the bill is approved and takes effect.

Cuomo has said Congressional Democrats should do anything in their power to prevent the Republicans from passing the federal tax reform deal, and insists a shutdown would be fine with him if it means the bill doesn’t go through.

But Collins said suggesting a federal shutdown was callous.

“During Christmas season, Andrew Cuomo’s thuggish behavior would harm millions of New Yorkers by advocating that senior citizens don’t get their social security checks, our troops don’t get paid, our national parks close, families who need a little help don’t receive food stamps, and federal employees get laid off. That is just the beginning,” the congressman said.

The congressman, who has been publicly feuding with the governor for roughly a year, said Cuomo is demonstrating through his actions on this matter that he’s not capable of being president. Many people believe the governor, who says he’ll seeking a third term in his current job next fall, is eyeing a 2020 challenge to President Donald Trump.

Rep. Collins Stakes Reelection That Tax Bill Will Save Middle Class Money

They represent neighboring congressional districts but Republican Chris Collins and Democrat Brian Higgins have diametrically opposing views when it comes to the tax reform plan currently heading to reconciliation. Collins has repeatedly defended the plan as a tax cut for Middle America and an increase for only the very rich.

“Our tax reform bill is going to be great for 99 percent of Western New Yorkers who are going to see an extra $100 or $150 in their monthly pay guaranteed,” he said. “I stake my reelection on it.”

Collins believed he will be vindicated in January when Americans begin to see an increase in their paycheck. He echoed the sentiments of the White House Council of Economic Advisers who estimated an average household we’ll keep $4,000 to $9,000 more annually.

“I am telling you that is not true,” Higgins said. “There is not a credible economist or organization that studies these kinds of things in a non-partisan way that believes that.”

There is also the question of how to pay for the reform legislation, which proposes adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt. Collins and other Republicans believe the measures in the plan will stimulate the economy enough to pay for itself.

Higgins argued his colleagues across the aisle know the bill will add to the deficit and in order to make up for it will soon come after spending items like Medicare and Social Security.  The Democrat said the analysis from the Congressional Budget Office is very clear.

“They don’t believe that there will be any positive economic impact from so-called Dynamic Scoring. Dynamic Scoring is nothing more than trickle-down supply side economics rebranded,” he said.

Regardless, Collins said the reconciliation process should be finished by a week from Friday and the plan is well on its way to the president’s desk. He believed the final bill will look significantly more like the Senate bill than the House one because the Senate was able to gauge public reaction and make changes to the legislation after the House.

SBA Loans Available To Flood-Damaged Nonprofits

From the Morning Memo:

Low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration are now available for certain private non-profit organizations affected by flooding along the Lake Ontario shoreline this spring and summer.

Rep. Chris Collins said eligible organizations include food kitchens, homeless shelters, and libraries.

The president authorized the SBA loans last week when he declared a major federal disaster in New York. They can cover up to $2 million dollars for repairs and replacement of facilities damaged by the flooding.

“We have witnessed awful devastation along the shoreline and have stayed persistent in our fight to secure federal assistance,” Collins said. “My constituents desperately need this support, and these loans will go a long way to help these important nonprofit organizations.”

The deadline to submit applications is Jan. 16, 2018 for physical property damage and August for “economic injury.” The record high water levels this year were caused in part by heavy rainfall, but Collins has also placed much of the blame on the commission charged with regulating the lake for failing to let out water when it had the chance to do so.

“I thank the Trump Administration for its commitment to Western New York, with both federal assistance and in our push to replace the International Joint Commission with individuals that will repeal the disastrous Plan 2014 that got us into this mess,” the congressman said. “These loans are an important step in getting our communities back on their feet, but we will not rest until Plan 2014 is history.”

Collins said the administration has chosen three new America commissioners for the IJC, which also has three Canadian commissioners. It is not clear yet when the appointment process for those commissioners will begin.

The congressman’s office said it is still working to get Monroe and Cayuga counties included in the disaster declaration.

Rep. Collins Sends Fundraising Email Shortly After Tax Vote

Western New York Congressman Chris Collins is pointing to his support for the Republican tax reform plan as he asks for more campaign contributions. Within an hour of the House passage of the bill Thursday, the campaign blasted out an email with the subject line: You In?

It claimed the GOP plan will lower taxes for working families across the district. The email accused the Buffalo News, which recently published an editorial in opposition, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a consistent and vocal critic, of spreading misinformation because they support high taxes and spending.

“Would you consider contributing $50, $75, $100, or $250 today so we can tell Andrew Cuomo and the Buffalo News that we won’t put up with their lies any longer?” Collins asked.

The congressman said donations to his campaign will send both Cuomo and the News a message that the community wants them to stop the attacks. But the email may reinforce what Collins opponents have been arguing for more than a week, that the congressman is working primarily in the interest of those who contribute to him.

“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,” he reportedly said last Tuesday.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said “Establishment Republicans” want to hike taxes for the middle class to extend cuts to the wealthy and large corporations.

“There’s a wrecking ball coming straight for the middle class in New York’s 27th District, thanks to Rep. Collins’ vote on the Republican Tax Scam,” said DCCC spokesperson Evan Lukaske. “This is a Republican Tax Scam and the victims of Rep. Collins’ vote are the millions of middle class families who will see their taxes go up, while corporations and the wealthy laugh all the way to the bank.”

White House Approves Lake Ontario Disaster Declaration

UPDATED 2:00 p.m. – President Donald Trump has officially declared a major federal disaster for communities affected by flooding along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines this spring and summer. Under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance, the state, local and tribal governments, and specific non-profits will be eligible for more funding.

The federal share is no less than 75 percent of the eligible cost for emergency measures and permanent restoration. The remaining expenses are split between non-federal sources, including the state and local governments.

A request for the grants must be filed within the next 30 days. Funding can be used for a variety of projects including repairs and restoration to utilities, irrigation, and various shared community facilities.

The counties designated for public assistance are Jefferson, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Wayne. Monroe County, where the town of Greece endured significant damage, was not named in the declaration. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s office, D-NY-25, said it’s working to get answers as to why.

Congressman Chris Collins, R-NY-27, said that county remains under review and he will continue to work toward a resolution. He said he’s been working closely with the Trump administration to make sure the declaration was a priority among other disasters across the country.

“We have witnessed awful devastation along the shoreline and have stayed persistent in our fight to secure federal assistance,” Collins said. “My constituents desperately need this support and I thank the Trump Administration for its commitment to Western New York.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he was lad FEMA approved the aid and vowed to continue pushing for Monroe County and Cayuga County as well.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, requested the assistance in July. Around the same time, he also signed legislation providing $45 million to the flood damaged communities. Elected leaders have voiced concerns over that state funding running out and in October, Cuomo floated the idea of a special session to approve more.

Federal money is also available statewide to take steps to mitigate future flooding damages. FEMA can fund up to 75 percent per project with the total amount based on a sliding scale of the estimated grants for individual assistance.

“I know I speak for lake-shore residents, small businesses, and local governments when I thank Congressman Collins for his hard work to ensure New York gets the federal resources it desperately needs for flood recovery. As lake levels recede, we’re still fully assessing the damage. FEMA aid will be a critical step as we help devastated home and business owners and as we rebuild our communities,” state Senator Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said.

The White House left open the possibility of future designations if the state requests them and they are deemed warranted. FEMA also named Seamus Leary as the coordinating officer for recovery operations.

Tax Bill Appears To Include SALT Compromise

It appears the Republican tax reform plan will include a compromise when it comes to the highly-debated proposed elimination of the State and Local Tax deductible. On a conference call, Rep. Tom Reed, R-NY, told reporters a proposal that would preserve the deduction for state and local property taxes but eliminate the state income tax deduction is gaining traction.

Reed and Congressman Chris Collins were the only Republican members from New York state to support the passage of a House spending bill that paves the way for the tax reform package. Their votes, which turned out to be critical, have drawn the ire of a number of Democrats including Gov. Andrew Cuomo who recently penned an editorial calling them modern-day “Benedict Arnolds.”

While Collins and Reed have been supportive in general of the tax overhaul, they have not overtly supported the elimination of the so-called SALT deductible. In fact, Collins applauded news that the property tax deduction would likely be restored.

“I am pleased that (House Ways and Means Committee) Chairman (Kevin) Brady has agreed to keep the SALT property tax deduction in the new tax reform legislation,” he said in a statement Monday. ” It goes to show you that leadership does listen to the concerns we as members point out.  Now, New York taxpayers are poised for a big victory when federal tax reform provides them with more money in their pockets and better economic opportunity.  It’s time for Andrew Cuomo to follow our lead and deliver comprehensive tax reform when it comes to the state income and property taxes New Yorkers pay.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, however, called the compromise “half-baked.” He said the majority of SALT deductions for middle-class families in New York state are from income taxes.

“Keeping the property tax deduction, but eliminating the state income tax deduction, will still hurt a huge numbers of taxpayers who take SALT in New York,” he said. “This plan is damaging to New York and should be resoundingly rejected by every House member from this state. Republicans are so devoted to providing tax giveaways to the wealthy and big corporations, that they go searching for pay fors in the pockets of the middle class. They should scrap this emerging framework and work with Democrats in a bipartisan way to reform our tax code.”

Critics of the SALT deduction argue it penalizes taxpayers in lower-taxed states while rewarding higher-taxed states like New York and California. House Republicans plan to release the full text of the tax bill Wednesday.

Collins: Selection For New IJC Commissioner From Western New York

Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, said the Trump administration has selected three new commissioners for the International Joint Commission. The organization is made up of three American commissioners and three Canadian ones which regulate bodies of water on the border between the two countries.

At a press conference Friday in Hamburg, Collins said he was not able to release the names yet.

“I can tell you I’ve been right in the middle of the process. It’s moving exactly as I wanted it to,” he said.

Collins said he was comfortable in saying the person selected to be the new chair of the commission would be from Western New York. The IJC is responsible for implementing the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River regulatory plan which many blamed for devastating flooding along those shores this summer.

The congressman said while whether was a major factor, he believes flaws in the plan were also in issue. He expects the new commissioners to address it.

“They understand the devastation caused by Plan 2014 and will work to mitigate that going forward,” he said.

Collins said the appointees remain anonymous because the Senate is still in the confirmation process. He said he believes most of the vetting has already been done but many nominations, including IJC, are moving slowly.

He blamed Senate Dems including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“If it was up to me it would be right here right now but it’s not. I suspect since we’re going into Thanksgiving and Christmas, it may well be early next year,” Collins said.

Collins Challenger Announces Campaign

From the Morning Memo:

Western New York Republican Chris Collins once again has a 2018 mid-term challenger. Democrat Sean Bunny has officially announced his candidacy for the NY-27 congressional seat.

Bunny, an Iraq War veteran and current Erie County prosecutor, acknowledged that running against an incumbent Republican in one of the state’s most GOP-donimnated districts will be an uphill battle. But he also thinks an argument against re-electing Collins is starting to emerge.

“I represent the values of WNY,” Bunny said in a statement. “I know we can be the kind of community where every hardworking Western New Yorker doesn’t have to worry about their job being outsourced or being one family illness away from personal bankruptcy.”

“Our current Congressman Chris Collins is being investigated by the Ethics Committee, he isn’t looking out for us. Chris Collins has never put on a uniform for his country; he’s never led a rifle platoon of 35 of America’s sons. I fought for you as a soldier; I fought for you as a prosecutor; I will fight for each of you in Washington.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a coalition of party members have targeted Collins, a major supporter of the president, for months.

Another candidate and military veteran, Erin Cole, announced earlier this year that she would take on the Republican lawmaker in the midterms, but quickly terminated her campaign, citing fundraising frustration.

Collins, who this week raised more than $400,000 dollars during an event with Vice President Mike Pence, has a nearly $1.5 million dollar war chest, according to his campaign. Democratic leaders have not endorsed a candidate to run against him yet, but believe whoever becomes the frontrunner will find willing contributors.

Bunny is scheduled to participate in a forum this evening with two other Democrats who are also exploring challenges to Collins. They are Tom Casey and Nicholas Stankevich.

Rep. Collins Believes There Will Be A SALT Deduction Compromise

From the Morning Memo:

When Vice President Mike Pence came to Buffalo this week to discuss the federal tax reform framework, he focused primarily on how it plans to ease the burden on small business owners and simplify the filing process for most Americans. The administration has maintained the plan will lower taxes for middle-class Americans but Pence did not address the concern raised by many New York Democrats that the proposed elimination of the State and Local Tax deduction would actually amount to an increase for many of the state’s homeowners.

Republican Congressman Chris Collins, who hosted the VP, did give his thoughts on the issue during a follow up interview with Spectrum News.

“It starts with the obvious, our budget and the amount of money we spend, not only in New York but New Jersey, California, Illinois, the other very high property tax, high income tax states,” he said. “There’s the root cause and you can understand where Republicans in some of the southern states like Texas and Florida where they don’t even have an income tax feel as though that deduction means we’re subsidizing the high-taxed states and frankly, bad behavior.”

That being said, Collins said as the congressional debate continues, he does expect a compromise will be reached to accommodate the more highly-taxed states. He’s recommended, for instance an option where states would have the choice of either deducting mortgage interest or property taxes.

The congressman said, if that’s the solution, he would expect an income cap, so people with higher incomes aren’t receiving the benefit. Critics of that solution have argued it would severely diminish the savings the proposal aims to redirect toward tax cuts.

“I do believe there’s going to be some accommodation. I just don’t know for sure what it’s going to be,” Collins said.

Regardless he said, restoring the so-called SALT deduction is still on the table and he expects it to be decided over the next few weeks.