Chris Collins

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.

 

Pence Helps Rep. Collins Raise More Than $400k

Tuesday was a lucrative afternoon for Congressman Chris Collins. Vice President Mike Pence flew into Buffalo on Air Force Two and within a few hours had helped the Western New York Republican raise more than $400,000 for his reelection campaign.

The Collins campaign said there were more than 200 people in attendance for the luncheon at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens in Lancaster. The congressman said it was easily his most successful fundraiser, eclipsing visits from House Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan in past years.

“A lot of people wanted to meet him, get their photos taken with him and we did have a small gathering of individuals that had some concerns and you know, when you have an event like that, you price it accordingly,” Collins said.

The tickets were priced at $2,700 per person or $20,000 for a table. Collins said the vice president spoke about the administration’s efforts so far including its Supreme Court and cabinet appointments, and “promises kept” like pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Climate Accord, and a focus on regulatory relief.

“It was just a positive message,” Collins said. “He spoke for 20 to 30 minutes to the entire group and it was very well-received. Again, he’s the consummate gentlemen, certainly recognized a lot of people in the room, thanked them for what they’ve done for the party and for me.”

The congressman said the money will be well-spent. With the money raised this week, his campaign war chest is nearing $1.5 million.

Since Democrat Erin Cole terminated her campaign, announced earlier this year, Collins doesn’t officially have a challenger for the 2018 mid-term election, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted his district and a handful of candidates are exploring a potential run. He said preemptively that loading up should make it difficult on anybody who decides to challenge him.

“There will be somebody running and we’ll have to monitor how serious they are. Are they going to raise money to be running commercials? Do we have to? The last two campaigns I have not had to spend money or run commercials because my opponent did not,” he said.

In the past, Collins has shared his coffers with other Republicans running for Congress across the country as well as various local committees. He said regardless of who runs against him, he expects to make more contributions as November 2018 approaches.

“You can never have enough money and partly what I do is help the team so some of this will be me sharing some of these funds with other members who are going to be in tough races, including the other eight Republicans in New York,” he said.

Erie County Democratic Committee Jeremy Zellner called the fundraiser “political payback” for Collins, who was the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president. He said the vice president did not deliver a message of substance to middle-class Western New Yorkers.

“What I’d like to have seen is delivering a message to Western New York that we’re here to help, that we’re here to help this community, but we’re getting a tax increase. They’re trying to take 600,000 people’s health care away from them, so wonderful for Chris Collins that he was able to have such a successful fundraiser while this community is suffering,” Zellner said.

The chairman acknowledged that fundraising is important but he believes the party is still in good position to unseat Collins. Particularly, he said allegations that Collins’ dealings with Australian pharmaceutical company Innate Immunotherapeutics potentially broke House rules and federal laws are resonating with voters.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, the congressman has paid law firm Baker Hostetler more than $160,000 since July.

Pence Heads To WNY

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit the Buffalo area today.

Pence will have a busy schedule after Air Force Two touches down at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, starting with a fundraiser for Republican Rep. Chris Collins, long an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, which is scheduled for noon.

Guests said they were notified of the location, Salvatore’s Italian Gardens, last night. Protesters, including opponents of Collins, plan to stage a rally outside the fundraiser.

“While Chris Collins holds a million dollar fundraiser with Vice President Mike Pence on October 17th, citizens and friends of the 27th District will come together to give voice to the voiceless, and visibility to the invisible,” they said in a press release.

Pence’s appearance on Collins’ behalf comes on the heels of a revelation by the House Ethics Committee that there is “substantial reason to believe” the congressman engaged in insider trading and either took or requested official actions to benefit a biotech company in which he’s the largest shareholder.

The committee announced it would extend its review of whether Collins potentially violated federal law and House rules regarding insider trading under a procedure that does not set deadlines for further public announcements and rarely results in punishment.

Collins has repeatedly insisted he did nothing wrong.

Pence’s trip may indeed have been in the works for some time, but his decision to go ahead and attend an event with Collins is an indication that the congressman continues to have the support of the president.

Remember that Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump’s 2016 campaign at a time when many of his fellow Republicans were running the other way. That no doubt counts for quite a bit in the president’s eyes.

Following the luncheon, the vice president will tour a local manufacturing facility and host a round table discussion about the federal tax reform plan being aggressively pushed by the White House. The fundraising event is private, but the roundtable will be open to a local media press pool, members of which were pre-selected.

Both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer preemptively criticized Pence and the administration’s reform plan yesterday – particularly the proposed elimination of the State and Local Tax Deduction. They said eliminating the deduction will hurt many of the very same constituents the vice president will meet with today.

Pence To Push For Tax Overhaul With Collins

Vice President Mike Pence will head to western New York on Tuesday to push alongside Republican Rep. Chris Collins for the administration’s tax reform proposals.

Pence and Collins “will meet with local businesses, community leaders, and New York families to discuss the need for tax reform in the United States,” the White House said on Monday.

The trip will also come with a fundraiser for Collins headlined by the vice president. Meanwhile, Collins is continuing to face scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee, which found last week there was reason to continue investigating whether he shared non-public information in the purchase of stock of a pharmaceutical firm.

New York elected officials in both parties have raised concerns with the proposals for tax changes on the federal level, including the plan to end the deduction of state and local taxes, a move that would impact high-tax states like New York.

Some lawmakers are introducing compromise measures that would cap the deduction, but that could still impact property owners in places like the New York City suburbs, where incomes and the cost of living is generally higher.

House Ethics Committee Releases Report On Collins’ Stock Dealings

According to a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, released Thursday by the House Ethics Committee, there is “substantial reason to believe” Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY, violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law. At the recommendation of the office’s report, the committee is continuing to investigate the allegations, which surround Collins’ involvement with pharmaceutical company Innate Immunotherapeutics.

The report, which was initially adopted by OCE in July, recommends further review of the allegation the congressman shared nonpublic information in the purchase of Innate stock. It also claimed there was substantial reason to believe Collins took official action or requested official actions that would benefit the company he had a significant financial interest in.

The office did recommend dismissing allegations the Republican purchased discounted stock that was not available to the public and that was offered to him based on his status as a member of the House. In his response, Collins agreed with that assessment but rejected the other two.

“Each recommendation is the result of a tortured interpretation of reality and also bespeaks a misunderstanding of the facts, the law or both and should be rejected,” his attorney said.

He told the House Ethics Committee the recommendations should be dismissed without further investigation and said the basis for the initial review were politically motivated accusations from Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.

“Many people, including many members of Congress from his own party, were concerned by his zealous pursuit of profits when he should have been representing his constituents,” Slaughter said. “Former Secretary Tom Price, who refused to cooperate with this investigation, was involved in this scandal and was eventually forced to sell the same stocks in question due to conflicts of interest. He ultimately resigned from the Trump administration as a result of his ethical lapses. Now, the Office of Congressional Ethics has found clear and convincing evidence that Congressman Collins likely broke federal law. He put his obsession to enrich himself before the people he swore to represent. It is a disgrace to Congress and to his constituents, who deserve better.”

OCE said it found evidence that Collins sent emails to shareholders with background information about the company, including information about the number of clinical trial participants and timeline, that were not disclosed publicly.  It also detailed communications between Collins’ office and officials from the National Institute of Health, potentially about the company.

The House Ethics Committee said it can’t make any other public comment until the initial review is completed.

VP Mike Pence Plans Trip To WNY

Vice President Mike Pence is heading to Western New York on October 17 to help fundraise for Republican Congressman Chris Collins. According to the invitation the luncheon will be at noon and checks can be made payable to Collins Victory Fund.

A source who received the invitation said it cost $2,700 per person or $20,000 for a table. The same source said organizers are keeping the exact location a secret until the day of the event.

While President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Buffalo last year and more recently Trump advisor Kellyann Conway appeared for a fundraiser, this will be Pence’s first visit to the area since becoming the GOP nominee for Vice President. He is currently in the midst of what could be described as a fundraising tour of America, raising money both for Trump 2020 and loyal members of Congress running for reelection next year.

Collins, the first sitting member to endorse Trump, had more than $1.1 million already on hand, as of late June.  Although he is in what is considered to be one of the safest GOP districts in New York, the fundraiser could indicate he is expecting a stiff challenge in 2018.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put him on its target list, but the first Dem to announce a run, Army veteran Erin Cole, has already dropped out. A coalition of grassroots organizations and Democratic committees in NY-27 have interviewed about nine other candidates and believe they will find a strong challenger.

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Collins Won’t Predict Cassidy-Graham Future

From the Morning Memo:

Three votes is all it would take to sink the Cassidy-Graham healthcare overhaul bill.

The eleventh-hour attempt by Republicans in the U.S. Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act once seemed like the longest of long shots, but now appears to have a chance – albeit slim – at passage, even though it has been deemed the most “radical” of all the Obamacare reform efforts the GOP has debated thus far.

Western New York Rep. Chris Collins said he would love to see the House get an opportunity to weigh in on this proposal, too, but he’s acutely aware Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell & Co. need 50 of 52 GOP senators’ support to get it through their chamber.

That’s a tall order, but so far not completely out of the question. Still, the congressman isn’t holding his breath.

“I know they’re vote counting, so I’m just going to just watch like everyone else,” Collins said. “I don’t want to be a Debby Downer and say it’s not going to pass, but I’m not overly optimistic.”

Neither would Collins make a prediction about whether Congress would restore scheduled funding cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospital (also known as “DSH” – pronounced “dish”) payments. Lawmakers need to take action before Oct. 1 to protect the funding stream, which reimburses public and safety net hospitals that treat uninsured and underinsured patients.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said New York stands to lose billions of dollars if the DSH payments get cut.

New York also would lose a massive amount of Medicaid and Medicare funding – second only to California in the nation – if the block grant plan outlined under Cassidy-Graham passes.

That has led some of Collins’ fellow GOP delegation members – including Long Island Rep. Pete King, New York’s most veteran House Republican – to already go on the record saying they’ll likely vote “no” if given a chance.

Collins said he and his colleagues tried to address the DSH problem before the recess that followed the failure of the last GOP healthcare plan. But he also said hospitals are sending mixed signals by both lobbying against that bill and asking for help.

“There’s a bit of an irony here, a little bit of hypocrisy here, and I can’t predict where it’s going to go right now,” he said. “They’re asking us to help shore up a piece of Obamacare that we had fixed in the American Health Care Act that they lobbied against.”

Collins Dismisses Ethics Probes

From the Morning Memo:

Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, is convinced nothing will come of a House Ethics Committee review of his stock activity. The committee chose to accept and extend the investigation which began in the independent non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics.

Collins dismissed insinuations from his critics that the development is serious and significant.

“What we have is a review and it’s fairly standard and will be concluded by October 12,” he said.

The investigation surrounds the congressman’s involvement in Australian pharmaceutical company Innate Immunotherapeutics. Collins is the company’s largest investor.

He said he’s seen the OCE report and believes when others do, they’ll realize the allegations against him are a political witch hunt. For instance, he said a claim that he tried to make the company more valuable by authoring legislation to get drugs to market more quickly, has already been dismissed.

“That was so frivolous they didn’t even investigate it. So when you see the OCE final report, it’s not even in there,” he said. “That’s how absurd that was.”

Collins called accusations of insider trading ridiculous as well. After a failed clinical trial earlier this summer, the company’s stock plummeted.

“I lost $5 million and it’s public record. I never sold a single share of stock so that’s an impossible allegation on the face of it. That’s how politically motivated this was.”

The congressman said the “witch hunt” is being led by Democrat Louise Slaughter. Thursday, the congresswoman said she believed two other federal agencies were investigating Collins stock activities but her office later walked the claim back a bit.

Collins Fundraises Against ‘Fake News’

Republican Rep. Chris Collins in a fundraising email on Wednesday complained of “fake news” in The Buffalo News, soliciting donations without citing any examples.

Collins’s fundraising email comes a day after The Buffalo News and other media sources reported an investigation into Collins’s potential violations of the STOCK Act had been referred to the House Ethics Committee upon referral by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

“We’ve seen what fake news is trying to do to President Trump,” the email states. “Now, they are doing the same thing to me to stop us from fighting for President Trump’s pro-jobs agenda. But the truth is, they fail every time.”

The email continues: “Donate that today to show them we won’t put up with this any longer. Help us send them a message – no more speculation, no more fake news.”

The term “fake news” gained currency during the 2016 campaign season and, at the time, was a general catch-all term to describe hoax news stories that appeared and spread on social media from dubious, non-mainstream sources. In some cases, the fraudulent stories were emanating from eastern European countries.

The term has since expanded to include news stories from credible sources, often ones elected officials don’t like.