Chris Collins

WNY Congressman Sounds Off On Investigation Involving Former Aide

Western New York Congressman Chris Collins has never been shy about touting the skills of those who work for him or defending them from criticism when he feels it’s necessary.  Wednesday, while announcing his now former Chief of Staff has taken a new job, he offered his take on a well-publicized investigation.

“There’s nothing there and there never was anything there and it should be an embarrassment to the U.S. Attorney that this even happened,” Collins said.

Back in May, state investigators raided the Buffalo condo of former Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Steve Pigeon. Documents and electronics were also taken from the homes of former Buffalo Deputy Mayor Steve Casey and Collins’ longtime aide Chris Grant.

“It was a tragedy to put them through it, the other two individuals as well as their families, but I think it’s very telling those six months after the fact there’s not a peep or anything coming forth to suggest any wrong doing,” said Collins.

Those interviewed as part of the investigation said it centered on the Pigeon-backed political action committee the WNY Progressive Caucus. The PAC funded 2013 challenges to Democratic Party-endorsed candidates in several local races. According to several sources, Casey and Grant partnered to produce political mailers.

Pigeon’s PAC hired them to produce some of these mailers, one of which caught the attention of the Erie County Board of Elections. By phone Wednesday night, Pigeon had no comment. Collins did.

“Call it the political witch-hunt of the Attorney General, calling the press to watch folks show up at someone’s house to take away electronic information and trying to suggest that somehow work wasn’t done when the Buffalo News themselves did all the printing of the direct mail, makes it laughable on its face,” Collins said

As first reported by the Buffalo News, Grant, who was not available for comment Wednesday night, announced he’s taking a position with Axiom Strategies. The company is the largest GOP direct-mail political consulting firm in the country and Collins said they fully vetted Grant and the AG’s investigation before hiring him.

Multiple sources tell Time Warner Cable News they believe the investigation is still open but at least one person familiar with the case said it is odd there’s been no movement. Neither the U.S. Attorney’s office nor the Attorney General’s office had immediate comment Wednesday night.

Buffalo-based U.S. Attorney William Hochul recused himself early on because he’s married to Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul. Sources tell us the case was handled by Hochul’s assistant, J.P. Kennedy.

“I knew all along there was nothing there and it’s not the way law enforcement should conduct themselves, but in New York State we’ve seen overzealous folks trying to get the press (there) before and it happened again and I hope at some point they stand up and admit that everything they did was politically based and inappropriate and apologize to Mr. Grant,” Collins said.

Grant, 34, spent a decade with Collins serving as his chief-of-staff when he was Erie County Executive before assuming the same role when Collins was elected to Congress in 2012.

“I am going to miss him a lot but he is going to be working for the top political consulting firm in the country and I intend to, when needed, to avail myself of his services as client of his,” Collins said.  “So I’m sorry to see him go but I always like to see folks on my staff move up into new positions that recognize their abilities.”

Collins Hopes To Prove Cuomo Administration Wrong On Fracking

Western New York Congressman Chris Collins has made no secret of the fact he’s unhappy with the Cuomo Administration’s stance on hydrofracking.  As the Clarence Republican enters his second term, he’s hoping to use a more prominent role in the 114th Congress to prove the Governor got it wrong.

“Economically New York State needs to be hydrofracking and certainly in the Southern Tier the benefits would be tremendous,” said Collins.

House Speaker John Boehner assigned Collins to the House Energy and Commerce Committee that includes spots on three subcommittees: Health, Communications and Technology, and Oversight and Investigations.

“I want to make sure we have hearings that highlight the safety and the economic impact of hydrofracking around the country, whether it’s in North Dakota or Texas so I can bring facts forward to show that the Governor made the wrong decision,” Collins said.

Following suggestions by fellow GOP Congressman Tom Reed that the federal government could have the authority to overrule the anticipated ban, Collins’ call for hearings could signal a concerted effort to undermine the findings of the state DEC and the Department of Health.

“I’m going to use my role on Energy and Commerce to make sure Western New York has a very active role here in DC,” he said. 

Far removed from the freshman who accidentally showed up at a Democratic Congressional breakfast in 2012, Collins is hoping to take on more of a leadership role in the New York Congressional Delegation.  He’s also offered his help to the NRCC in 2016.

“Typically your first re-elect is your toughest so I’ve already stepped forward to say I would like to use my resources to help our members get re-elected and I’ll just do what I can to make them feel welcome.  I know where I was two years ago, kind of a deer in a headlight drinking out of a fire hydrant,” Collins added.

Collins is now one of eight New York Republicans in the House of Representatives.  That could increase to nine if the GOP can hold on to the seat left vacant by former congressman Michael Grimm.     


Langworthy Calls For Ebola Related Travel Ban; Collins Does Not

As calls for a travel ban in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa get louder, many politicians have been cautious about taking a firm stance on the issue.  Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy isn’t one of them.

“I think it’s just common sense.  I mean we need to protect our homeland and I think the first way to do that is to isolate new threats created by this Ebola outbreak,” Langworthy said.

Langworthy’s position is in line with several high profile Republicans but not with a GOP congressional member is in own back yard.

“That (travel ban) would be devastating to everyone in the country, across the world to say don’t travel. There’s also no guarantee that would contain anything necessarily,” said Republican Chris Collins.

The Clarence Republican noted the CDC has set up check-points at five major airports to screen air travelers coming into the U.S. for temperature and any sign of symptoms.

“They’re not foolproof but it is a step. I think it would certainly be premature today to call for a travel ban.  I think what we need to do is keep this in perspective and see what develops over the next few days, next few weeks relative to these nurses and you never take options off the table once we know what we’re dealing with,” Collins added.

Langworthy and Collins have a longstanding relationship in Erie County politics but the chairman says he hasn’t talked to Collins about the issue.

“I think this is common sense and the President needs to follow suit and I trust that same common sense would be shared by our local delegation as well,” said Langworthy.

Collins is not alone, a spokesperson for Southern Tier Republican Tom Reed said Friday the Congressman is not calling for a travel ban rather calling for “precautions with travelers to and from West Africa. Langworthy insisted he was simply expressing his opinion and his message was for the President not the Western New York Congressional Delegation.

“I mean we don’t need another czar, we don’t need another bureaucrat in Washington we need the President to stand up and be a leader,” Langworthy added.

Langworthy Still Not Ready To Endorse Astorino

Just hours after officially entering the Governor’s race, Rob Astorino announced Western New York would be one of his first stops.  Given the extra attention paid to the region by Governor Cuomo, local Republican leaders aren’t surprised.

“It’s important for any candidate for statewide office to travel the state as much as they possibly can.  They need to get in front of people.  He won’t just come here to do a press conference.  He’ll certainly meet with business leaders and people in the community,” said Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy.

Gaining Langworthy’s support seems like a must for any candidate wanting to win the GOP nomination.  Langworthy helped engineer Carl Paladino’s unlikely primary upset out of Buffalo in 2010.

Both Astorino and potential Republican candidate Donald Trump have already appeared at fundraising events for the Erie County Republican Committee.  Langworthy told Time Warner Cable News Reporter Ryan Whalen Wednesday he’s still not ready to make an endorsement.

“I’ve said I wouldn’t endorse candidates until they declared their formal candidacy.  Rob now has.  We’ll see if we have one candidate or two candidates,” Langworthy said.

Langworthy has been supportive of Astorino, but, like many Republican County Chairs, he’s waiting to see if Trump is still interested before giving out his coveted endorsement.

“Do we have one have candidate or two candidates that want the endorsement?  We will hear from Donald Trump on Tuesday in Syracuse as to what maybe his plans might be.  I haven’t talked to him in about a week but looking forward to hear what he has to say when he visits Syracuse,” said Langworthy.

Astorino will appear at the ZeptoMetrix Corporation headquarters on Main Street in Buffalo Thursday Afternoon with Republican Congressman, and former Erie County Executive, Chris Collins.  Collins a shareholder in the company, and was not available for comment on Wednesday.

“They have a longstanding relationship back to when they served together as county executives and they have a great appreciation of one another.  So he may very well endorse him.  I do not know if he will or not,” said Langworthy.

No matter who wins the GOP nomination to challenge Governor Cuomo, Langworthy believes the party’s running mate should come from Western New York.  State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin’s name was mentioned as a possible Lt. Governor candidate Wednesday and Langworthy loved the idea.

“I think they share a lot of common values.  I think she has fought for the same common sense business perspectives that we need in Albany, not just more of the same special interest nonsense.  She would be a great Lieutenant Governor for any Governor,” Langworthy added.

The Erie County Republican Committee has its regional screening meeting April 12.  It’s hoping to vet as many statewide candidates as possible, including gubernatorial candidates.

No matter what happens, Langworthy hopes the party will unite behind one candidate.

Three New York Congressmen Introduce Kids Before Cons Act

The “Kids Before Cons Act.”  It’s the name of a new piece of legislation introduced by three New York Congressmen on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Republicans Chris Collins, Tom Reed, and Chris Gibson, would prohibit the use of federal taxpayer dollars to provide a college education to convicted criminals.  The measure is a response to Governor Cuomo’s proposal to provide free College Education to inmates at 10 state prisons.

“The Governor’s latest plan to fund college educations for convicted criminals using taxpayer dollars is an insult to law abiding citizens all across our state,” Collins said.

All three GOP sponsors said the Governor’s plan sends the wrong message.

“College students in New York leave school with an average of nearly $26,000 in student loans, a huge undertaking for any family,” said Reed.

“We can do better than spend federal taxpayer dollars on the education of convicted criminals when our hardworking New Yorkers need the assistance themselves,” Gibson said.

Collins plans to take action during the House Appropriations process to ensure no funds in any particular bill are used to fund college courses for convicted criminals.  Collins says the “Kids Before Cons Act” does not ban states from using federal dollars to support GED or work training programs in prisons and correctional facilities.

“We must put our college kids before cons,” Collins added.

The Governor’s office provided no immediate response the congressional proposal.


Collins Wants To Block Federal Aid For College In Prison Plan

Republican Rep. Chris Collins plans to introduce a bill that would block any federal funds to a Gov. Andrew Cuomo-backed program that will provide college-level courses to state prison inmates.

“The Governor’s latest plan to fund college educations for convicted criminals with New Yorkers’ tax dollars is an insult to law abiding citizens all across our state,” Collins said in a statement. “We hear over and over again from politicians concerned about the growing cost of higher education and the amount of student debt our young people are sacked with after earning their degree. Strangely, many of these same politicians think tax dollars should be spent to give convicted criminals a free college degree.”

Cuomo’s plan is aimed at reducing recidivism in the state’s prison system.

It’s not entirely clear how much the plan will cost, but Cuomo’s office points to the $60,000-a-year annual cost of incarceration versus the $5,000-a-year bill to provide a bachelor or associates degree to an inmate.

Collins, however, says the Federal Bureau of Prisons does grant states funding for educational programs in state prisons and correctional facilities.

The bill, which Collins says he’ll introduce in the coming days, would ban states from access to that money for college programs in prisons.

Republicans — mostly state lawmakers and potential candidate for governor Rob Astorino — have blasted Cuomo for proposing the program, which would be located at 10 prisons around the state.

Backers of the plan include state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, as well as members of the Legislature’s black and Hispanic caucus.

Collins, a former Erie County executive who once considered a run for governor himself, last year ruled out a statewide campaign.

Collins Slams Club for Growth, Heritage Action

The entire New York delegation supported the $1.1 trillion bipartisan spending plan that easily sailed through the House Wednesday afternoon.

One of the most striking things about the debate leading up to the vote was the Republican Party’s attempt to distance itself from conservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action.

The two groups urged lawmakers to oppose the spending bill, claiming it was just too big. But in the end, they were only able to persuade 64 Republicans to oppose the bill; 166 supported it.

Before the vote, I caught up with Republican Chris Collins, who defended the bill and accused conservative groups of confusing discretionary spending with mandatory spending.

“Club for Growth and Heritage, I don’t know what world they live in. Our problem is entitlement spending,” said Collins. “This is discretionary. They keep mixing the two together. Their frustration is, as we all have the frustration, that our deficits are out of control, our debt keeps going up, driven by entitlement programs. This is discretionary spending. And it’s spending at an inflation-adjusted level lower than 2009. This should be a celebration by Club for Growth or Heritage Action, and what it effectively is showing the American public is they’re out of touch, they’re extremist.”

Last month, House Speaker John Boehner let loose on the groups, after they first announced their opposition to the budget agreement.


Rep. Collins blasts Obama, says Putin’s stature has been elevated

Rep. Chris Collins (R-27) welcomed a potential diplomatic solution to the standoff with Syria, but criticized President Obama for allowing Russia to craft it.

Collins made the remarks during a conference call with reporters, held just hours before President Obama was scheduled to speak.

According to Collins, Russia’s proposal for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons has elevated Russian President Vladimir Putin and diminished the standing of the United States.

Collins said “the most unfortunate piece” of the possible solution is that Russia is going to take credit for it.

Collins said he has not decided if he would support military action in Syria, should a resolution authorizing force make its way to the House.

The Senate has put a vote on hold, and some Senators, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), are working on a new proposal that would allow for military action if efforts to take Syria’s chemical weapons were unsuccessful.

Collins, who has been surveying his district, said the vast majority of his constituents oppose military action.

“I’ve never seen anything this overwhelming,” said Collins.



Boehner Returns To WNY To Stump For Collins

House Speaker John Boehner will be in Western New York on Wednesday.  Boehner will be attending two private fundraisers for GOP Congressman Chris Collins.

Boehner stumped for Collins last October when the Clarence Republican challenged and ultimatley defeated Incumbent Kathy Hochul.  YNN Buffalo confirmed the two fundraisers for Collins will be held at private homes in Hamburg.

Both events are closed to the media.  No word on how long the House Speaker will be in Western New York.

Collins Blasts ‘Chained CPI’ Proposal

On the eve of President Obama’s budget presentation, a Western New York Republican joined the AARP in criticizing an expected decrease in the amount paid out in Social Security benefits by restructuring cost of living adjustments.  Chris Collins says the move would hurt seniors and veterans.

“If you change the calculation of the consumer price index and how you calculate inflation, that’s going to continue to pinch our seniors who, come the end of the month, the stories I hear, are having trouble putting food on the table,” Collins said.

According to the AARP, changing the way the consumer price index is calculated would cost seniors and veteran pension recipients in Erie County $476 Million in future benefits.  An AARP representative told YNN’s Ryan Whalen Tuesday, the “Chained CPI” expected in the President’s budget would hit Erie County harder than originally expected.

“It does not take into account the fixed costs that the seniors or all of us have, such as utilities, your healthcare costs, prescription drugs, gasoline. You can’t make a substitution for those.   So that will make it even more difficult, particularly for those who are struggling to begin with,” AARP advocate Dave Hollen said.

Collins says this proposal impacts Western New York more than other parts of the country because there are more seniors.

“We’re not a wealthy community. So many of our seniors, I think the number is 75 percent of the average senior’s lifestyle, is supported by Social Security. They don’t have pensions and other savings,” Collins said.

The Clarence Republican is one of only a handful of GOP lawmakers criticizing the “chained CPI.”  The inclusion in the President’s budget is seen as an olive branch to Republicans, many of whom seem optimistic about the plan.  

“I’m frankly very disappointed that he (Obama) is focusing on seniors,” Collins said.

Collins says there are other, more obvious cuts in spending that could be made.  Collins expects his GOP colleagues to join him in opposing an expected call from the President for increased tax revenue and spending.

“He doesn’t think we have a spending problem. He thinks we have a revenue problem and the cuts he’s making are on the backs of our seniors,” Collins said.

The AARP recently polled its members in New Yorkand found most oppose benefit decreases.  In this case, Collins agrees.

“If you look at what you would call the Ryan Budget; that budget was balanced without taking things away from seniors,” Collins added.