Collins Says He Didn’t Violate Insider Trading Rules

From the Morning Memo:

Buffalo Rep. Chris Collins, a staunch Donald Trump supporter and frequent surrogate, admitted to having conversations about a New Zealand-based medical biotechnology company with the president-elect’s Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price, but insisted he never disclosed any non-public information to his fellow congressman.

The nature of their dealings gained attention after Price, a Georgia Republican, was grilled yesterday by Democratic senators during his confirmation hearing about purchasing stock in the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics.

Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington State, said she remembered Price telling her he bought into the company after having a conversation with Collins.

The nominee admitted he did have a conversation with Collins, but insisted there was nothing in their discussions that could be considered a “stock tip.” Collins’ office reaffirmed that claim in a statement.

“During his more than 15 year relationship with Innate Immunotherapeutics, Congressman Collins has had thousands of conversations about the debilitating impact of Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and the need to help the millions of people suffering from this disease,” the congressman’s spokesman Michael Adams said.

“Along the way, he has spoken with hundreds of people, Dr. Price was one of those individuals, as he stated today during his testimony.”

McAdams said Collins has never disclosed any improper information and has followed all ethical and legal standards set by the House. He criticized Murray for launching what he seemed a partisan attack and “insinuating something nefarious occurred.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also gotten in on the action, releasing a statement that noted Price’s admission that Collins’ involvement, which, according to the Democrats, raises questions about both of them.

“This is extremely troubling and the people of Western New York need immediate assurances from Collins that no House ethics rules or federal laws were broken,” DCCC spokesperson Meredith Kelly said.

Collins owns more than 17 percent of shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics, according to the company’s website, making him its largest stockholder. He has had a 15-year relationship with the company, according to McADams, who added:

“He is very proud of the progress the company has made over the years and hopeful it will develop a potentially life-saving treatment for the millions of individuals suffering from Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.”

On Jan. 5th, Public Citizen, a non-profit watchdog organization, wrote a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Congressional Ethics Committee, calling for an investigation into the stock market activities of both Collins and Price. Following Price’s testimony, the organization renewed that call.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Rochester Democrat who authored the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, is also calling for an investigation.

NY-25: POTUS Endorses Slaughter

The re-election campaign for veteran Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-New York, got a major boost a day before polls open. President Barack Obama endorsed Slaughter in New York’s 25th congressional district race.

Obama pointed to Slaughter’s record on issues like Medicare and Social Security, a woman’s right to choose, college affordability, and environmental protections, as reasons for his support.

“Congresswoman Louise Slaughter will fight to defend the progress we’ve made over the past eight years. I trust Louise to keep fighting for all the things we believe in,” he said in a statement. “Our children need us to keep working to make this country stronger, fairer, safer and cleaner, and Louise will do just that.”

The president is also sending out a robocall to voters in Slaughter’s district urging them to support her Tuesday.

“I am proud to receive President Obama’s endorsement,” said Slaughter. “We have worked side by side over the years to tackle some of the biggest issues we face, from improving our infrastructure to expanding health care coverage to creating good-paying jobs and transforming our economy. President Obama’s time in office will be remembered for positive change that has touched every American. I am proud to have fought for the progress we’ve made under his leadership, and I’m honored to have his support in this race.”

Slaughter is in the midst of a high-profile battle against Republican Mark Assini, currently the Gates town supervisor. Assini came within 1000 votes of Slaughter in 2014.

NY-24: House Super PAC Releases Second Ad Knocking Deacon

The House Republican super PAC that has played a role in key congressional races this year has released its second ad 24th district in central New York.

The Congressional Leadership Fund on Tuesday released a spot criticizing Democratic candidate Colleen Deacon was unprepared to handle threats against the country, primarily from so-called “lone wolf” terrorist attacks that were seen in Florida, Minnesota and California.

“When it comes to our nation’s security, Colleen Deacon doesn’t know the answer. In fact, voters can hear it from Deacon herself,” said Ruth Guerra, spokeswoman for CLF. “Whether its supporting the dangerous Iran deal or fighting ISIS at home and abroad, Colleen Deacon has demonstrated she isn’t prepared. New York families cannot afford to risk their security with a novice like Colleen Deacon.”

The ad, airing on cable and broadcast TV, is part of an $800,000 expenditure the PAC is spending in the Syracuse-area House district where Republican Rep. John Katko is running for a second term.

The PAC is also running GOTV efforts and digital advertising in the district.

NY-3: Teamsters Endorse Martins

Teamsters Local 282 on Monday announced their support for Republican congressional candidate Jack Martins in an open House seat on Long Island.

“Jack Martins has always stood up for working men and women and treated them with respect, both through his words and his actions,” said Local 282 President Thomas Gesualdi. “As a Senator and small business owner who employs union workers, he has taken steps to protect workers; cutting taxes, securing economic development funding to put people to work and giving them greater opportunity to earn a good living and support their families. We know he will do the same thing in Congress, and we’re proud to support him.”

Martins is running for the district being vacated by Democratic Rep. Steve Israel. He faces former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi in next month’s general election.

“Union workers take pride in their work and do it with enormous professionalism. Having grown up in a union household, I saw this firsthand at a young age,” Martins said. “Local 282 members have been strong supporters of mine throughout my public service because they know that I fight for, and deliver on, the priorities that are important for all of our families; tax relief, economic development and public safety. I’m grateful to have their endorsement and support once again.”

WNY Republican Reps Not Concerned About Trump-Ryan Spat

Republican leaders have been left straddling an apparently widening chasm between presidential nominee Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. A day after Ryan said he would turn his attention away from the presidential campaign and focus on keeping the House majority, Trump unleashed on the Speaker on Twitter. Trump called Ryan “weak and ineffective,” said he was “disloyal” and complained the lack of support was making things difficult for his campaign.

“Mr. Trump likes to tweet in the early morning hours. I don’t know. I suggested we should take his phone away but that’s for his family to deal with,” Rep. Chris Collins, the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Trump, said.

The New York Republican, Collins, said he doesn’t believe members of his party are being forced to chose sides though. He said Ryan has never been a strong supporter of Trump anyway, and his job has always been to maintain the majority.

“I think this is probably the best for everybody,” he said. “Let Paul Ryan focus on maintaining the majority in the House. He’s doing a very good job with that. Let Donald Trump and those of us that are aggressive supporters of Donald Trump, stand with him as we march forward the next four weeks to victory.”

Collins also does not believe Ryan’s job is in any jeopardy should Trump win. Rep. Tom Reed, R-New York, agreed saying the Speaker’s job is safe because he’s earned the respect of the other members.

“He is clearly one of our true thought leaders in the Republican party and I respect the work he has done in regards to the policy work and leading our conference as he has,” Reed said.

As for Ryan’s concerns that the Trump Access Hollywood tape scandal could affect down-ballot races, Collins didn’t see it that way. He said Trump supporters will come out en masse and vote for Republicans, regardless of how vocal they are for the nominee.

“Trump supporters, truly, are constitutionalists. They know they’ve got an obligation to vote. They’re not going to skip over a person because they may not be a strong supporter of Donald Trump. They know the importance of the Republicans maintaining control of the House of Representatives and the Senate,” he said.

NY-24: Katko Considering Third Party Candidate

Republican Rep. John Katko said he’s considering his options for the presidential election, after calling on Republican nominee Donald Trump to resign over the weekend.

“There’s options. You can do a write-in candidacy. You can do a third party candidate. They’re out there so I’m going to do one of those two probably,” he said.

But the freshman congressman from Central New York said that’s not really a departure from his plans in the past. Katko said he had never endorsed Donald Trump nor had he said he would vote for him.

“I stayed strong against a lot of opposition, a lot of heat, and in the end I think my position was kind of vindicated because a lot of people are coming around to it now,” he said.

That’s a point of contention in his race against Democrat Colleen Deacon. Deacon said Saturday that her opponent’s call for Trump to step down was just a political maneuver.

“Just a month from Election Day, John’s words are too little, too late. We’ve known who Donald Trump is for months now – from his insults to women, people with disabilities, Gold Star families, and entire cultures. It took everyone else abandoning Trump before Katko finally felt safe enough to agree. Leaders take stands early, they don’t fall in line when politically expedient,” she said.

Deacon referenced an interview in May, when her opponent said he would support the Republican nominee, no matter who it is. By late summer though, Katko was at least a holdout, if not a vocal opponent of Trump.

“Congressman Katko has not endorsed Donald Trump and continues to have concerns about the tone and rhetoric of his campaign,”  a spokesperson said in August.

NY-3: NRCC Pulling Out Of Race

The National Republican Campaign Committee is pulling out of the race to replace Democratic Rep. Steve Israel in the third congressional district, multiple sources confirmed on Friday.

Republicans had been hopeful the seat was a winnable one in an otherwise challenging electoral environment in New York, where Republicans are running even or ahead of their Democratic challengers in upstate congressional races.

OB Murray, a spokesman and adviser to Republican candidate Jack Martins said he remains confident he will win next month.

“We know the NRCC has many races they are focused on and we can’t control or coordinate with the NRCC I.E.” he said in a statement. “We are thankful for the support the NRCC has shown, will continue to show and are looking forward to more support in the final month of this race as they continue to prioritize their races.”

Martins faces Democratic former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi for the district that covers Nassau and Suffolk counties and part of Queens.

Martins, a state senator, gave up his seat in the Legislature to run for Congress. Democrats are running a competitive campaign for that seat with Adam Haber, who faces Flower Hill Mayor Elaine Phillips.

“We are extremely confident that Jack Martins will defeat Tom Suozzi in November,” said NRCC spokesman Chris Pack in a statement. “Voters are sick of career politicians like Tom Suozzi, who voted to raise taxes on Long Island families by hundreds of millions of dollars while accepting a $65,000 taxpayer-funded pay raise.”

Free Trade An Issue in NY-25 Race

From the Morning Memo:

Veteran Democratic Rep. Louis Slaughter is pushing legislation she believes will begin to address what she sees as bad trade deals between the United States and other nations.

Slaughter’s proposal, the “Trade Deficit Reduction Act,” would require the White House to identify the countries with which America has the worst trading deficits and develop plans to address them. She said Congress would provide strict deadlines and oversight.

Slaughter spoke to workers at Rochester-based manufacturer PGM Corp, to talk about potential changes to the U.S. trade policy. The congresswoman criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying it hurts local factories and shipping local jobs and goods overseas.

“We lost half our manufacturing base after NAFTA,” the congresswoman said. “Kodak went from about 62,000 people to about 6 and bankruptcy, and we cant blame all that on NAFTA, but certainly that was part of the cause. We’re on the cusp here of a good revival – photonics and other things – we’re feeling very good about Rochester these days.”

But Slaughter’s opponent, Republican Mark Assini, said Congress should already know where to start when it comes to bad trade deals.

“America’s largest trade deficit is with China and it is growing,” said Assini, the Gates town supervisor, who is making his second attempt to unseat the congresswoman.

“Until protectionist policies, currency manipulation and theft of intellectual property ends America will lose more jobs. Our position must be renegotiated to address these inequities because right now free trade with China is a myth.”

Slaughter also criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which she called a “12-country mega-deal, modeled after the job-killing North American Free Trade Agreement that has been negotiated in secret.”

Both NAFTA and the TPP have been major talking points this presidential cycle, with both major party candidates agreeing changes need to be made while arguing over who is responsible for the current situation.


Congressional Candidate Counters Campaign Claims With Photos

plumb-gunThe John Plumb for Congress campaign is responding with visual aides to claims the candidate is not an advocate for gun rights. Thursday, Rep. Tom Reed, R-NY 23rd District, attacked the Democrat Plumb for failing to fill out the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund’s candidate questionnaire.

When I reached out to the Navy Reserve commander’s campaign spokesperson, he immediately sent me a photo of Plumb in hunting garb holding a camouflage shotgun.

“Does this photo, of someone who has been in the military for 20-plus years, look like they don’t support the Second Amendment?” communications director Samuel Newton asked.

Newton eventually got back to me with a written statement from the candidate and two more photos of Plumb firing a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun.

“I grew up here in the Southern Tier, and I’m a proud hunter and lifelong military man. I will defend the right of responsible New Yorkers to own guns, which is Constitutionally guaranteed and part of our way of life,” Plumb said.

He went on to say that Reed is intentionally misleading voters and falsely attributed a made-up quote to him at the Yates County SCOPE (Shooters Committee On Political Education) pig roast this summer.

Reed Attacks Plumb’s Incomplete NRA Grade

Rep. Tom Reed, the Republican incumbent in NY-23, is once again calling into question his opponent’s stance on gun rights.  

The congressman recently received an “A” grade from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, and has also been endorsed by the organization. His opponent, Democrat John Plumb, was given a “?” grade. by the NRA

According to the NRA-PVF, the “?” means a candidate refused to answer its questionnaire. That’s not something the political action committee takes lightly, noting it often indicates “indifference, if not outright hostility, to gun owners’ and sportsmen’s rights.”

“Why does DC John have a question mark? It’s because he took another page from the DC playbook by saying one thing and doing another. DC John is taking both sides of the issue,” Reed spokesperson Amy Hasenberg said.  

“Tom Reed has fought for our Second Amendment since entering Congress and has consistently received an ‘A’ rating because he truly cares about our traditions.”

But Plumb insists he is an advocate for Second Amendment rights. During an interview with Capital Tonight last month, he said he was both a gun owner and a hunter.

“I’ve been around guns most of my life,” he said. “I’ve carried 9mms. I’ve fired .45s and nines and M-16s and shotguns for the Navy.”

The Naval reserve commander said there is a gun violence problem issue in the United States that needs to be addressed. Reed said Plumb supports the same anti-gun agenda as President Obama.