Chris Collins

DNC Chairman Perez Talks WNY Politics

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez weighed in on a few Western New York races during a Wednesday evening visit to Buffalo.

Perez, who grew up in the Queen City, helped Democrat Nate McMurray make a late push for New York’s 27th Congressional District in 2018. McMurray ultimately lost to incumbent Republican Chris Collins by less than half a percentage point.

The congressman was facing federal charges related to insider trading then and still is, with a trial currently scheduled for February 2020.

“The fact that he has refused to resign, that’s not in the best interest of that remarkable district,” Perez said.

The chairman, also a former federal prosecutor said he believes Collins will be convicted. He said phone records of Collins speaking with family members about the state of pharmaceutical stock they owner will be the “star witness” in the case.

“He’s dishonest and he will get convicted and I think he’s using his office as leverage for a plea negotiation,” Perez said. “That’s what it’s about and that’s shameful.”

Collins has yet to announce whether he will run for the seat again in 2020 while a stable of Republicans are lining up to primary him. He has flatly rejected the insinuation he’s using his seat as a bargaining chip and has maintained his innocence.

Meanwhile, McMurray is the only Democrat to announce so far, but Perez did not totally commit to him Wednesday.

“I am all in for whoever the nominee is,” he said. “We will not get involved in the primary process. We will leave that up to the great voters but I think voters want leaders with integrity and that’s what I love about Western New York.”

The DNC chairman also brought up this year’s Erie County executive race, connecting Republican-endorsed candidate Lynne Dixon to the indicted congressman.

“What’s equally remarkable is that the campaign manager for Mark Poloncarz’s opponent was the right-hand person on the Collins campaign. So if you think Chris Collins was good for Buffalo, well they’re trying to bring Chris Collins back to Erie County as well, so I’m all in for Mark.”

Poloncarz’s campaign has repeatedly questioned, including in a recent tv ad, why Dixon is employing Collins’ associate Chris Grant. But Dixon’s campaign said Grant was never campaign manager and rather has consulted.

Bryan Fiume, who said he’s actually been campaign manager all along, returned fire.

“Mark should be revisiting his campaign team, not us, he’s the one having a tough time,” Fiume said. “We aren’t worried about his comments, we remain focused on an infrastructure in disrepair, lead paint on playground equipment, high taxes and politics, like this, infiltrating Erie county government. Lynne Dixon isn’t Chris Collins and unfortunately for Mark, he’s not running against Chris Collins this time.”

Rep. Collins Solicits Campaign Contributions

It sure seems like Republican Congressman Chris Collins plans to seek his fifth term in 2020.

Collins has repeatedly said he doesn’t plan to announce his intentions for New York’s 27th District until later this year. However, he is actively fundraising.

The congressman sent out a letter soliciting contributions Wednesday. In it he referred to a recent poll in which he’s 20 points ahead of his “primary opponent” Chris Jacobs.

Of course, Jacobs and attorney Beth Parlato are the only Republicans who have officially announced there candidacy, so far. Technically Jacobs can’t be Collins primary opponent until the incumbent says he’s running.

He seemed to acknowledge that a few lines later in the letter.

“And should I choose to run, I will need your support,” he said. “This is going to be an expensive race.”

The letter is specifically focused on Jacobs who the congressman continues to call a “never-Trump” Republican. He said the poll also found likely GOP primary voters believe the current state Senator is the least likely to support President Trump’s agenda (mostly true although they also said he’s the second most likely to support the agenda).

Collins, who asked for contributions of $50, $100, $250 or more, recently admitted his ongoing federal litigation has made it difficult to fundraise but also promised he could self-fund a campaign if need be.

NY-27 Poll: Embattled Collins Still Favored In GOP Primary

Republican Congressman Chris Collins may still be the favorite in a 2020 GOP primary for New York’s 27th Congressional District despite the cloud of a federal insider trading trial hanging over his office.

That’s the headline from a new poll conducted by Western New York-based company Tel Opinion Research. Live interviewers spoke over the phone with 500 “Republicans with a history of voting in Republican primary elections” in the district.

Collins, who has maintained his innocence, has yet to make a decision about whether he will seek another term and his trial is scheduled for February 2020. Meanwhile, two GOP candidates so far, state Senator Chris Jacobs and attorney Beth Parlato, have officially announced their candidacy.

If the incumbent faced just those candidates in a primary today, 34 percent of those polled said they would vote for Collins with another 11 percent saying they would lean toward him. Twenty-one percent said they would vote for Jacobs with another 6 percent leaning toward him, while only 4 percent said they’d vote for Parlato.

That’s noteworthy since a year ago the congressman squeaked out a victory by less than half a percentage point over Democrat Nate McMurray, following his indictment, in what’s widely considered the state’s reddest seat. The poll confirmed the district still strongly supports the president, with eight of ten voters approving of the job Donald Trump is doing.

Collins also saw a relatively high favorability rating with 60 percent saying they had either a favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of him. A quarter of those polled did say they had an unfavorable opinion of the congressman.

The poll also considered the possibility of Collins not running in 2020, which GOP pollster and Tel Opinion Vice President Barry Zeplowitz noted would be likely should he not be acquitted in February. Tel Opinion asked about a number of potential Republican candidates who have not announced their intentions yet, including recent Medal Of Honor recipient David Bellavia, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, state Senator Rob Ortt and Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

Among all those candidates not named Chris Collins, the poll suggested Bellavia would be the front runner.

His favorability rating was at 58 percent and 33 percent said he was their preferred candidate if the incumbent didn’t run. Jacobs came in second on that question with roughly a quarter saying they would vote for him if Collins wasn’t in the race.

Zeplowitz pointed out there are several important factors to consider about the survey results. Not least important, a lot can change over the next ten months, it’s still unclear who will get in the race and Jacobs has a significant fundraising headstart over other candidates.

He also noted the president could have a significant impact on the race, should he choose to weigh in. Two out of three voters polled said it was at least somewhat likely they would support any candidate who Trump publicly supported.

The poll did not ask who voters would prefer if Collins were to run against Bellavia. The margin of error is +/- 4.5 percent.

nypoll by Anonymous JTOvBZl on Scribd

Collins Discusses Narrowed Indictment, Red Flags

From the Morning Memo:

Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, spoke with reporters about a variety of topics during a Wednesday afternoon event in the hamlet of Derby.

At the top of the list was the recent developments in his federal insider trading case. The government unsealed a new indictment this week, replacing the original from last summer.

While a trial is still scheduled for February 2020, prosecutors did drop three securities fraud charges against the congressman and two against his son Cameron, a co-defendant. They said they took the action to “avoid unnecessary pre-trial litigation that could delay the resolution of this matter.”

Collins said he wasn’t expecting the charges to be dropped but was pleased and plans to clear his name whenever the remaining charges are tried in court.

“Certainly living it is a difficult time for me and my family and my friends,” he said. “You just have to compartmentalize it and move on with your life, which I do. I’m as busy as I have ever been, out and about in the district doing my job. I think that’s obvious to everyone. Meanwhile, it does move at a frustratingly slow pace.”

The Republican, who of course still has congressional duties, also discussed how he believes lawmakers should respond to the two mass shootings that happened over the weekend. He said he is a strong supporter of “Red Flag” laws which the president suggested could be part of the solution this week.

“We have to be very careful on the due process piece of that, but also in the name of public safety,” Collins said. “It’s working in different states where if somebody has a genuine concern about an individual law enforcement could step in and temporarily remove guns with the due process that person being able to get those guns back.”

He seemed less supportive of calls for a ban on assault weapons, questioning why Democrats did not reinstitute one in 2009 and 2010 when they controlled both chambers, if they truly felt it was a solution.

“Meaning I think in 2004, when the thing expired, people realized that it’s not the gun, it’s the shooter and that’s not different today than it was then,” Collins said.

One issue the congressman’s office did not want to to discuss Wednesday was the stalled confirmation of former Erie County Central Police Services Commissioner Peter Vito for U.S. Marshal of New York’s Western District.

However, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, made it abundantly clear where he stood.

“The Collins nominee is not going to go forward, plain and simple,” Schumer said. “We’ll see what happens after that.”

The senator has issued what’s known as a Blue Slip, blocking the nomination because the Western District Marshal is traditionally from the Rochester area.

Collins Says Re-Election Bid Isn’t A Bargaining Chip

From the Morning Memo:

While Rep. Chris Collins says he doesn’t plan on making an official decision on whether to seek re-election until later this year, the Republican certainly sounded prepared for another campaign during a Tuesday press conference with reporters.

“Some people are presuming for some reason, I have no interest in running or on a fundraising standpoint, I might not have the funds to compete. I’m just squashing that thought once and for all,” Collins said when asked about the $500,000 he personally lent his campaign.

The speculation he might not be interested likely stems from two key facts: Collins unwillingness to make a definitive statement and his upcoming federal trial on charges related to insider trading, scheduled for February 2020.

“I’m innocent and I am telling you when you look at the circumstantial case that they’ve, some tunnel vision, decided to take, I’m quite comfortable where I’ll be at the end of all this, which is not guilty,” he said.

The congressman scoffed at the idea he might be hanging onto the possibility of running again – or not running – as a bargaining chip with federal prosecutors.

“That’s laughable,” Collins said. “I’m innocent of the charges so why would I ever even enter a plea deal?”

The congressman said the decision will come after he consults with his family. After his indictment last year, he briefly suspended his campaign before re-entering the race and ultimately winning.

He said he doesn’t understand why people would think he would leverage his candidacy.

“I’m not even sure where that comes from, the idea that somehow, someway it becomes a negotiation thing,” he said. “Not in my mind.”

The idea however, of using resignation from an elected office in a plea negotiation, is not a new one. There was plenty of speculation former Rep. Michael Grimm, who was elected while under federal indictment in 2014, did just that.

Rep. Collins Frustrated By Schumer ‘Blue Slip’ Of U.S. Marshal Nomination

The confirmation of a new U.S. Marshal for the Western District of New York remains stalled in the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, recommended former Erie County Central Police Services Commissioner Peter Vito for the job and the Trump administration officially made the nomination in May.

“Trump did, with my urging, break precedent there,” Collins said.

The congressman acknowledged traditionally the Western District U.S. Attorney comes from the Buffalo area and the U.S. Marshal resides in the Rochester region. Rep. Joe Morelle, D-NY-25, and Republican Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo were among those who took issue with Vito’s nomination.

“The folks in Rochester raised a stink,” Collins said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, also disagreed with the nomination and delivered what is known as a “blue slip” to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham. The “blue slip” tradition allows home state senators to essentially veto a nomination.

Collins said Graham has been ignoring blue slips when it comes to Appellate Court judges but continues to honor it for district judge, u.s. attorney, and marshal appointments.

“We’re continuing to have discussions with the White House, with the Department of Justice, on what options we may have,” he said. “Certainly disappointing that Senator Schumer weighed in on this like he did. It has nothing to do with Pete Vito’s credentials. It’s because he lives in Niagara County and not Monroe County. I just think that’s wrong.”

Collins called the situation frustrating and pointed out nobody, including Schumer, has raised any issues about Vito’s qualifications. He said his office is addressing the situation on a “day-to-day” basis.

Reed Open To Considering Support For “Red Light Act”

From The Morning Memo:

New York lawmakers and the governor expected legal objections to the state’s new Green Light law from President Donald Trump’s administration.

There appears to be some congressional pushback to the law which grants driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, as well. Legislation introduced by Rep. Chris Collins to withhold federal highway funding from states that allow the driver’s licenses could have support from another New York Republican, although he wouldn’t make a formal commitment.

“I’ve seen what Chris Collins is discussing,” Congressman Tom Reed said. “I’ve talked to him on the floor in regards to it and we’ll see because I didn’t see the final text.”

Reed said he would be “very open to considering supporting” Collins’s Red Light Act because he is opposed to the Green Light Bill.

“I am opposed to the giving of licenses to illegal immigrants,” he said. “I think that is part of an extreme agenda that doesn’t get to the issue at hand and could lead to more danger on our roads to be perfectly honest with you.”

Reed will probably not get a chance to officially support the legislation. With a Democratic congress, it seems unlikely the bill will even reach the floor for a vote.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spokesman Jason Conwall said it is “nothing more than political grandstanding” from Collins “who’s been indicted on felony charges” and knows the bill has no chance of passing.

DCCC Ridicules Collins Fundraising Effort, $500K Campaign Loan

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee seemed to taunt Republican Congressman Chris Collins on Tuesday for his modest fundraising effort so far this year.

According to his most recent federal campaign finance report, Collins has raised just a little more than $14,000 this year in contributions, the bulk of it coming in the last quarter. The congressman, meanwhile loaned his own campaign $500,000 this quarter raising his total cash on hand to more than $665,000.

“After raising zero dollars from a single human being in the first quarter of the year, Criminal Caucus Chairman, Chris Collins has loaned himself half a million dollars to keep his failing campaign afloat,” DCCC Spokesperson Christine Bennett said. “It’s clear Collins is prepping for a nasty primary. We wish him the best of luck.”

The Republican is awaiting a federal trial related to insider trading charges in February of 2020. He has not yet said if he will run again next year.

However, the multimillionaire indicated Monday on Twitter, if he does, money won’t be a problem.

“While I ultimately will make a decision about re-election later this year, every one of my campaigns has had the necessary resources to get my message out,” he said. “This one, should I run, will be no different.”

Current Republican state Senator Chris Jacobs has already officially announced his candidacy for New York’s 27th District. He reported raising nearly $450,000 in just six weeks.

Jacobs has also loaned his own campaign a hefty sum, to the tune of $325,000, putting his available cash at roughly three-quarters of a million dollars.

Rep. Collins Introduces “Red Light Act”

In response to New York’s new “Green Light Law,” Republican Congressman Chris Collins is proposing the “Red Light Act.”

The legislation would withhold federal highway funds from any state that grants driver’s licenses or identification cards to immigrants in the country illegally.

“Once again, Governor Cuomo has put his socialist agenda ahead of the safety of American citizens,” Collins said. “Governor Cuomo should be enforcing laws that protect Americans instead of supporting those who break our laws. Citizens should feel safe behind the wheel, but now in New York there will be a strong likelihood that illegals could be driving uninsured and unregistered vehicles wreaking havoc on our roads.”

The Green Light Law, which is facing a federal challenge in Erie County, where Collins lives, would go into effect in December. The congressman’s bill, if enacted, would begin withholding funds in Fiscal Year 2020 and every fiscal year moving forward.

“Cuomo has threatened the lives of New Yorkers who are legal U.S. citizens with this legislation,” Collins said. “If he wants to help illegal immigrants avoid the law while threatening highway safety, he can pay for it.”

There are currently 12 other states besides New York who allow otherwise undocumented immigrants to apply for licenses.

New Revelations Regarding Collins Insider Trading Case Permeate Erie County Executive Race

Recently discovered court documents connected to federal insider trading case of Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27. claim Western New York political consultant Chris Grant sold shares of Australian biopharmaceutical company Innate Immunotherapeutics in June 2017, just before the stock plummeted.

According to the affidavit obtained by Spectrum News and first reported by WKBW, Grant avoided losing more than $11,000. Grant has worked both directly for Collins, as his congressional chief of staff, and later consulted for him through his company Big Dog Strategies.

The company currently consults for Republican-endorsed Erie County Executive candidate Lynne Dixon, a registered Independent.

“If you are going to run to be a representative of the people in any office, and I’m not just talking about county executive, I’m talking about any office, you need to be held to the highest ethical standards and your staff needs to be held to the highest ethical standards,” Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz

Friday, Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz called for Dixon and any other public official with ties to Grant to cut them. Spectrum News has been told Grant, who has not been charged with a crime, does not plan to leave the campaign.

“I don’t expect Chris Grant to resign but it’s not up to Chris Grant to resign. It’s up to Lynne Dixon to do the right thing,” Poloncarz said.

The county executive also pointed out Grant’s house was raided by federal agents in connection to allegations which ultimately led to the corruption convictions of Democratic political operative Steve Pigeon and a federal judge. Grant has not been charged in that investigation either.

Through Big Dog Strategies, Grant has served as Dixon’s primary spokesperson, but Friday the campaign released a statement from Bryan Fiume, who also serves as the associate Deputy Erie County Comptroller. Another Big Dog employee was listed as the media contact.

Fiume called Poloncarz “desperate” and his claims “preposterous” and pointed out the county executive has a history of disgraced hires himself, like former Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger, who was convicted of raping another county employee.

Poloncarz said when he found out about those allegations he immediately launched an investigation and called for the commissioners resignation before he was even charged.

“Would I have hired him if I knew he was going to have a situation where he would have raped an employee? Of course not,” Poloncarz said. “We never would have hired him. He had a clean resume, a clean background and as I said, Lynne Dixon actually seconded his nomination at the Legisalture.”

According to the affidavit, developer Gerald Buchheit was also among the Collins associates who dumped Innate stock. Buchheit and his company have made campaign contributions to numerous politicians, including Dixon.

Since 2017, he’s donated more than $15,000 to Poloncarz as well.

“I’m going to return every donation that Mr. Buchheit has made in the last year,” he said.

State Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs also called on Dixon to “denounce and disassociate” herself with Grant. He said a culture of corruption “permeates the Erie County Republican Committee.”

ECRC Chair Nick Langworthy is the incoming GOP State Party chairman.