Chris Collins

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.

Collins and Cuomo Find Common Ground On The Lake

From the Morning Memo:

The International Joint Commission makes strange bedfellows in New York. Regardless of party-affiliation or level of government, elected officials have pretty consistently criticized the IJC for its management of Lake Ontario water levels over the last several years.

WNY Republican Rep. Chris Collins said that he, Gov. Andrew Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “basically agree on nothing other than the impact Plan 2014 has had in a negative sense since it was implemented.”

The congressman and the governor would be best described as political adversaries, and have reputedly traded verbal barbs over the years. Cuomo even urged his lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, who briefly held Collins’ seat a few years back, to try to take him out in the last election cycle. (There were, of course, ulterior political motives for the governor’s call, and Hochul declined, opting to seek re-election to her current post as his No. 2 instead).

However, Collins actually agreed with Cuomo, who recently threatened to sue the IJC if it failed to adjust its regulatory plan and pay damages to the state for the millions its spent on repairs and flood mitigation.

“The fact is, in the treaty, the IJC is responsible for financial compensation when a community is disproportionately impacted, and they admit in that plan that there will be a disproportionate impact on the Southern shore of Lake Ontario,” Collins said.

The only problem, the congressman said, is the body made up of three American commissioners and three Canadian ones, has no money. The governments of the two countries could perhaps come up with the cash, but Collins does not think it’s likely.

“The communities are upset for good reason because there’s a man-made piece in this but there’s no one here on Capitol Hill that’s going to get ready to write a big check,” he said.

He said the best solution is to suspend Plan 2014, which he will believes will prevent further damages in the future. So far, however, the IJC has shown no interest in actually moving in that direction.

State Senator Chris Jacobs Is Running For New York’s 27th Congressional Seat

Republican state Senator Chris Jacobs is running for New York’s 27th Congressional District in 2020.

His congressional campaign manager confirmed a Buffalo News report Thursday morning. The seat is currently held by Republican Chris Collins, who is facing federal insider trading charges.

“It’s very important to put someone in that seat who is a strong advocate for the district,” Jacobs told the News. “Currently, I don’t believe he has the capacity to be effective because of the situation.”

Jacobs indicated he would primary Collins if necessary. The incumbent, whose trial is scheduled for February 2020, has said he has not decided yet whether he’ll run again.

In 2018, following the indictment, he briefly suspended his campaign and Republicans in the district were scouting a replacement. Jacobs was one of a stable of potential Republicans in consideration.

Ultimately, Collins unsuspended his campaign, at the advice of his attorneys and the disappointment of GOP leadership. He beat Democrat Nate McMurray by less than half a percentage point in the fall.

McMurray has not officially announced he will run again either, although he vowed a rematch of Collins is the candidate and is already fundraising.

Morelle-Collins Arguments Has Shades Of Slaughter-Collins Feud

From the Morning Memo:

New York’s 25th and 27th Congressional Districts may neighbor each other geographically, but its representatives have not always been neighborly to each other.

The late Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter regularly went after Republican Rep. Chris Collins on various matters of policy, and also led the calls for investigation into his insider trading, for which he is currently facing federal charges.

The Republican, never afraid to return fire, once called his colleague “a despicable human being.” The rivalry never really cooled before Slaughter passed away in March 2018.

Roughly five months later, Collins was indicted. As he continues to fight the charges lodged against him, his appearances on both national and local news have become far less prevalent, and his political future remains an open question.

However, Tuesday, there were shades of the old relations between NY-25 and NY-27 after Slaughter’s successor, former Assemblyman Joe Morelle, called for the Trump administration to withdraw a U.S. Marshal nominee recommended by Collins, though the Democrat did appear to try to tread more lightly than his predecessor likely would have.

“I say this advisedly, but this nomination was advanced by Congressman Collins, who was under indictment on federal felony charges, and I think while he’s going through his legal challenges he ought to stand down and not make recommendations about law enforcement personnel while he’s under federal indictment. I’m not trying to be… I’m just trying to basically call the balls and strikes here,” Morelle said.

Collins’ office was not amused, defending the nomination and calling Morelle’s opinion “simply irrelevant.”

“No one should take legal and ethics advice from Rep. Joe Morelle – who defended Sheldon Silver after his corruption arrest and ignored the story of a rape victim in order to advance his political career,” Collins spokesperson Jennifer Brown said.

Brown is talking about rape allegations made by former Democratic staffer Elizabeth Crothers in 2001 against the state Assembly Democrats chief counsel at the time, Michael Boxley.

Morelle then said he didn’t believe Crothers, but Boxley eventually pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct with a different staffer two years later.

Morelle has since apologized for the comments and even invited Crothers to be his State of the Union guest this year.

Morelle Calls On Trump To Withdraw Nomination For U.S. Marshal

Rep. Joe Morelle, D-NY-25, is calling for President Donald to withdraw his nominee for U.S. Marshal in the Western District of New York.

The Buffalo News reported over the weekend, Trump had nominated former Erie County Central Police Services Commissioner Peter Vito for the post. Vito currently owns a private investigation service in Buffalo.

Morelle said it is a long-standing tradition the Western District U.S. attorney hails from Buffalo while the marshal comes from his district in Rochester. He called Vito’s nomination a slap in the face to Monroe County residents.

The congressman also criticized the president for nominating an ally of Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27. Vito served as Central Police Services Commissioner when Collins was Erie County Executive.

“Selecting someone for a law enforcement position based on a recommendation from an indicted Representative facing federal felony charges is an insult,” Morelle said.

Collins is currently awaiting trial on insider trading charges. He has made several appointment recommendations to the president, including attorney John Sinatra for a federal judgeship and former Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin to chair the International Joint Commission, but neither have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate yet.

Collins: Don’t Read Into Missed Vote For Slaughter Post Office

Earlier this week, members of Congress voted overwhelmingly to name a post office after the late-Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and her husband Bob Slaughter.

The Democrat served three decades in the House and died early last year while still in office. Only seven Republicans voted against the measure.

However, Congressman Chris Collins, who represents the neighboring New York district, did not vote. The two members were also very critical of each other, with Slaughter leading calls for investigations into the Republicans stock dealings.

Collins is currently facing federal charges related to insider trading.

“Louise and I were not exactly on the best of term,” he said.

But the congressman said he did not actively avoid the vote. Collins said he didn’t know it was happening and had a conflict that afternoon so he couldn’t be on the floor.

“We haven’t been voting on substantive issues,” he said. “So I had a conflict and it turns out it was the post office. It was supposed to be another one that didn’t occur but I wouldn’t read into anything other.”

In fact, Collins said he thought Congress had already passed legislation to rename the post office last year. He said he is still not sure how he would have voted.

“I would not have voted no,” he said. “Whether I would have voted present or not, I’m not sure.”

Rep. Collins Still Debating 2020 Reelection Bid

Western New York Republican Chris Collins, facing federal insider trading charges, very narrowly won his congressional reelection bid, last fall.
When all the votes were tallied, Collins ended up beating his Democratic challenger, Nate McMurray, by less than half a percentage point in the mid-term race. McMurray has continued to be active on social media and in the community and has maintained the appearance of someone who plans on challenging the congressman again.

He half-confirmed his intentions Friday on Twitter, tweeting that if Collins runs again, he will too.

The Republican incumbent has not confirmed he will run for what would be his 5th term. Friday, he made it sound like the decision is still very much up in the air.

“I’m debating that,” he said. “We’ll debate within my family and you know, I’ve been there eight years and so that will be a decision for early next year, one that I’m not locked in on right now.”

Collins does not believe the close result in 2018 would be a reason not to run. In fact, he pointed out he received more votes than any other Republican candidate in New York and more than some members of House GOP leadership.

He said he would expect the total to be even higher for a presidential election year in a district in which President Donald Trump remains popular.

“140,000 people, probably in the nastiest election that there’s ever been, said they wanted me to come back as their member, so I would say that I’m in a pretty good spot,” he said. “Clearly, anyone that voted for me last time’s gonna do it again.”

Collins said if he runs, McMurray would be his “dream candidate to run against.” He said the Democrat is a far-left candidate who has moved even further left since last year.

The congressman noted the status of his ongoing federal litigation will weigh into his ultimate decision.

Collins Reintroduces Legislation To Roll Back SAFE Act

From the Morning Memo:

While the New York State Legislature continues to tighten gun laws, Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, is trying again to role back the state’s Secure Ammunition’s and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act Of 2013 at the federal level.

Collins reintroduced his Second Amendment Guarantee Act this week. SAGA would limit a state’s authority to regulate rifles and shotguns.

States would not be allowed to impose regulations more restrictive than those already imposed by Congress. The legislation, first introduced by Collins in July 2017, is in direct response to New York’s wide-reaching package of gun laws.

“Governor Cuomo unjustly took away the Second Amendment rights from law abiding New Yorkers with his so-called SAFE Act,” Collins said. “I have and always will be a  strong supporter of the Second Amendment and my legislation will guarantee that New Yorkers have the rights guaranteed to them in the Constitution.”

The congressman said in stipulating rifles and shotguns have (or don’t have) certain features the SAFE Act violates federal regulations. If passed, SAGA would void state laws in violation and allow courts to award plaintiffs damages from those states.

However, even with a Republican-controlled House, the bill stalled last session after being referred to a subcommittee. Collins faces more obstacles this year.

Democrats have since won back Congress. Even the lawmakers GOP colleagues could potentially be squeamish about passing a bill of which he’s the primary sponsor while he awaits trial on federal insider trading charges.

Collins Calls Higgins A Liar

Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, has not been shy about talking about the double standard he believes the media has when reporting on him versus his Democratic colleagues, specifically fellow Congressman Brian Higgins.

Collins has argued Higgins didn not get the same criticism as him for not debating his opponent this past election. That’s perhaps a false equivalency considering Higgins race was not as competitive as Collins’ nor was his opponent as aggressive in calling for a debate.

But the Republican is now pointing to another instance where he believes his neighboring congressman got a pass. Last month, Higgins said he would support Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker, backtracking on his previous public position.
“I’d put it differently,” Collins said. “I would just say liar, liar, pants on fire and that’s how you should report it.”

Higgins said he was being pragmatic, with no viable option to replace the longtime Democratic leader. In exchange for his vote, he said Pelosi promised to bring two legislative priorities, an infrastructure bill and a Medicare buy-in plan, to the floor.

Collins called the so-called bargaining chip a “joke” because neither then Senate nor the president will support either plan.

“To say he’s now going to get a bill on the House floor that has zero chance of being passed mean he will have accomplished nothing other than he lied from Day One,” he said.

The congressman contrasted Higgins about-face, with downstate Democrat Kathleen Rice who maintained her opposition to Pelosi even as it became clear she had the requisite votes.

Rep. Collins: No Committee Assignment ‘Doesn’t Mean Much Now’

Congressman Chris Collins, R-NY-27, will not serve on the influential Energy and Commerce Committee when the new session starts next year.

House Speaker Paul Ryan stripped Collins of the committee assignment after federal prosecutors charged him with crimes related to insider trading. The congressman won reelection this fall but is still scheduled to stand trial in February 2020.

He had held out hope new Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, a friend of Collins, would allow him to return to Energy and Commerce. However, last month House Republicans voted to approve new rules barring members from facing federal charges from serving on committees.

In the past, Collins has said he hoped his work on the committee would be his legacy in Congress.

“While I would have preferred to stay on the committee, the fact that it’s now Republicans in the minority, it doesn’t mean much now,” he said Monday.

Collins said the legislation coming out of Energy and Commerce will be Democratic, regardless of whether he was participating in the process. He pointed out he still has his vote on the floor and will pay close attention to the bills coming from all 21 committees.

“Frankly, what I’m going to do is get more involved in the caucuses that I’m involved in and that I chair, especially relative to the Great Lakes, Energy Storage, the Toy Caucus with Mattel – there’s a lot of issues there with China – and certainly the Scout Caucus,” he said.

The congressman said he is still in good standing with his party and has actually gained significant seniority in the House thanks to turnover this year. Collins said he’s recruiting new members from the freshman class to join the bipartisan caucuses.