Chris Collins

Rep. Collins Indicted On Insider Trading Charges

Western New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins has been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud.

Collins is accused of giving inside information he learned as a member of the board of directors of an Australian biotechnology company to his son, another co-defendant. Collins’ son Cameron, after learning of that non-public information, sold roughly 1.4 million shares of his company and is accused of notifying four other co-defendants: his fiancée, his soon to be in-laws, and a friend who subsequently sold shares as well.

Cameron Collins allegedly avoided approximately $570,000 in losses. In total, the defendants and six others not named as defendants were able to allegedly save themselves more than $768,000 in losses they would have otherwise incurred if they had waited for the information to go public.

According to the indictment, the congressman received an email on June 22, 2017 from the chief executive officer of Innate Immunotherapeutics indicating the company’s primary product, a multiple sclerosis drug, had likely failed a clinical trial. Roughly 15 minutes later, Collins, who was attending the Congressional Picnic at the White House, began making calls to his son. The first six calls were “missed” but Christopher Collins was apparently able to reach Cameron on the seventh try.

“Christopher Collins, the defendant, spoke to Cameron Collins, the defendant, and told him, in sum and substance, that MIS416 had failed the drug trial. Christopher Collins conveyed this material, nonpublic information to Cameron Collins knowing that it was in breach of his duties to Innate and anticipating that Cameron Collins would use it to trade and tip others,” the indictment reads.

The results of the drug trial went public on June 26 and the following day, Innate’s stock plummeted by more than 92 percent.

“We will answer the charges filed against Congressman Collins in Court and will mount a vigorous defense to clear his good name,” Chris Collins’ attorneys, Jonathan Barr and Jonathan New of Baker Hostetler, said in a statement. “We are confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated.Congressman Collins will have more to say on this issue later today.”

The attorneys also pointed out that even the government does not allege Collins traded a single share of his own Innate stock. The indictment does say he lost millions of dollars in the process.

“However, he was virtually precluded from trading his own shares for practical and technical reasons,” the indictment reads.

For technical reasons, it said Collins was not able to trade his shares because they were held in Australia, not by a U.S. broker. Trade on the stock was halted on the Australian market.

For practical reasons, the indictment insinuated it would not be wise for the congressman to trade his stock because he was already being investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics “in connection with his holding in, and promotion, of Innate” and had been interviewed by OCE personnel just 17 days before he received the information.

The congressional investigation surrounded whether Collins had inappropriately promoted the company to a number of friends, including fellow members of Congress, who bought stock in it. That complaint had been referred to the House Committee on Ethics.

Collins has maintained throughout the congressional investigation that he did nothing wrong. No other members of Congress appear to be named in the indictment.

The Republican is seeking reelection in New York’s 27th District this fall. Democrat and Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray is challenging him.

Rep. Collins Opines On Potential Supreme Court Nomination

New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins said he will support whoever the president announces tonight as his pick to fill the latest Supreme Court vacancy.

Collins expects the selection to come from Trump’s reported shortlist, whittled down from the same initial list which turned up last year’s apointee, Neil Gorsuch. The congressman added “with our president you just never know.”

However, he does believe whoever the nominee is will ensure a constitutional conservative court for the next three to four decades.

“It’s a legacy no other president has and President Trump will have gotten that opportunity in his first two years as our president,” he said.

Assuming the judge comes from the list Trump made public during his 2016 candidacy, Collins noted all of the judges have been vetted by the conservative Federalist Society. He said they all meet the criteria, but as a member of the House he won’t have any say in the nominee’s confirmation.

Collins expects at least some partisan posturing.

“I don’t, wouldn’t use the word easy. It’s probably going to fall along lines, the same thing we’ve seen when last week we didn’t get a single Democrat to vote for the Farm Bill of all things,” he said.

With John McCain absent, dealing with health issues, the current split in the U.S. Senate is 50-49 in favor of Republicans. Three Democrats, did approve Gorsuch and Collins believes at least some of them could do the same this time around, in a scenario where a GOP senator, Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski perhaps, decides to break rank.

He said he expects the potential judge to face tough questions during the confirmation process, but issued a warning.

“Litmus test questions are not appropriate, so someone who says I want to know for sure this judge is not going to overturn Roe V. Wade, which seems to be the issue on some minds, that’s not even an appropriate question to ask,” Collins said.

Collins said he does not think the court would even take up Roe V. Wade but if senators want to determine how a judge would vote, they need to look at their records. He said he does believe the president’s appointment can be confirmed by September.

NY-27: Collins Opponent Demands Debate

From the Morning Memo:

The Democratic candidate running in New York’s 27th Congressional District reiterated his calls for a debate with his opponent, incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Collins.

Nate McMurray, currently the town supervisor of Grand Island, said the people of Western New York are demanding a head-to-head match-up between the two candidates, pointing as proof of this claim to an online petition by more than 1,000 people.

McMurray said his campaign has collected another 150 signatures calling for a debate at events across the district, and though his people have reached out to Collins’ office to formally request a debate, they have so far not received a response.

“I hope one of the local news stations will host a debate between us,” McMurray said. “The people of the district want this debate. We hear it at every event we go to. We see it from how quickly the petition broke 1,000 signatures. It’s the right thing to do and it’s the only way for the voters of NY-27 to make an informed decision in November.”

McMurray said he believes participating in debates is “crucial to a functioning democracy,” noting that one has not been held in NY-27 since Collins and then-incumbent Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul exchanged thoughts – and verbal barbs – in 2012.

Collins went on to defeat Hochul, who had been elected to the state’s most GOP-domoinated district in a rare special election. She went on to become Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s running mate in 2014, replacing former LG Bob Duffy.

The Collins campaign had no comment in response to McMurray’s challenge. Though there are a number of hotly contested congressional races across New York, Collins, and early supporter of President Donald Trump and frequent surrogate for the administration, is not among the national Democrats’ top targets this election cycle.

Collins, FCC Commissioner Criticize NY Use Of 9-1-1 Cash

From the Morning Memo:

Western New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins and Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly are putting pressure on New York to reform the way it utilizes revenue from 9-1-1 fees.

The two men co-authored an OpEd for wide distribution criticizing the state for “diverting” the fees it collects from people’s phone bills to the general fund, rather than using it to support the emergency call system.

Under federal law, states are responsible for the maintenance of their own system. However, Collins and O’Rielly says New York continues to miss out on additional federal funding earmarked to update 9-1-1 technology, allowing public safety officials to receive real time locations and live video feeds, among other things.

“Ironically, the very funding that New York and many others fought for in Congress as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act is not available to New York,” they wrote. “The thought being, if the state is not prioritizing it’s 9-1-1 system, the federal government should not contribute its scarce funding that would allow for more diversion.”

Collins and O’Rielly said the FCC found in its report to Congress this year that New York diverted roughly 41 percent to its general fund and, despite collecting more than $185 million in 9-1-1 fees, used only $10 million to support the call centers.

They said this is a big problem because according to a recent Associated Press article, the state has serious service gaps in rural areas and needs a more than $2 billion upgrade.

“New York’s diversionary tactics must stop.  If the state doesn’t act, we will have to explore ideas at the federal level to bring an end to this practice once and for all,” they threatened.

The two men plan to continue to push the issue while visiting the Niagara County Emergency Management Office on Friday.

Collins Impressed With Zuckerberg Testimony

Western New York Republican Chris Collins came away impressed with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg following his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce committee yesterday. Collins was one of more than fifty members of committee to question Zuckerberg during a more than four hour hearing.

By time Collins got his turn, late in the proceedings, he said he had already got a lot of answers about Facebook’s privacy procedures and how British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used the private information from tens of millions of people without their knowledge.

“Mark Zuckerberg brought the data and answered the questions professionally, very directly, and I think a lot of people were surprised at the answers because you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it,” Collins said.

He said many members of Congress thought Facebook was selling user data for private gain but learned that’s not the company’s model. Instead, it uses data to place ads but does not share that information with advertisers.

He said, in this case, Cambridge Analytica broke the rules and Facebook took action to remedy the problem when it became apparent.

“That was a third-party app developer,” Collins said. “They’ve locked that down very differently now after that happened. It could not happen to that extent ever again.”

Collins said it was a good look for Zuckerberg and the company to appear before Congress and directly answer questions. He said he is satisfied.

“I’m convinced we don’t need new regulations. We don’t need new legislation. I’m happy to have Facebook and others self-police because they know if something gets out of control there will be regulations or legislation,” Collins said.

Rep. Collins: Facebook Unites Democrats and Republicans

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee tomorrow morning for his second day of congressional hearings connected to the website’s privacy practices. Western New York Republican Chris Collins is one of 55 members on that committee that plans to question Zuckerberg

Collins appeared on the Fox Business Network this afternoon to discuss the hearing.

“I know we’re going to hear the apologies but I think we would all agree it’s actions that matter not words,” he said.

The congressman said Facebook made a big mistake in turning a blind eye to privacy issues, particularly regarding British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica which gained access to 50 million users’ private information without their knowledge.

“I will tell you this, Facebook has united Democrats and Republicans which is very hard to do, especially in a mid-term election year to unite Republicans and Democrats in sharing the same concern about privacy,” Collins said.

He said he is particularly concerned with comments from Facebook a few days ago that users could potentially pay to restrict the data to which advertisers have access. Collins said Congress would never allow that to happen.

“In particular, I want to have assurance that Facebook will never charge a customer for privacy, which was what was suggested a couple days ago,” he said when asked what question he has for Zuckerberg.

Collins said he expects members to ask the company to voluntarily provide easy and free ways for customers to opt-out of sharing private information. If the company does not comply he said regulations via the Federal Trade Commission or federal legislation could move forward.

NY-27: Dems Respond To Collins’ 2nd Amendment Question

From the Morning Memo:

Western New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins challenged the two Democrats vying to unseat him to tell the public whether they would support the full repeal of the 2nd Amendment. This comes after retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for the repeal in a New York Times Op-Ed this week.

“The 27th district is one of the most Republican Congressional districts in New York State, with a very pro-2nd Amendment constituency,” Collins campaign spokesman Bryan Piligra said. “At the very least our opponents should let voters know if they support far-left calls to remove our fundamental right to bear arms.”

The campaign said both candidates, current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray and Monroe County businessman Nick Stankevich, attended pro-gun control marches over the weekend and stood with people who support the repeal. Both candidates, however, insisted they don’t actually share those views.

“Give me a break. I’ve never said that once,” McMurray said. “Now I have a question for him: Will he debate me one-on-one before the public so we can have a direct conversation about the 2nd Amendment? Let’s let everyone see exactly where we stand.”

McMurray said he staunchly supports the right to bear arms, but doesn’t think everybody – for instance, people with mental illness or criminals – should have easy access to firearms.

Stankevich expressed the same sentiment in his statement, saying Collins is out of touch politician who is refusing to represent the interest of the district by protecting children.

“On Saturday, I marched with my neighbors and friends for tighter guns laws and regulations,” Stankevich said. “Our neighbors who follow the law deserve freedom to protect their families, and our children deserve the freedom to go to school without fearing for their lives. Collins’ extremist views are not only offensive but also dangerous. Mr. Collins would rather continue to be bought for his inaction.”

Stankevich and McMurray plan to participate in a student forum on guns on April 7. According to the Buffalo News, Collins’ office declined an invitation saying “radical partisans” have co-opted the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida to score political points.

Collins To Meet With Potential Dem Challenger Stankevich

A Democratic candidate in NY-27 is flying to Washington, D.C. today to meet with the Republican incumbent. A spokesperson for Nick Stankevich said he and Rep. Chris Collins plan to meet at 1:30 p.m. to talk about gun reform.

“I want to fight for the people; I will do what it takes to get the job done,” Stankevich said.

His campaign said it began having conversations with Collins’ office when, following the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the congressman sharply criticized Democrats for politicizing the tragedy instead of having a sit-down conversation.

The spokesperson, however, said Stankevich was disappointed Collins refused to hold the meeting in the district or allow constituents to participate.

A source close to Collins confirmed the meeting is indeed scheduled to take place, and noted that although the congressman had a very busy schedule, he made time to sit down with Stankevich in the nation’s Capitol because he is a constituent.

The Republican’s campaign has been critical of local Democratic committees for endorsing current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray, who does not live in NY-27, to run against him.

McMurray has publicly challenged Collins to a debate several times. He and Stankevich both plan to compete for the party’s nomination in a June primary.

Collins Tours Gum Factory, Calls For Sugar Reform

Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, is pushing for reform to United States sugar policy when Congress reauthorizes the federal Farm Bill this year. The congressman wants to eliminate quotas on sugar imports which he said have artificially raised the price of the domestic product, sometimes as much as double the world market price.

“When they say, alright, this is how much gum can come in from other places and we can’t reach our demand, you can imagine that’s a ‘get out of jail free’ card for the U.S. producers to charge whatever they want because they know it’s going to get consumed,” he said.

Collins toured the Ford Gum Plant in Akron on Friday. It’s the only major gumball manufacturer remaining in the country and also makes Big League Chew.

The company’s CEO, George Stege, said branded products like the shredded gum have helped keep the company in business because it can charge more. When it comes to gumballs though, he said Canadian companies are dominating the market simply because the sugar is cheaper and they can undercut Ford’s prices.

Stege said all he wants is parity; the ability to purchase sugar at or near the world market price. The company currently employs about 150 people in Western New York

“We think we could grow the jobs here and frankly double the employment here because there are opportunities to go into certain areas if we could meet a certain price point which we can’t do currently,” he said.

Collins said the profit for sugar producers on the other hand, is going directly into their pockets and he’s not concerned about the potential impact changing policy could have on that industry.

“No one should be afraid of competition and I would say absolutely not, in this case fair trade just means you’ve got to play by the same rules and I don’t believe it would hurt our industry at all.”

 

Rep. Collins Dismisses Gun Control Debate Invitation From Erie County Executive

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, D, has invited Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, to participate in a moderated televised discussion about gun control. Poloncarz said he reached out to Collins after seeing the congressman’s February 15 interview with Spectrum News about the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school.

“I’m just certainly disappointed in the Democrats who rushed to the microphone in a disgusting way, frankly, instead of having a sit-down and a conversation of what we can do, but, you know, there’s only so much we can do,” Collins said at the time.

Poloncarz said he took the congressman’s call for a sit-down to heart and a day later the two of them had a roughly 20 minute conversation about the issue. He said as part of that conversation, he asked Collins if he’d be willing to take part in a moderated conversation so the general public could view it.

The Republican has been steadfast that he has no interest in holding a town hall style forum because he said opponents tend to shout and grandstand and those types of forums are not productive. Poloncarz said that while Collins was non-committal to this alternative, he took his response as a maybe.

The county executive reached out to the Western New York public broadcasting station, WNED, who said they would be willing to televise the discussion live.

“I sent a text message to Chris saying let’s do this. Let’s get this done. We sent the letter to his office by email and fax and I think we need to have a common sense conversation about what we can do in this country, which I believe is the passage of common sense gun laws,” Poloncarz said.

Collins’ office quickly dismissed the challenge and accused the county executive of doing exactly what he was upset with in the first place, politicizing the Parkland tragedy.

“It’s comical that Mark Poloncarz – who doesn’t actually have the courage of his convictions to run for federal office –  now wants to be a surrogate attack dog and exploit the Parkland tragedy for his own political gain.  We’re happy to have our own surrogate and co-equal member of county government, County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, educate Mark on the national democrat party’s failure to deliver gun control reform when they had full control of federal government in 2009.  Perhaps they’ll even invite Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who gleefully accepted the NRA’s endorsement in her failed run for federal office.  We look forward to Mark and Stefan’s town hall,” campaign spokesperson Chris Grant said.

Poloncarz, indeed, is not running for Collins’ congressional seat, despite some community efforts to draft him. He said that is proof that this is not an election year stunt.

Currently two Democratic candidates are vying for the 27th District and Poloncarz said he doesn’t think a debate would have an effect on the race.

“We are both leaders in the community and can have a frank, non-vitriolic discussion of the topic. I do not believe this will hurt or help his opponent, only reveal who the leaders are in our community,” he said.

Current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray is the endorsed Democrat and favorite to challenge Collins this fall. He said he loved Poloncarz’s challenge to Collins and on Twitter he did the same.

“I challenge you to a debate on firearms. If you think I’m wrong, say it to my face, show the world how silly I am,” he wrote. “You can bring your gun if it will make you feel safe. Because I bet I could beat you on the range too. And at arm wrestling. And at Scrabble.”