Chris Collins (American politician)
- For other people named Chris Collins, see Chris Collins.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from New York's 27th district
Assumed office |
January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Brian Higgins|
|7th Executive of Erie County|
January 1, 2008 – December 31, 2011
|Preceded by||Joel Giambra|
|Succeeded by||Mark Poloncarz|
Christopher Carl Collins|
May 20, 1950
Schenectady, New York, U.S.
North Carolina State University (BS)|
University of Alabama at Birmingham (MBA)
Christopher Carl Collins (born May 20, 1950) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for New York's 27th congressional district since 2013. A member of the Republican Party, he previously was the county executive of Erie County, New York from 2007 to 2011.
Collins was the first sitting U.S. Representative to endorse Donald Trump for President of the United States and he served on the Donald Trump presidential transition team. Collins and his son, Cameron, were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on August 8, 2018 and charged with insider trading and making false statements by the office of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. The Securities Exchange Commission filed concurrent civil charges against Collins. Three days later, Collins announced he was suspending his bid for a fourth term. On September 17, 2018, he announced a course reversal and that he would actually seek another term.
- 1 Early life, education, and business career
- 2 Early political career
- 3 U.S. House of Representatives
- 4 Political positions
- 5 Controversies
- 6 Indictment and arrest for insider trading
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Early life, education, and business career
Collins was born in 1950 in Schenectady, New York, the son of Constance (Messier) and Gerald Edward Collins. Collins moved around the country with his family as his father was transferred several times by General Electric.
He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University in 1972 where he was a member of Sigma Pi fraternity. Collins was inducted into the North Carolina State University Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department Hall of Fame in November 2015. He then earned an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1975.
Collins spent years in the business world. As an entrepreneur he was the President and CEO of Nuttall Gear Corporation located in Niagara Falls, New York. Nuttall Gear was a 1983 leveraged buyout of the Westinghouse Electric Gear Division located in Buffalo, New York. Collins sold Nuttall in 1997 to Colfax Corporation, based in Annapolis, Maryland.
After losing a race for Congress in 1998, Collins purchased or invested in over twenty bankrupt and financially troubled companies. These companies were combined into several platform companies. His current companies include: Innate Immunotherapeutics, Mead Supply, Oxygen Generating Systems Intl., Audubon Machinery Corp, Schlyer Machine, Volland Electric and ZeptoMetrix Corporation.
Early political career
1998 congressional election
Collins challenged 24-year incumbent Democratic U.S. Congressman John J. LaFalce in New York's 29th congressional district. During the campaign, Collins was one of the first congressional candidates to call for President Bill Clinton's resignation in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Erie County Executive
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Collins ran for Erie County Executive in 2007 on the platform of smaller county government, lower taxes and Six Sigma. His campaign slogan was "Elect a Chief Executive, not a Chief Politician." Collins defeated Democrat James P. Keane, the deputy county executive of the Dennis Gorski administration, with 63% in what was considered an "upset" win.
In a county with 140,000 more Democrats than Republicans, Collins won 39 of the 44 municipalities. Poloncarz won the 5 remaining municipalities, including the City of Buffalo, by a margin of 81% to 19%.
When Collins became the county executive, he inherited from his Republican predecessor, Joel Giambra, a nearly bankrupt county that had state-imposed fiscal control with a budget of $1.2 billion. Collins spoke for three minutes at the 2008 Republican National Convention on September 3, 2008. He was the only county executive in the country given the opportunity to speak at the RNC.
Collins reduced overall county debt by over $120 million and created a cash surplus in excess of $100 million. He reduced county employment by over 1,200 employees (22%) and fully paid Erie County's state-imposed pension costs without borrowing. Collins reverted the state imposed Fiscal Control Authority to advisory status in 18 months and received approval of a Four Year Financial Plan (2012–15) that further reduced county debt by another $100 million. Collins reopened every bridge, road, park and beach that had been closed under previous administration, including rebuilding the historic toboggan runs in Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park.
As Erie County Executive, Collins recruited a Six Sigma Master Black Belt [explanation needed] from the University at Buffalo who had previously worked as an executive at a Delphi to implement Lean Six Sigma across all county departments under the direction of the county executive to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The position's $115,000 salary plus associated costs was funded by a grant of taxpayer money from the Erie County Control Board.
He laid off almost 1,000 workers and effectively repealed the county's Apprenticeship Law. Collins sued the county so that he could unilaterally increase the county attorney's salary by more the $50,000 that was then the amount authorized by the County Legislature. The State Supreme Court Judge presiding over the case ruled in favor of Collins and awarded the higher salary to the incoming County Attorney.
Collins was sued by the United States Department of Justice for repeated civil rights violations of prisoners held in county facilities, including juveniles and prisoners with developmental disabilities. The Department of Justice and Erie County co-signed a stipulated settlement of dismissal in August 2011.
He was sued by the County Legislature for refusing to issue payments to Erie Community College which had been included in the County's budget.
As County Executive, Collins created the Brighter Future Fund, donating his county salary to local non-profit organizations for the first 18 months of his tenure.
In February 2008, Erie County experienced a potential Hepatitis A emergency when an infected employee handled produce at a popular supermarket. Over the course of several days, the County vaccinated and inoculated 10,000 people to protect the public. The event was one of the largest vaccination events in the history of the United States.
One year later, Continental Flight 3407 crashed in a residential neighborhood, killing all 49 passengers on board and one person on the ground in Clarence Center. Collins declared a State of Emergency. Collins worked to ensure the cooperation of Erie County departments and other government agencies in the recovery, investigation and family support efforts.
In the summer of 2009, southern Erie County – especially the Village of Gowanda – was devastated by flooding. Dozens of homeowners lost the contents of their basements and first floors. Collins mobilized the County's Emergency Services and Public Works departments to assist local governments in their recovery efforts.
Collins had indicated he would make his decision in January 2010, but observers believed he was strongly leaning toward running. After further pondering, Collins decided not to run on January 26, 2010. He cited a desire to focus on his current job and a lack of fundraising support from downstate donors, which he dubbed the "status quo." He did not endorse Rick Lazio and encouraged the state party to find someone else, either from the business field or possibly cross-endorsing Democrat Steve Levy.
Before his re-election defeat, Collins was mentioned as a potential candidate in the 2014 gubernatorial election. After his election to Congress, Collins was again mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate. In January 2013, he said that he had "no intention or interest in running for governor in 2014".
After initially endorsing Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential election and donating money to a Bush-aligned SuperPAC, Collins endorsed Donald Trump when Bush dropped out of the race, becoming the first sitting US representative to do so.
In 2018, Collins was indicted for insider trading by the Department of Justice. On August 8, 2018, Collins, along with his son Cameron, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron's fiancee, surrendered to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s Southern District for charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, seven counts of securities fraud, and lying to the FBI.
U.S. House of Representatives
After losing his County Executive re-election campaign, Collins ruled out a future bid for office. In January 2012, he was reported to be considering running for Congress and on March 25, 2012, Collins announced he was running in New York's newly-drawn 27th Congressional District. The district had previously been the 26th District, and had long been a Republican bastion. However, in a 2011 special election, Democratic Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul became the first Democrat to represent the district since 1971.
On June 26, 2012, Collins won the Republican primary, defeating Iraq War veteran David Bellavia 60%–40%. Collins had the Republican and Conservative party lines for the November general election and defeated Hochul 51%–49%, a difference of 4,312 votes.
Collins won re-election to a second term by defeating Democratic opponent Jim O'Donnell 72%–28%.
Collins won re-election to a third term by defeating Democratic opponent Diana K. Kastenbaum 220,885 (67.7%) to 107,832 (32.3%).
Collins officially endorsed Donald Trump for president on February 24, 2016, becoming the first sitting member of Congress to do so. He cited shared pasts in business and a need for businessmen in the White House as having influenced his decision. On July 18, Collins seconded Trump's nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Collins was sworn-in on January 3, 2013. Prior to taking the oath of office, House Republican leadership appointed him to serve on both the Agriculture and Small Business committees in the 113th Congress. Soon after taking office, House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves tapped Collins to chair the subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology.
This field hearing was held at the Orleans County Legislature in Albion, New York, examining access to broadband in rural communities, and the role of the federal government in expanding these capabilities to small businesses. Following the field hearing, Collins hosted a roundtable discussion with local community leaders to continue the discussion on the importance of access to broadband in rural communities.
In announcing his committee assignments, Collins said one of his top goals as a member of Congress would be to work with his colleagues to pass a new Farm Bill. On May 15, 2013, Collins voted to approve the 2013 Farm Bill.
Subsequently, on January 29, 2014, Collins voted to approve the Conferenced Farm Bill, known as the Agricultural Act of 2014. President Obama signed the 5 year Agricultural Act of 2014 into law on February 7, 2014.
In response to a proposal by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide state prison inmates with a publicly financed college education, Collins introduced the Kids Before Cons Act in February 2014. The bill would prohibit states from using federal funding for the purpose of providing a college degree to convicted criminals. Collins called the Governor's proposal an insult to law-abiding taxpayers who are struggling to put themselves or their children through college.
Collins' bill allows federal dollars to be used for GED and working training programs in prisons and correctional facilities. Cuomo later abandoned his proposal to use public money to fund his initiative.
- Committee assignments
- Committee on Agriculture
- Committee on Small Business
- Committee on Science, Space and Technology
In the 114th Congress, Congressman Collins served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He stated his priorities on the Energy and Commerce Committee would be securing American energy independence, ensuring companies at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus receive a fair amount of funding in the competitive grants offered by the National Institutes of Health, continuing oversight of the government's approval for new drugs and medical treatments, and increasing access to broadband Internet service in rural areas.
- Committee assignments
- Committee on Energy and Commerce
On August 8, 2018, following his arrest by the FBI for wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, seven counts of securities fraud, and lying to the FBI, Representative Chris Collins (R-NY 27) was stripped of all congressional committee assignments by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who also called for the House Ethics Committee to look into the allegations, saying: “Insider trading is a clear violation of the public trust.”
Committee assignments Committee on Energy and Commerce
In February 2014, Collins introduced the Kids before Cons Act to prohibit the use of federal money to provide college education to convicted criminals in prison. An editorial in The New York Times said, "These ridiculous arguments are unmoored from both reason and reality." A 2013 RAND study of 30 years of research found that every dollar spent on inmate education saves $4 to $5 on re-incarceration.
Collins supported Donald Trump's May 9, 2017, firing of FBI Director James Comey, saying "The Director of the FBI serves at the pleasure of the President. I respect President Trump's decision at the recommendation of the Attorney General."
On May 4, 2017, Collins voted in favor of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and to pass the American Health Care Act. Collins made headlines for admitting he had not read the full health care bill before voting. In an interview with a Buffalo News reporter, Collins admitted that he was unaware but unconcerned that New York would lose $3 billion worth of federal funds annually under the AHCA, by losing New York's Essential Health Plan, an optional ACA program that provided low-cost health insurance to thousands of "low- and middle-income people who d[id]n't qualify for Medicaid", to which Collins responded, "No. [I was not aware] But it doesn't surprise me for you to tell me that there were two states in the nation that were taking advantage of some other waiver program and New York was one of the two states."
In an interview in The Batavian on June 24, 2012, Collins said: "People now don't die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things. The fact of the matter is, our healthcare today is so much better, we're living so much longer, because of innovations in drug development, surgical procedures, stents, implantable cardiac defibrillators, neural stimulators – they didn't exist 10 years ago." In response, Elise Foley of The Huffington Post wrote, "An estimated 577,190 people in the United States will die from cancer this year, including about 39,920 deaths from breast cancer and 28,170 from prostate cancer", citing data from the American Cancer Society.
Artvoice wrote, "The implantable cardiac defibrillator and neural stimulators, or TENS devices, were both invented and patented in the late 60s or early 70s; therefore, they existed '10 years ago'".
Collins was one of only two House members from New York state (along with Tom Reed) to support the provision in Republican tax overhaul bill introduced November 2, 2017, eliminating personal deductions for state income taxes on federal tax forms. In response New York Governor Andrew Cuomo labeled the two lawmakers "the Benedict Arnolds of their time", claiming that the loss of the deduction would cost New York State taxpayers nearly $15 billion and do grave damage to the state. In a Twitter post cited by Fox Business News, Collins claimed that the House Republican tax reform legislation would provide a reduction in taxes to 95% or more of the individuals in his district. Collins said that under Cuomo, New York is the highest-taxed, most regulated, least business-friendly state in the nation and urged Cuomo to cut the state's budget. Asked if his donors were pleased with the House's tax reform plan so far, Collins said, "My donors are basically saying 'get it done or don't ever call me again.'"
Collins supported President Donald Trump's 2017 Executive Order 13769 restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. He stated that "I get a little frustrated with the folks who don't like Trump trying to make something into something it's not. So I'm just disappointed that we can't have a true and honest debate without someone inflaming the situation and claiming there's religious overtones."
In January 2010, two Republican assemblymen, including Assemblyman Joseph Errigo, claimed that at Gov. David Paterson's crowded State-of-the State address, Collins told a woman that: "I'm sure if you offer someone a lap dance you can find a place to sit." Collins denied making the comment, and claimed that there was a "political smear campaign" going on against him.
On November 28, 2016, Collins described Mitt Romney, who was being considered by President-elect Donald Trump for his Secretary of State, as a "self-serving egomaniac". On the TV show New Day, Collins told host Chris Cuomo, "What do I know about Mitt Romney? I know that he's a self-serving egomaniac who puts himself first, who has a chip on his shoulder, and thinks that he should be president of the United States."
On February 10, 2017, Collins told Chris Cuomo on CNN's New Day that elected officials should not have to release their tax history. This comment came in response to the ongoing controversy surrounding President Trump's refusal to release his tax forms. Collins told Cuomo "I've always said he shouldn't report his taxes. I don't think any elected official should".
Following a June 14, 2017, shooting during a GOP baseball practice for an annual Washington, DC charity game that pits Democrats versus Republicans, Collins blamed Democrats, stating that "I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric. The rhetoric has been outrageous in the anger directed at Donald Trump." Shortly after making that comment, Collins noted that it is important for everyone, including himself, to tone down partisan rhetoric and "recognize that we are all one country and all proud Americans." Collins also vowed to start carrying a gun with him "from this day forward."
Indictment and arrest for insider trading
In August 2016 Collins purchased 4 million more shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics, making him the largest shareholder at that time. At the same time, Tom Price, a then-Republican Congressman who later served as United States Secretary of Health and Human Services under Donald Trump, purchased 400,613 Innate Immunotherapeutics shares valued at $100,000 to $250,000. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) raised potential concerns about Price's Innate Immunotherapeutics investments which "could be affected by legislation that comes before Congress." Innate Immunotherapeutics acquired Amplia Therapeutics in April 2018. Collins is no longer a director of Innate Immunotherapeutics.
In May 2017, White House ethics investigators "began probing Collins for his role in recruiting investors to buy stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics after several complaints were filed." Members of Congress are explicitly barred from trading stocks using insider information. In October 2017, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) said they had "substantial reason" to believe that Collins had improperly used his public office to benefit Innate, and had forwarded nonpublic information to other investors. The OCE said Collins sent nonpublic information to investors about drug trials and that he visited the National Institutes of Health to discuss a drug's clinical trial, saying that this violated House ethics rules. The House Ethics Committee did not appoint a subcommittee to continue investigating Collins' case.
On June 22, 2017, the CEO of Innate Phamarceuticals sent an email to the company's board of directors, including Collins, explaining that an important drug trial for the company had failed. According to the FBI, Collins had been attending a picnic at the White House and upon seeing the email, immediately phoned his son and instructed him to sell their shares. According to the allegations, the sale allowed Collins and his family to save around $570,000 in losses. The shares eventually dropped around 90% on the news.
On August 8, 2018, Collins, his son Cameron, and the father of Cameron’s fiancée, Stephen Zarsky, were arrested by the FBI and charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, seven counts of securities fraud, and lying to the FBI.
Later that day, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan announced that he had removed Collins from his position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He also referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee.
Collins planned to run for reelection in 2018. However, on August 11, while maintaining his innocence, Collins announced he was suspending his reelection campaign, but he intended to serve out the balance of his term. Under New York election law, he will remain on the ballot for the November election unless he dies, accepts nomination for a separate office or is disqualified. According to CNN, Republican officials are considering nominating him for a town clerk's post, which would clear the way for him to formally remove his name from the ballot. He would also be automatically removed from the ballot if he moved his official residence to one of his homes in Florida and the District of Columbia. In either case, the eight Republican county chairs in the district would then select a replacement in a vote weighted by county population.
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The Buffalo News reported that many in the [Buffalo]'s business elite had bought stock in the drug company after hearing from Collins ... Collins first invested in Innate Immunotherapeutics, which has developed a drug to fight advanced multiple sclerosis, about 15 years ago. He said he's raised money for the company during tough times and has earned a spot on its board of directors ... [In August 2016, Collins] purchased an additional 4 million shares. On [January 27, 2017,] the stock hit an all-time high of $1.83 per share, but it was trading at 74 cents per share on [May 7, 2017].
- Tau, Byron (October 12, 2017). "Congressional Ethics Office Says New York Republican May Have Violated Law". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
- "Statement of the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics Regarding Representative Chris Collins | House Committee on Ethics". ethics.house.gov. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
- Mangan, Dan (2018-08-08). "Paul Ryan boots GOP Rep. Chris Collins from House panel after insider-trading charges". CNBC. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
- Cheney, Kyle; Vielkind, Jimmy (August 11, 2018). "Rep. Chris Collins, fighting prosecution, seeks to end reelection bid". Politico. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
- Congressman Chris Collins official U.S. House site
- Chris Collins for Congress
- Chris Collins at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
- Appearances on C-SPAN
| Erie County Executive
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 27th congressional district
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority