Chris Collins (American politician)

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Chris Collins
Chris Collins official photo.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 27th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Brian Higgins
7th Erie County Executive
In office
Preceded by Joel Giambra
Succeeded by Mark Poloncarz
Personal details
Born Christopher Carl Collins
(1950-05-20) May 20, 1950 (age 67)
Schenectady, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Sue Collins
Children Carly Collins Coleman (1976)
Caitlin Christine Collins (1991)
Cameron Christopher Collins (1993)
Parents Gerald Edward Collins
Constance Messier Collins
Residence Clarence, New York, U.S.
Alma mater North Carolina State University 1972 – Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
University of Alabama at Birmingham 1975 – MBA
Occupation Businessman, Politician
Website House website

Christopher Carl Collins (born May 20, 1950) is an American politician and member of the Republican Party who has been the United States Representative for New York's 27th congressional district since 2013. Previously he was the County Executive of Erie County, New York from 2007 to 2011. He is a resident of Clarence, New York.[1]

Early life, education, and business career[edit]

Born in Schenectady, New York, in 1950, Collins moved around the country with his family as his father was transferred several times by General Electric.[2]

Collins graduated from Hendersonville High School in Hendersonville, North Carolina in 1968[3] and was inducted into the Hendersonville High School Hall of Fame in 2013.[4]

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.[5] Collins was inducted into the North Carolina State University Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department Hall of Fame in November 2015.[6] He then earned an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1975.[1]

Collins spent years in the business world.[citation needed] As an entrepreneur he was the founder, President and CEO of Nuttall Gear Corporation located in Niagara Falls, New York.[1] Nuttall Gear was a 1983 leveraged buyout of the Westinghouse Electric Gear Division located in Buffalo, New York.[7] Collins sold Nuttall in 1997 to a large industrial conglomerate.[7]

After losing a race for Congress in 1998, Collins purchased or invested in over twenty bankrupt and financially troubled companies.[citation needed] These companies were combined into several platform companies.[citation needed] His current companies include: Innate Immunotherapeutics,[8] Bloch Industries, Easom Automation, Mead Supply, Oxygen Generating Systems Intl., Schlyer Machine, Volland Electric and ZeptoMetrix Corporation.[9]

Collins is a member of the Boy Scouts. An Eagle Scout, Collins serves as an assistant Scoutmaster, member of the Executive Board of the Greater Niagara Frontier Council (GNFC) and chairman of the GNFC National Jamboree for 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2013, as well as the World Jamboree for 2007.[10] Collins is the recipient of the Silver Beaver Award for service to scouting and named 2005 Horizon Citizen of the Year.[11]

Collins has volunteered his time with the University at Buffalo's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership helping to mentor small business owners.[12] He also served on the Small Business and Agriculture advisory boards for the New York Federal Reserve.[13]

Early political career[edit]

1998 congressional election[edit]

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.[14]

LaFalce touted his own record of bringing home the bacon[15] and was re-elected by 58% to 41%.

Erie County Executive[edit]


Collins ran for Erie County Executive in 2007 on the platform of smaller county government, lower taxes and Six Sigma.[16] 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[by whom?]an "upset" win.[17]

On November 8, 2011, Collins lost his bid for re-election, a race he was predicted to win.[18] He was defeated by Democratic candidate Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County Comptroller.[19]

In a county with 140,000 more Democrats than Republicans, Collins won 39 of the 44 municipalities.[citation needed] Poloncarz won the 5 remaining municipalities, including the City of Buffalo, by a margin of 81% to 19%.[18]


Collins speaking at the 2008 Republican National Convention

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.[16][17] Collins spoke for 3 minutes at the 2008 Republican National Convention on September 3, 2008.[20] He was the only County Executive in the country given the opportunity to speak at the RNC.[citation needed]

Collins reduced overall county debt by over $120 million and created a cash surplus in excess of $100 million.[21] He reduced county employment by over 1,200 employees (22%)[21] and fully paid Erie County’s state-imposed pension costs without borrowing.[21] Collins reverted the state imposed Fiscal Control Authority to advisory status in 18 months [22] and received approval of a Four Year Financial Plan (2012–15) that further reduced county debt by another $100 million.[21] 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.[21][23]

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.[24]

He laid off almost 1,000 workers[16] and effectively repealed the county's Apprenticeship Law.[25] 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.[26] The State Supreme Court Judge presiding over the case ruled in favor of Collins and awarded the higher salary to the incoming County Attorney.[27]

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.[28] The Department of Justice and Erie County co-signed a stipulated settlement of dismissal in August 2011.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31]

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.[32]

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.[33]

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.[34]

During his lame duck period as Chief Executive, Collins proposed spending $6m to upgrade housing for polar bears at Buffalo Zoo at the same time as laying off 155 workers.[16]

Political future[edit]

Beginning in 2009, Collins was mentioned as a potential candidate for Governor of New York in the 2010 election, particularly if Rudy Giuliani decided not to run.[35][36][37]

Collins had indicated he would make his decision in January 2010, but observers believed he was strongly leaning toward running.[38] 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.[39]

Before his re-election defeat, Collins was mentioned as a potential candidate in the 2014 gubernatorial election.[17] 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".[40]

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.[41]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

2012 Election[edit]

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[18] 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 in over 40 years.[citation needed]

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%,[42] a difference of 4,312 votes.

113th Congress[edit]

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.[43] Soon after taking office, House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves tapped Collins to chair the subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology.[44]

On March 20, 2014 Collins chaired a field hearing, titled Expanding Broadband Access and Capabilities to Small Businesses in Rural New York.[45][46]

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.[47] 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.[48]

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.[49] On May 15, 2013, Collins voted to approve the 2013 Farm Bill.[50][51]

Subsequently, on January 29, 2014, Collins voted to approve the Conferenced Farm Bill, known as the Agricultural Act of 2014.[52] President Obama signed the 5 year Agricultural Act of 2014 into law on February 7, 2014.[53]

On June 5, 2013, Collins was asked to join the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. This assignment made Collins the member of three congressional committees, a rarity among members of Congress.[54]

Collins has been critical of the federal Veterans' Administration since taking office. Collins has said the VA has been unresponsive to several of his concerns and that the agency's track record is unimpressive. He has called for a top-to-bottom review to address such matters as the massive disability claims backlog and the misuse use of insulin injection pens.[55]

Due to the inappropriate use of single use insulin injection pens at the VA hospital in Buffalo, it was reported that 20 veterans tested positive for hepatitis.[56]

Following this news, Collins called for the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.[57][58]

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.[59] 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.[60]

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.[61]

Collins during a visit to a Yahoo facility in Lockport, New York in 2015

On May 1, 2014, Collins and Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Department of the Army Secretary John M. McHugh voicing concerns with a proposed rule to expand the definition of ‘navigable waters’ under the Clean Water Act. Two hundred and thirty-one (231) House Members co-signed the letter (212 Republican and 19 Democrats) demanding the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers abandon the proposal because of the negative impact it would have on American farms.[62][63] Collins and Schrader's effort was supported by the American Farm Bureau.[citation needed]

Committee assignments

2014 Election[edit]

Collins won re-election to a second term by defeating Democratic opponent Jim O'Donnell 72%–28%.[64]

114th Congress[edit]

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.[65]

Committee assignments
Caucus memberships
  • Battery Storage Caucus (Co-Chairman)
  • Defense Working Group (Co-Chairman)

  • Air Force Caucus
  • Auto Industry Pension Task Force
  • Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus
  • Dairy Farmer Caucus
  • Diabetes Caucus
  • Fire Services Caucus
  • Friends of the Job Corps Caucus
  • General Aviation Caucus
  • International Conservation Caucus
  • Internet Caucus
  • Law Enforcement Caucus
  • Manufacturing Caucus
  • Medicaid Task Force
  • Mitochondrial Disease Caucus
  • Morocco Caucus
  • National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus
  • Native American Caucus

  • Scouting Caucus (Co-Chairman)
  • Specialty Crop Caucus (Co-Chairman)

  • Natural Gas Caucus
  • NEMW Coalition
  • New York Defense Working Group
  • Northern Border Caucus
  • Pilot Caucus
  • Propane Caucus
  • Republican Israel Caucus
  • Republican Study Committee
  • Rural Telecommunications Working Group
  • Small Business Caucus
  • Small Brewers Caucus
  • Sportsmen’s Caucus
  • STEM Education Caucus
  • Taiwan Caucus
  • Technology Transfer Caucus
  • The Internet of Things Caucus
  • Toy Caucus

2016 Election[edit]


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.[66] On July 18, Collins seconded Trump's nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention.


Collins won re-election to a third term by defeating Democratic opponent Diana K. Kastenbaum 220,885 (67.7%%) to 107,832 (32.3%).[67]

115th Congress[edit]

Committee assignments
Caucus memberships
  • Energy Storage Caucus (Co-Chairman)
  • Scouting Caucus (Co-Chairman)

  • Air Force Caucus
  • Automotive Caucus
  • Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus
  • Dairy Farmer Caucus
  • Defense Working Group
  • Diabetes Caucus
  • Fire Services Caucus
  • Friends of the Job Corps Caucus
  • General Aviation Caucus
  • Indian Health Services Working Group
  • International Conservation Caucus
  • Internet Caucus
  • Law Enforcement Caucus
  • Manufacturing Caucus
  • Morocco Caucus
  • National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus
  • Specialty Corp Caucus (Co-Chairman)
  • STEM Education Caucus (Co-Chairman)

  • Native American Caucus
  • NEMW Coalition
  • Northern Border Caucus
  • Pilot Caucus
  • Propane Caucus
  • Republican Israel Caucus
  • Republican Study Committee
  • Rural Telecommunications Working Group
  • Scouting Caucus (Co-Chairman)
  • Small Brewers Caucus
  • Small Business Caucus
  • Sportsmen’s Caucus
  • Taiwan Caucus
  • The Internet of Things Caucus
  • Toy Caucus

Political stances[edit]

Donald Trump[edit]

Collins supported Donald Trump's May 10, 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."[68]

Health Care[edit]

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.[69][70] Collins made headlines for admitting he had not read the full health care bill before voting.[71] 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."[72]


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. [73] 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.[74] 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.[75] 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.'"[76]

National security[edit]

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.”[77]


State Assembly[edit]

In October 2009, Collins compared Sheldon Silver to Adolf Hitler, Napoleon, and the Antichrist. Collins later apologized for his comments.[78]

In January 2010, a Republican assemblyman[who?] 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."[79] Collins denied making the comment.[80]

Collins garnered controversy again following an interview in The Batavian on June 24, 2012, in which he 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."[81] 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.[82]

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'".[83]

After the national media picked up the story, Batavian publisher Howard Owens defended Collins: "On its face, the opening part of the quote from Collins sounds outrageous, but in context, clearly Collins misspoke. More likely, he meant to say: 'Fewer people die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things.'"[84]

United States Congress[edit]

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.[85]

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."[86]

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".[87]

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."[88] 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.[89] Collins also vowed to start carrying a gun with him "from this day forward."[90]


Collins is the largest shareholder and sits of the board of Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biopharmaceutical company. Since 2016, Collins has been criticized for allegedly promoting this stock to other lawmakers and Buffalo business leaders.[91][92][93][94][95]

In August 2016 Collins purchased 4 million more shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics, making him the largest shareholder. At the same time, Tom Price, a Republican who until 29 September 2017 was the 23rd United States Secretary of Health and Human Services selected by Donald Trump, purchased 400,613 Innate Immunotherapeutics shares valued at $100,000 to $250,000.[94] Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) raised potential concerns about Price's Innate Immunotherapeutics investments which "could be affected by legislation that comes before Congress."[94]

By June 2017, Collins announced that Innate’s drug had just "completed a Phase 2B clinical trial", and Innate Immunotherapeutics "hopes to sell off the product later [in 2017]."[91] By June 8, 2017 the price per share of INNMF had dropped to 58 cents per share.[92]

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".[91] Members of Congress are explicitly barred from trading stocks using insider information.[91] 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.[96] 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.[97]


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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Joel Giambra
Erie County, New York County Executive
Succeeded by
Mark Poloncarz
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Kathy Hochul
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 27th congressional district

Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Joaquín Castro
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Doug Collins