A Letter Regarding the Sentencing of Convict Chris Collins

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Hon. Vernon S. Broderick
United States District Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of New York
Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse
40 Foley Square
New York, NY 10007

Re:      U.S. v. Christopher C. Collins
            18 Cr. 567    
                         

Dear Judge Broderick:

I write to you as a former constituent of Christopher Collins, the Defendant in the above-referenced matter. I am an attorney duly licensed in the State of New York and am also admitted to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

I have also been a political commentator in western New York area since 2003. During that time and in that role, I observed and chronicled this Defendant’s tenure in public office – first as Erie County Executive, and later as the Congressman for the 27th District of New York.

Recent media reports indicate that probation recommends a one year and one day prison sentence for the Defendant. I believe that this is woefully inadequate and wholly disproportionate to the crimes of which he stands convicted involving fraud and dishonesty.

There exists a certainty that the Defendant, who is also a successful businessman and investor, knew exactly what he was doing when he transmitted material, nonpublic information concerning Innate Immunotherapeutics’ MIS416 drug trial to his family, friends, and colleagues.  There exists a similar certainty that he knew or should have known that his behavior was wrong and illegal at that time.

Respectfully, this Defendant has always comported himself in his public affairs with hubris and arrogance. He quite simply saw himself as above the law, laced with condescension, self-promotion, and self-aggrandizement.  

The Defendant took an oath of office pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §3331, which he disregarded through his fraud, theft, and deceit; but this Defendant regularly politicized his long-time affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America – an organization that also has both an oath and a foundational law to which this Defendant purported to adhere. The Scout oath is a promise:

On my honor, I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

Defendant Collins has violated this most basic, boyhood promise to do his best to do his duty to his country. He has violated the law through lying, fraud, and deceit. He did so knowingly in order to unjustly enrich members of his inner circle at the expense of other, honest investors. Rather than “help other people at all times,” this Defendant has gone out of his way – throughout his political career – to comfort the comfortable and further to afflict the already afflicted, by advocating for policies and laws that would help to enrich wealthy people like him, and punish the poor and underprivileged.

His tenure in office hardly justifies any paeans to “public service”. He was there for a political career that could help him and people like him – the wealthy and well-connected. His fraud and deceit is hardly evidence of being mentally awake or morally straight. He cannot follow the law of the Boy Scouts, much less the United States.

The Scout Law demands that a person be Trustworthy; Loyal; Helpful; Friendly; Courteous; Kind; Obedient; Cheerful; Thrifty; Brave; Clean; and Reverent. This Defendant may be loyal to his party and the ultrawealthy like himself, but he was never trustworthy, courteous, or kind in his public affairs. His crimes show that he was not obedient. His demeanor was seldom cheerful. His only bravery took place in order to advance his political career.  

I have seen news reports that this Defendant is of “advanced age” and that he accepts responsibility for his crimes. He is 69 years old and of sound mind and body, not some feeble octogenarian. He has accepted responsibility pro forma, but shows no remorse for his crimes. Instead, he is sad for the effect they have had on his and his family’s reputations. He is sorry only that he was caught.

At the time he took his plea, he acknowledged that he knew that what he did was “illegal and improper,” yet he spent months claiming exactly the opposite. He claimed to be “sorry with regret,” but that had not stopped him from spending the period between August 2018 and 2019 predicting imminent and full exoneration. What sort of person knowingly exposes his own child to criminal jeopardy?

When confronted through this process with his criminality, this Defendant did not come clean or confess. He ran for re-election. He claimed total innocence. He spent months denying culpability and defaming anyone who suggested otherwise, including his political opponents. Not one act or omission of this Defendant’s was indicative of any acknowledgment of personal responsibility or contrition.

This Defendant’s attorneys are quoted in news reports as arguing that society will “gain no benefit” from incarcerating this “husband, father, and grandfather.” Then what of these crimes? In what way is home detention at a luxury Florida estate a deterrent to others who might engage in similar criminality?

The convicted Defendant did not serve me as Congressman with dignity or honor. His first instinct was not to obey the law, but to enrich his family, friends, and other “downstream tipees”, most of whom have somehow, miraculously, avoided legal responsibility for their own knowing criminality. This Defendant was never looking out for the people he was elected to serve. He was only looking out for his own wallet and to expand the reach and scope of his political influence.

Shame and humiliation should come naturally in a situation such as this. That is an emotional and mental process involving some degree of self-awareness and conscience. It is not enough that this Defendant feel merely shame and be confined to his mansion. This honorable Court must use this high-profile criminal as an example to others and uphold the law this Defendant so cavalierly ignored.

This Defendant’s fall is no surprise – it is what comes from such a conspicuous absence of morality and scruples. I spent years chronicling the ways in which he cheated and mistreated the most vulnerable people in western New York. I wrote of his petty arrogance – from misogynistic remarks he made to women, and illegally parking in a spot reserved for the disabled. He would attempt to disregard legislative vetoes as “null and void,” as if he was some sort of dictator. He would refuse to spend money that the legislature had duly allocated. He held private business meetings in his publicly funded office, and worked hard to ensure that people could not get the health insurance they need to survive. He played endless political games to grow his influence.

This Defendant knew he was guilty at the time of his indictment. He should have resigned immediately – that would have been the honorable and “morally straight” thing to do. Instead, he used his continued tenure in Congress as a bargaining chip – as leverage in this very case. He is – and will always be – a crook and a liar. He stole not only from the honest investors in Innate, but from the people in the 27th district who expect and are entitled to honest representation.

I urge this honorable Court to sentence this Defendant to the maximum possible sentence available under federal guidelines.

Chris Collins’ Coda

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This is the second – and hopefully the last – epitaph I need to write on the political career of Christopher Collins. The first is here. His governmental record is, on balance, replete with abject failure. He was a disastrous County Executive who spent wildly to implement dubious corporate hocus-pocus, with little effect. He raised taxes and cut critical services on which citizens relied. He was openly hostile to Erie County’s cultural institutions and used his public office for private gain. 

Yet after a humiliating defeat in 2010, he re-emerged in 2012 to narrowly win a seat representing the most conservative district in New York. 

It is fitting that the resignation of former Representative Chris Collins (R-Club Fed) should come within a week after the House of Representatives formally commenced its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s various, sundry, and myriad misdeeds. After all, Collins was the first Congressman to formally and publicly support Trump’s candidacy, and remained one of Trump’s most steadfast Congressional supporters right up until last week. 

Birds of a felonious feather flock together. 

It was last summer that Collins was first indicted for securities fraud and insider trading. I wrote then: [b]efore we go on, I have this to say directly to my Congressman: Resign. Now. We deserved better than you; we deserve better than you. You are in it only for yourself and your cronies, and that has palpably been true since day one of your benighted tenures in public “service”. 

Despite efforts to challenge the government’s evidence based on the Speech or Debate Clause‘s immunity shield, the government simply put forth a superseding indictment that avoided that pitfall. After a year of constantly gaslighting his beleaguered constituents by falsely proclaiming his innocence, Collins is at long last about to come clean, and receive the reckoning he deserves. 

It wasn’t too long ago that Collins gave an interview to Channel 4 where he confidently predicted his exoneration on these insider trading charges. As recently as July 30th, Collins held a press conference and declared, 

“I am innocent of the charges,” Collins said. “Why would I ever even enter a plea deal? I’m innocent.”

He called it a “circumstantial case” that prosecutors through “some tunnel vision decided to take.”

“I’m quite comfortable where I’ll be at the end of all this, which is not guilty,” Collins said.

It looks more likely that Collins clung to his Congressional office as leverage in his corruption prosecution. 

Rather than recount the misdeeds of Chris Collins, the Congressman (try this and this), or rejoice in his self-immolation, let us take a moment to seethe. 

After all, Chris Collins is a crook and a liar. 

He used his public office for personal gain. He leveraged his influence in Congress to advance the interests of at least one business in which he owned a massive stake. He wasn’t looking out for his constituents – he was looking out for himself and his friends and family. Assuming a guilty plea, I hope he gets some time in prison and then moves to Florida and never darkens WNY again. 

Guys like Collins (and there are many around here) think this is all a big joke – “public service”. They should be using their office to protect and lift up the weakest and most vulnerable in our community, but repeatedly and chronically use power to comfort the comfortable and further to afflict harm on the already afflicted. It would come as no surprise that the first and loudest Trump supporter goes down a convicted felon. The criminality and egotism was perverse and pervasive. 

If he’s pleading guilty, then he’s known of his guilt all this time. He strung us all along – his supporters and detractors alike – proclaiming a non-existent innocence, predicting an exoneration that will never come. He stole from us our right to be represented in Congress by someone who had our back, who was looking out for our best interests. He stole that from us just as surely as he stole from the investors in Innate Immunotherapeutics to whom he did not provide that juicy inside scoop. He is a crook. He is a thief. He is a liar and a cheat and a scoundrel and a criminal. 

A dozen years ago, he promised to lift Erie County out of the ashes of another, dramatic Republican financial disaster with promises of “running government like a business.” Did his Six Sigma black belt inform his decision to cut a plea now? Was it for the sake of efficiency? Did he finally confront his likelihood of success at trial and decide to streamline the inevitable process? 

Last November, we could have elected a representative who actually cared about representing this constituency. We could have elected a representative who would look out for the little guy, rather than his millionaire buddies and his own wallet. And we came so close. But Collins convinced his Trump-supporting base that it was all lies, all a big smear, and that they would be better off with an indicted Congressman stripped of all committee posts rather than a Democrat. More lies. There was nothing so consistent as Chris Collins’ cynicism, and his reliance that his voters would always pick a party label over a candidate’s merits. 

When his journey through the criminal justice system is over, Christopher Collins will always be a convict and a disgrace. He is now just another corrupt Republican politician representing the reddest district in the state to leave office in ignominy. The third in a row, actually. 

The parade of Republican millionaires and clowns salivating over this vacancy will keep us entertained for weeks – especially given the massive cloud of corruption that is the Trump Administration. Every one of these power-hungry clones will trip over each other to pledge undying fealty to the Maximum Leader. As that party keeps sinking, looking for that elusive bottom, those of us who knew what Collins was this whole time will drink a toast to being right. We will also lament all of the lost opportunities we had to be properly represented. 

We didn’t have to agree all the time, Mr. Collins. We didn’t have to have a perfect Congressman. But I think we deserved a Congressman who cared about more than scoring cheap political points.

You’re resigning? However will we know the difference?

Good riddance. 

(Updated 10/4 to replace deleted Tweet with screen capture)

Chris Collins and Steve Pigeon: Corrupt Partners

CollinsPigeon

It wasn’t too long ago that Christopher Collins and Steve Pigeon were co-conspirators in a perfectly legal, albeit scummy, scheme to transform a Democratic majority in the Erie County Legislature into a shaky “reform coalition” controlled by Republicans to do Collins’s bidding. Who can forget how a small handful of nominal Democrats conspired with Pigeon throughout 2009 to hand the legislature over to Collins. Everyone got something out of the deal except for the people of Erie County, who were shafted, as was routine. In the end, as with many Pigeon-orchestrated hijinks, the effort crumbled into failure. Collins lost his re-election bid in 2011, but the damage that Pigeon, his money, and his cohorts could do to good Democratic candidates continues even today, despite 2013’s “WNY Progressive Caucus” (a.k.a. AwfulPAC) blowing up in their faces and resulting in Pigeon’s recent conviction for felony bribery, Frank Max’s conviction for election law violations, and the pending prosecutions of Kristy Mazurek and David Pfaff. 

But memories are short and convenient, and the villains of January 2010 have largely not been drummed out of local politics. This is a testament, I supposed, to that whole “city of good neighbors” thing. You can back your enemy for short-term tactical political gain, and you will still be tolerated within Democratic ranks later on. 

Steve Pigeon’s rogue political machine was a cancer on the Erie County Democratic Committee. Like any cancer, people tried valiantly to halt its spread, to attack and counter-attack, to do as little damage to healthy tissue as possible while killing the cancer. Getting rid of Pigeon as chair was just excising the tumor—the margins weren’t clear, and the battles continued. Unlike most cancers, however, we know exactly what fed and enabled Pigeonism: electoral fusion. Without the ability routinely to screw over Democratic HQ through malignant wheeling and dealing with the execrable “Independence Party” (which is neither independent nor, really, a party) or the so-called “Conservative” Party, Pigeonism couldn’t have existed.

As with most cancers, Pigeonism brought good days and bad days; but the prosecutions over 2013’s WNY Progressive Caucus seemed a miracle cure. The cancer got sloppy and an exciting trial of a new drug called “Enforce Existing Rules and Laws” showed promise. The cancer is now in remission, but there is no known cure. Steve Pigeon may be a convicted felon, and he may be disbarred for it, but there is nothing stopping him from re-infecting our political organism. Even this primary cycle, aberrant cells of breakaway Dems mounted failed attempts to play the same old game, but it doesn’t work anymore; not like it used to. Not remotely

Preetsmas carries on, and we must remain vigilant against the cancer returning. 

Pigeon’s co-conspirator from 2010, Christopher Collins, also finds himself facing criminal charges. He stands accused of various types of fraud and is out and campaigning on $500,000 bail; evidently, he’s a moderate flight risk. After suspending his campaign and pledging to step aside, Collins—ever looking out for himself over the good of his constituents—flip-flopped and decided to stay in the race. So far, “campaigning” means throwing up racist, lying TV ads and showing up to events where he is guaranteed a friendly, placid audience. Christopher Collins can’t really debate anyone in any meaningful way. After all, he is under arrest and subject to a Miranda warning—everything he says can be used against him in a court of law. 

But there is one constant that has helped to accelerate the growth of the cancer on our body politic represented by Pigeon and Collins, and it is beautifully embodied by this Buffalo News article. Written by dutiful longtime Pigeon stenographer Bob McCarthy, it seems simply to regurgitate a Collins campaign press release announcing a new television ad that will attack Democratic, un-arrested challenger Nate McMurray for supporting Medicare for all

“Nate’s push for European-style health care shows how radically out of touch he is with the 27th District,” said campaign spokeswoman Natalie Baldassarre. “His plan raises spending by $32.6 trillion, doubles taxes for every American, and jeopardizes care for our seniors while severely raising their taxes. Voters should take Nate McMurray at his word – at least until he deletes this video.”

Let’s operate under a few assumptions, all of which give accused criminal Christopher Collins the undeserved benefit of the doubt. We start with the premise that the status quo, as it relates to American healthcare and insurance, is inadequate or unacceptable. Collins has spent years deriding Obamacare as a “socialist” failure, so he bears a substantial burden of proof to offer up an alternative. Not just any alternative—but specifically an improvement upon not just Obamacare’s status quo, but the pre-Obamacare years, as well. The goal is ostensibly to maximize how many are covered, the type of coverage, protection for pre-existing condition coverage, and lower cost. The pre-Obamacare system left too many people uninsured. President Obama cobbled together a Frankenstein compromise to maximize coverage within the context of the American private health insurance system, and expansion of Medicaid. 

Here is a post from June detailing Collins’ relentless attacks on Obamacare and how he helped make everything even worse

Although Obamacare was by no means a perfect solution, it has succeeded in expanding coverage, increasing the number of people insured, and guaranteeing a minimum standard of what “health insurance” should include. Despite all of this—despite it being a national roll-out of Romneycare, a single-payer alternative thought up by the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute think-tank—Republicans accused Obama of being a Kenyan socialist and Obamacare was an un-American socialist government takeover of healthcare. 

So, let us assume for a moment that Republican attacks on President Obama and his signature health insurance scheme were somehow grounded in reality or even remotely sincere. Obamacare was passed into law in 2010. The Republicans had eight years to devise some sort of cheaper, better alternative. When they gained control of both houses of Congress and the White House, however, they couldn’t do it. All of their anti-Obamacare “repeal and replace” bluster was revealed to be little more than lies when they failed to actually do what they said they would do. For his part, Christopher Collins proudly went on TV and told his constituents that he hadn’t even bothered to read the bill for which he voted.

That video is, itself, disqualifying for re-election. Collins doesn’t care about you or your mommy or your daddy or your grandma or your farm or your business. He serves masters higher than his constituency—his political party and his relentless greed and ambition. 

In recent years, the idea of expanding Medicare—the hugely popular single-payer health insurance plan for senior citizens—to all Americans has grown in popularity. It has become a viable and politically tenable alternative concept. As it stands now, Americans’ loudest and most sincere criticisms of private health insurance in the era of Obamacare is that it is too expensive, and deductibles are untenable and unaffordable. Medicare for all alleviates both concerns. So, Christopher Collins and his shills—experts at using ruthlessness as a cut-rate replacement for talent—deride Medicare as “radically out of touch” with people in the district. Go tell it to seniors. Go tell it to common ratepayers who devote thousands every year to cover healthcare costs and get little out of it. Tell it to people who can’t afford their medication. Tell it to people who fundraise for chemotherapy treatment through coin jars at convenience store check-outs. For the best and richest country in the world, we operate our healthcare like a tropical kleptocracy. Christopher Collins has no work ethic—he’s not trying to devise a reasonable alternative health insurance scheme. Christopher Collins has no ideas—he’s just a coward too afraid to even show up to debate his opponent on this or any other issue. Christopher Collins talks a big game when his high-priced DC swamp media gurus get a hold of him, but he trembles at the idea of a debate or being challenged. 

Who cares what Christopher Collins says? I don’t get life tips from guys at Rikers, either. 

Collins has no ideas, can’t be bothered to defend the few he purports to have in a public forum, and is just an empty vessel—an abject failure as a “representative” whose political survival is wholly dependent only on his party affiliation. When Bob McCarthy regurgitates a Collins press release, and then calls the McMurray campaign for comment, that is the laziest form of “journalism” available. Like Collins’s excuse for representation, it is a poor excuse for fact-finding. When Collins and his shills attack Nate McMurray for wanting to expand Medicare, why isn’t McCarthy asking them simple questions: What system do you prefer? What system do you propose? What changes would you make to McMurray’s plan? What changes would you make to ensure that health insurance and healthcare are comprehensive and affordable? 

Sure, McMurray supports the expansion of Medicare to all Americans. No American should be faced with an illness and not have the means or opportunity to seek and obtain necessary medical treatment. McMurrayCare might indeed be a reduction in health insurance bureaucracy into one simple plan. (Ask doctors what they would prefer.) So, what is CollinsCare, except free access to a mason jar to use at cash registers to pay for your kid’s leukemia treatment? 

Chris Collins: Indicted

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If you had told me Wednesday morning that Representative Chris Collins would be arrested, indicted, and arraigned for federal crimes, I’d have thought you were crazy. 

If you told me that he’d be arrested, indicted, and arraigned for federal crimes and not resign, and instead continue to mount a re-election campaign, I’d have thought I was crazy. 

Yet, here we are. 

On Wednesday morning, a grand jury indictment was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York accusing Chris Collins, his son, Cameron, and his son’s fiancee’s father, Stephen Zarsky, of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and lying to the FBI. The indictment is quite detailed and very damning. 

A bit of background about Chris Collins. He rose to power through a “run government like a business” ethos that bought him one tumultuous term as Erie County Executive. After losing re-election in 2011, he narrowly won himself a House seat in a newly re-drawn district that seemed custom-made for him. He elevated himself out of backbencherdom through his full-throated support and defense of Donald Trump. He was the first Congressman to endorse Trump, sticking his neck out quite a bit at the time. At the time, Collins said he was endorsing Trump for an “end to business as usual” in Washington. Arguably, one way to end business-as-usual is to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit security fraud, and lying to the FBI. 

Before we go on, I have this to say directly to my Congressman: Resign. Now. We deserved better than you; we deserve better than you. You are in it only for yourself and your cronies, and that has palpably been true since day one of your benighted tenures in public “service”. I have written about you—almost always critically—since 2007. Here is the compendium of posts from WNYmedia.net, here are the Artvoice-era posts, and here are the ones from the Public. This is a post I did after Collins lost re-election as County Executive in 2011; it is a pretty good run-down of his tenure, even if the links are mostly broken.

In November 2017, I mockingly likened Collins’ pimping of Innate Immunotherapeutics stock to “Mad Money”. Now, as the excrement hits the fan, it goes without saying that a day where your official Congressional website contains a rote exculpatory statement from your lawyers is a bad one. 

The Indictment

So, let’s look at the indictment itself

Chris Collins was a member of the board of Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics. He was also its largest shareholder. As a member of the board, he was among the first people to learn that a key Innate drug trial had been a failure. The law requires him literally to shut up about that; he is duty-bound to not pass the information along—the law demands that insiders not use their status and information to gain an advantage in the market.

This is not an obscure law that Collins wouldn’t have been aware of. He was quite obviously cognizant of it, given that he didn’t sell his own shares. Instead, Collins called his son, Cameron, who was also heavily invested in Innate. At the time Collins received the news about Innate’s drug trial failure, Collins was attending the Congressional Picnic on the South Lawn of the White House, and pictures emerged of him at the event, on the phone at the exact time he is accused of calling his son. 

Almost immediately, Cameron began dumping his shares, seemingly in a panic. And, like the old shampoo commercial goes, he told two friends, and so on. As a result, Collins’ family and cronies avoided over $750,000 in losses they otherwise would have incurred had they waited for the information to be made public. Classic case. 

Collins himself was already under federal scrutiny for his dealings with Innate, and knew better than to try and sell his shares. 

Cameron, however, sold 1.4 million shares, and realized over $550k in savings by doing so based on his inside information from his dad. 

Cameron’s fiancee sold her Innate shares based on Chris Collins’ insider information, avoiding $19,440 in losses. Cameron’s fiancee’s mom did the same, avoiding $22,000 in losses. The fiancee’s dad saved $144k in losses through insider trades. This will undoubtedly put a damper on the wedding, and one has to imagine Cameron’s shock and horror as he saw his future father-in-law’s new Innate-fueled nest egg become worthless. 

When the news broke, and the Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremski made inquiries, Collins and his crew lied about it. 

Collins made a name for himself by promoting “lean Six Sigma” and implementing it—with no measurable effect—in county government. The point is to streamline corporate processes and make them as efficient as possible. Well, the most efficient way to buy yourself a federal penitentiary stay is to lie to the FBI. 

The government also demands that the indictees surrender and forfeit all money and property derived from proceeds traceable to the commission of the accused offenses.

SEC Lawsuit

These are just the criminal allegations. There is also a simultaneously filed civil action brought against these three defendants—including my Congressman—by the Securities & Exchange Commission. This civil suit contains a nice, handy graph of the tipping conspiracy: 

The SEC demands that the defendants, if found liable, “disgorge” themselves of their ill-gotten gains, and further demands that Collins be forever barred from ever again serving as a director or officer of any SEC-regulated corporation. 

and 

Now, imagine you’re a father of a 25 year-old and you buy your kid a federal indictment and SEC lawsuit.

The Complaint goes on to allege that Chris Collins breached a duty he owed as a member of Innate’s board to protect material non-public corporate information. The moment Chris Collins learned of the failure of Innate’s drug trial, he set off a “tipping chain” with material, nonpublic corporate information.

The SEC alleges that Cameron was careful in selling his Innate shares so as to minimize his impact on the share price for other tippees; he knew exactly what he was doing.

The SEC includes some more detail about Collins’ lies to the News’ Jerry Zremski regarding the Collins family’s sale of Innate shares.

The Balls on this Guy

Before you give me the “innocent until proven guilty” shtick, save it for court. That’s the only place that matters – within the justice system. The judge and jury need to be impartial, and will be required to operate under that presumption of innocence. The prosecution doesn’t have to presume his innocence; it would be unethical for them not to zealously represent their client, the people of the United States. Commentators don’t have to presume that Collins is innocent – I read the indictment, and so far I haven’t heard Collins utter even one syllable about how that indictment is factually or legally incorrect. All he’s said is that he didn’t sell his shares. We know; you couldn’t have anyway, and you don’t get a booby prize for accidentally doing one thing right. 

Given all of this very well-documented evidence of criminal activity, one would assume that the targeted, arrested Congressman would resign. How can an indicted lawmaker currently in federal custody (out on $500,000 bail) credibly represent his constituents, much less run for re-election? Right now, his number one job is to stay out of jail and defend these charges and the SEC lawsuit. He’s trying to buy some time, perhaps, but the writing is on the wall here. He held a position of public trust and blew it to pieces so his kid and cronies could save a few bucks before shares in Innate plummeted. How did he advance the interests of his constituents here? 

More to the point, Collins held a “press conference” at the Avant Wednesday night. He kept the media waiting 90 minutes past the scheduled start time. He and his wife came out to the podium, and Collins engaged in languorous autofellatio about what a great businessman he is, and how he wants to abolish multiple sclerosis. He insisted that he’s innocent, will defend himself vigorously, but will not take any questions at this “press conference”. Instead, he’s going to stay in Congress, run for re-election, and not respond to one question about these charges outside of court, ever. 

How are you going to run for office while under arrest for crimes you won’t address? The only way that happens is if you don’t leave the house. He can’t debate his opponent, plucky Grand Island Democrat Nate McMurray. He can’t show up to your chicken BBQ or lawn fete. He can campaign and get asked incessant questions about his supposed crime, or he can stay home and do nothing. Given that he won’t resign or drop out, I have to assume that Collins believes that the (R) after his name is all he needs. Maybe he can self-fund some TV ads and direct mail, and coast to re-election. 

There’s no way Nick Langworthy and the other Republican county chairs are supportive of Collins’ decision to stay in this race, and incredibly their hands are tried until and unless Collins decides to drop out. Collins isn’t just pre-occupied with criminal and civil fraud charges, but effectively holding the seat hostage and preventing his party from properly assessing its options. 

For McMurray’s part, he held a respectful news conference where he didn’t gloat, but reminded the people of NY-27 that they deserve better than this.

They deserve better than insider trading and corruption. They deserve better than Collins’ trademark specialty—condescending, self-righteous hubris. “Because my focus is to defeat the charges in court, after today, I will not address any issue related to Innate … outside of the courtroom,” Collins said. 

I have to hope that the people of NY-27 won’t stand for that. I have to believe that Collins will reconsider and exit the race by the end of the week, because anything less than that is sheer insanity. His Avant statement was all me-me-me and nothing about the actual crimes being alleged. I can’t imagine that Nick Langworthy or any other local Republican is happy with this catastrophe of a candidacy. Make no mistake: given the choice of stepping aside so the Republicans can more safely hang on to that seat or staying in despite a federal indictment, Collins chose his own power and prestige; not his party and not his constituents. 

Nate McMurray is the Democrat running against Collins. He needs your help and support

Nate had a very slim chance in this R+11 district on Tuesday, but Wednesday changed everything. Clearly, Collins could continue to run and he could even win. That (R) means a lot in this bespoke conservative district. 

As of April, the district had a moderate GOP enrollment edge with 183,641 active Republicans, 142,703 active Democrats and 97,801 independents.

But the district has voted heavily for Republicans since the most-recent round of redistricting in 2012, when a court redrew it to include all or part of eight western New York counties, including portions of Erie and Monroe.

Trump won the district by a 24-point margin in 2016, making it by far his best congressional district in the heavily Democratic state, according to The Cook Political Report.

Collins himself won big in 2014 and 2016, taking home 71 percent and 67 percent of the vote, respectively, against little-known opponents after narrowly defeating then-incumbent Rep. Kathy Hochul, D-Buffalo, in 2012.

Collins also has another distinct advantage: $1.3 million in his campaign account compared to McMurray’s $81,772.

Bad news, right? But this one change means a lot: 

With this may come the two things McMurray’s plucky grassroots campaign desperately needs: organization and money. If the left-of-center PACs and SuperPACs smell enough blood in the water, look for a ton of money and ads to come into the district. Look for young and experienced campaign workers to come into the district and do a re-run of the Hochul races. This is a big deal, and a big influx of money is the shot in the arm McMurray needs. Yesterday, McMurray earned himself an extra 1100 Twitter followers, and raised more money yesterday than during the entire previous campaign period. 

Look out, NY-27, now we have a race. 

Coward Chris Collins: Internet Troll

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The re-election campaign for Congressman Chris Collins (R-CNN) released this incoherently childish nonsense yesterday: 

1. Former SCOTUS Justice Stevens is a Republican. President Gerald Ford nominated him to the Court in 1975. 

2. Neither Democratic candidate for NY-27 Nick Stankevich nor Nate McMurray are “radical extremists”; neither of them has uttered a syllable in support of a repeal of the 2nd Amendment. This is nothing more than Collins trying to rile up a rural, NRA-supporting base that doesn’t like fancy lawyers like McMurray, Slavic names like “Stankevich”, or – more significantly – rich, entitled, city slicker assholes like Chris Collins very much. 

3. Everyone take note that Stankevich and McMurray marched against mass school shootings this past weekend, but Chris Collins is completely and utterly silent on the subject. While Stankevich and McMurray stood with schoolchildren who are tired of being sitting ducks for well-armed, but poorly regulated, lunatics, Collins did what Collins does – probably diving into a basement pool of gold like a cartoon duck or something

4. Collins’ spokeskid ends this stupid missive with a demand that Stankevich and McMurray “let voters know” if they support calls from Republican former SCOTUS Justice – or as the spokeskid says, “far-left” – to repeal the 2nd Amendment. He adds, “if radical extremists want to make this election a referendum of the 2nd Amendment, we look forward to that debate”. 

That last line is nonsense. Chris Collins will not debate his opponent, not ever. He will not agree to hold a town hall in his own district to listen to constituents who might disagree with him. He won’t hold a public debate with anyone who disagrees with him, going so far as to hold a private meeting with Stankevich in Washington a week or so ago, but no one could hear what either one said, and neither one’s stance could be vetted or challenged. When Collins last trotted out this “let’s have a debate about guns” line, County Executive Mark Poloncarz took him up on the offer, but Collins chickened out

Locally, Clarence High School senior Andrew Kowalczyk is one of the organizers of that school’s recent anti-gun-violence activism. Clarence High School is an easy walk from Collins’ own Spaulding Lake home. Kowalczyk was one of the organizers of that school’s walkout, and appeared several times on WBEN as part of its massively disingenuous effort to kick off a reasoned debate about mass shootings. He is a smart and well-reasoned young man who is neither “radical” nor “extremist” nor “far-left”.  He is just a high schooler who doesn’t want to see any more of his peers gunned down. Kowalcyzk and high schoolers like him are the people who organized the massive “March for our Lives” action last weekend. It wasn’t a march to ban guns, confiscate guns, or abolish the 2nd Amendment; it was a march to protest the mass murder of kids, and to find Constitutional solutions to the problem. 

There were a lot of moms, dads, and kids at those marches. You call them all “radical extremists” at your peril; the only reasons you’d use such laughably extreme hyperbole is if you’re scared, and you need to rile up a shrinking base. 

In any event, here’s what Stankevich has to say on Facebook about repealing the 2nd Amendment: 

Here is what Nate McMurray has to say about it

and, at a public forum (or as Collins calls it, “Kryptonite”): 

Kowalczyk and others are organizing a forum on gun violence to be held on April 7th. Representative Brian Higgins will attend. So will Stankevich and McMurray. Collins – who claims to “look forward to” a “debate” on the 2nd Amendment will be conspicuously absent. But not just absent – hostile. Another of Collins’ (not campaign, but Congressional) spokespeople said: 

Sadly, radical partisans have co-opted the Parkland tragedy in an effort to score cheap political points. 

Oh, do tell me more. Tell me more about how many kids have been gunned down in how many mass school shootings since the late 90s. Tell me how they’re all “radical extremists” or “radical partisans” because they dare challenge the notion that homicidal cretins should be able to own a military arsenal, so as to maximize killing efficiency. 

Tell me more about how Chris Collins cares more about guns and gun owners than he does about the mass murder of high school kids – or, in the case of Sandy Hook, 1st graders. 

In this country, an 18 year-old cannot legally buy a beer in a restaurant, but that same 18 year-old can instead take the money his mom gave him for a tattoo and buy an AR-15 and 500 rounds of ammunition in order to commit mass murder in his school

Never fear, however, Mr. Collins. These children that you spit on, as they try to change their world, are immune to your consultation. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

Kowalczyk said he was disappointed but not surprised.

“He kind of closed himself off by calling us radical partisans,” said Kowalczyk, a 17-year-old senior at Clarence High School. “We’re just trying to look for solutions.”

As the kids would say, tfw a 17 year-old schools you on behaving like a responsible adult. 

The Buffalo-area teens began planning the event with Collins in mind, calling it a student forum rather than a town hall.

“It’s kind of because Chris Collins has said he would never do a town hall,” said Erin Byers, a 17-year-old senior at Pioneer Central High School in Arcade who is also involved in organizing the event. “So we’re calling it a student forum. We thought that might make him react more positively.”

He didn’t. He’s cowering in the corner, afraid of a demographic inevitability. 

Asked about their thoughts on the Second Amendment, both Stankevich and McMurray said they support it — and that it is compatible with reasonable gun restrictions that they favor, such as universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.

“What I’m for is making sure madmen can’t get their hands on military-grade weapons and kill kids,” McMurray said.

Both Stankevich and McMurray also said Collins should attend the event the students are organizing.

“Those are the future voters,” Stankevich said. “They’ll be voting in the next election, if not in the election this fall. Chris Collins is sort of choosing his own adventure on that one.”

Meantime, McMurray said: “It’s an open forum. Let’s see if he can face it.”

He can’t. All he can do is trot out his spokeskids and surrogates to troll people who have a genuine concern regarding federal policy, and hope against hope that he can shore up his base and convince the handful of conservatives who don’t like him that the opposition are “radical extremists“. 

Kowalczyk, the student organizer, stressed that the forum is intended to be a positive experience where lawmakers and students can interact.

“It can be beneficial, not just to for us to hear what our legislators are thinking, but because of what we want our legislators to hear,” he said.

Remember this every and any time Chris Collins’ name is on a ballot after this: he talks about guns like he’s some sort of bigshot woodsman alpha militia freak, but when it comes to talking with schoolkids who don’t want to be murdered, he cowers at home, hoping these kids and their parents don’t vote. 

Chris Collins Meets Constituent Renee Sutton

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Back in March, Representative Chris Collins (NY-27) appeared on a CNN town hall style show hosted by Van Jones when average citizen Renee Sutton confronted him about his lack of town hall meetings here in WNY, and his reluctance to meet with constituents generally. 

Although Collins claimed that he didn’t see the value in town hall meetings with constituents, (a topic I broached in this piece in The Public back in March), he promised to meet with Sutton at some point. That meeting happened last week. In a Facebook post last Friday, Sutton relayed what happened

So, yesterday I finally got my meeting with Rep. Chris Collins. He agreed to meet with me in March, after I asked him on CNN’s The Messy Truth with Van Jones why he was willing to appear on the show but refused to meet with his actual constituents in a town hall setting. That brief interaction on CNN ended with him approaching me in the audience, shaking my hand, giving me his business card (his real business card, with his personal email, cell phone number and everything) and inviting me to contact him anytime to get our future meeting set up. After four months of intermittent attempts to schedule the meeting, I was contacted with very short notice and told that he would be free and in Canandaigua. I contacted Michelle [Schoeneman, candidate for Erie County Legislature), in hope that she could join me, but life conspired to prevent it, and I went solo. 

The meeting was held in a conference room at the Ontario County Office Building in Canandaigua, and Collins was accompanied by two male aides, one of whom stayed the entire meeting while the other kept running in and out of the room. Collins came in, shook my hand, and took the seat across from me. I tried a little “break the ice” small talk, but he wasn’t interested. His affect from the start was cold and resentful, and the tone of the meeting was immediately adversarial. 

The cameras are off, the audience is gone, and the real Chris Collins showed up. 

During the first 15 minutes of the meeting we discussed the AHCA and the premature termination of grant funding for teenage pregnancy programs. The AHCA conversation went nowhere. When he commented that the individual mandate and taxes related to Obamacare were job killers, I smilingly responded something to the effect of “yet somehow the president managed to add one million jobs since January.” He visibly did not appreciate that comment, and shot me down with a comment about the medical device tax never having been implemented anyway and a snide, “you didn’t know that, did you?”

Weird, because Collins has been so vocal about that medical device tax, you’d have thought it had not only been implemented but had been at a rate of 200 percent. 

I moved on to teenage pregnancy prevention issue. This conversation started with me prefacing that, although we are probably on opposite sides of the reproductive rights issue, this might be an issue where we have some common ground. He responded that if I believed in partial birth abortion which equals murdering babies, then we most certainly were on opposite sides.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Who said anything about “partial birth abortion”? 

I told him that I understand why pro-choice activists don’t agree to any erosion of abortion rights fearing it led to the elimination of ALL abortion rights, but that my personal convictions around reproductive rights led my advocacy for legal, accessible first trimester abortion that was subject to no further regulation than any medical procedure would be. Collins actually agreed. I was so surprised that I repeated, “So you agree that abortion in the first trimester should be legal and accessible?”, and he replied, “yes.”

LOL RINO. 

This was such a shocker to me that a Republican congressman was expressing support for abortion rights, any abortion rights, that I just said something along the lines of not expecting that to be an area of common ground, but still glad that we had identified at least the one! I then pivoted to the teenage pregnancy prevention funding, and his first response was that it was an HHS issue, so it wasn’t in his purview to fix, although he agreed it was a worthwhile endeavor to support. I responded that it was my expectation that as a congressman it was in his purview to advocate for his constituents and lobby the executive branch for restoration of the funding. He agreed, and asked me to send him a list of providers in the 27th who were recipients of the funding. I thanked him sincerely, and commented again that it was great that there were things we agreed on. 

So, that exchange was actually—on its face—somewhat productive. Collins agreed that first trimester abortion should remain safe and legal, and agreed to look into reinstating teenage pregnancy prevention program funding through HHS. 

Heartened by this initial success but knowing that time was running out on the meeting, I said that I next wanted to talk about Charlottesville and the tenor of political discourse since the election. BOOM: the affect that was cold and resentful turned to outright hostile and demeaning. The next ten minutes felt like some kind of crazy fever dream, and Collins did almost all of the talking, getting increasingly heated as he did so. It was just so clear that I became a target for all of his frustration and anger over the billboards and the protests and the letters to the editor. There were A LOT of things said, so for brevity’s sake I need to dispense with the narrative and just share some bullet points:

Regardless of your political persuasion, there is no doubt that political discourse has been dismal. There are certainly culprits on both sides (Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor stand out as rhetorical bullshitters, and the so-called “antifa” paramilitary-without-portfolio does no Trump opponent any favors), but the president of the United States has revealed himself to be the troll-in-chief, seemingly existing to do whatever is best guaranteed to piss off liberals. That seems to be the sum total of Trumpism. But Charlottesville—that was the work-product of only one side

What happened in Charlottesville was quite simple: The “Unite the Right” rally was an effort to bring together Trumpist trolls, the Klan, various and sundry Nazi wannabes, and other white nationalist/identitarian groups. There was a very thinly veiled pretext at play: to oppose any effort to remove a statue to Robert E. Lee or to rename the plaza where it sits. But really what it amounted to was an orgy of hatred and violence fueled by ignorant, phony white resentment. 

Confederate monuments and statues exist to commemorate acts of high treason and white supremacist chattel slavery. If you doubt this, go and read the constitution of the Confederacy, especially Article IV and Article I § 9. Then go and read the “Cornerstone Speech” that the CSA’s first and only vice president, Alexander Stephens, gave in 1861: “Our new government is founded upon exactly [this] idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Back to Sutton’s meeting with Collins, who seemed triggered by mention of Charlottesville. 

  • He stated that he is against white supremacists and the KKK, but supported First Amendment rights.  

This is all fine, but note the invocation of the First Amendment. We’ll come back to it. 

  • Collins repeatedly referenced the protests against himself and the president. He said that “you guys haven’t stopped marching around with your signs since the election.” I replied that we were exercising our First Amendment rights and that I was among those protesting his agenda and carrying signs. He replied, “yeah, you and your sign filled with lies.”

What about First Amendment rights? “Marching around” with political “signs” is among the most strongly protected types of speech in existence. It doesn’t matter whether he thinks the signs contain “lies”. All the more reason, frankly, for this representative of the people to meet with people and listen to them—especially the ones with whom he has disagreements. 

  • He said that “you guys and your protests” are the reason why he now has cameras outside all of his offices. He also accused us of drawing chalk outlines on the sidewalk outside his house in efforts to threaten and intimidate him, so I was a hypocrite for wanting civility in our political discourse.

Chris Collins is opposed to Obamacare, voted for Trumpcare, and is opposed to universal health coverage. People die from lack of care—or the inability to pay for it. Maybe he could listen to people who, unlike him, are not millionaires and have issues with the affordability of not just healthcare but health insurance. Chris Collins has offered exactly zero reasonable alternatives to Obamacare in order to expand affordable health insurance to more Americans. All he’s done is vote to repeal Obamacare dozens of times, only to fail miserably to actually repeal it when actually given the chance. To call that failure is an insult to failure. 

  • He said that the ethics accusations were lies and fake news perpetuated by “you guys.”

Weird, that. The Buffalo News reports that the ethics investigation has taken a “more serious” turn just this week. The Office of Congressional Ethics referred the matter of Collins’s stock trades in an Australian penny stock to the House Committee on Ethics. I guess it’s more than just “fake news”. 

  • He said that the press attacked him for calling Sheldon Silver the antichrist and evil, and that he didn’t even know Silver was Jewish. I said that I didn’t think characterizing political opponents that way was helpful and that I expected my elected officials to model better behavior than that. 

My goodness, Collins’s run-in with Sheldon Silver was years ago. Interesting he’d bring that up, unprovoked, within this context. Sutton is exactly right that maybe politicians referring to other politicians as evil devils isn’t productive. Or…

  • He said that I was a hypocrite who voted for “that lying, cheating scumbag Hillary Clinton.” I responded to him that invective like that was unnecessary and harmful, and belied his interest in unifying Americans. 

I would have asked Collins how he reconciles his opposition to “lying, cheating scumbags” with his full and deep-throated support for Donald Trump

The last thing I said to him was, after trying to make the case for being more accessible to all his constituents, “How can you really represent me if you won’t listen to me?”

Here’s the kicker: 

His response was delivered with utter contempt (and this is verbatim), “I represent the 72% of people who voted for me. You didn’t vote for me.”

First of all, Chris Collins earned only 67 percent of the vote in 2016; not 72 percent. I mean, when you win by two thirds, what’s with the compulsion to inflate? 

Secondly, there are 477,200 registered voters in NY-27.  Collins received 220,885 votes. That amounts to 46 percent of eligible, registered voters. According to Collins’s own logic and math, he truly only represents the 46 percent of eligible voters who bothered to turn out and vote for him. This means that fully 54 percent of the eligible voters in NY-27 are unrepresented. Not only that, but the total population is 713,175. So, if Collins only represents the people who voted for him, it stands to reason that only 30 percent of the residents in NY-27 enjoy Congressional representation. Does this mean he only gets paid 30 percent of his Congressional salary? Or that he is entitled only to 30 percent of the federal health, pension, and other fringe benefits he might otherwise receive? 

For Collins to tell a constituent that he doesn’t represent anyone who didn’t vote for him is indicative of two things: 1. He is unfit to serve anyone; and 2. He is an arrogant personage whose continued involvement in WNY politics soils all of us. 

Immediately after that utterance, his one aide popped into the room and said that he needed to leave the meeting. Collins got up from the table, and walked out of the room without a backward glance. No hand shake, no thank you. His other aide asked if I would be following up with the list of providers receiving the teenage pregnancy prevention funding. I was still so stunned that I couldn’t do any more than look up and nod at him. He left the room, and I stayed to jot down some quick notes and quotes I didn’t want to forget, and then I biked home … As soon as I got home, I called Michelle. The first words out of my mouth were, “We are really getting to him.” 

“We” being the “Citizens Against Collins” group that has protested Collins at his various offices and raised money to buy billboard space to shame him for his refusal to hold public meetings. 

Before the meeting, I was really excited to have this opportunity to just exchange some ideas and possibly find some common ground with Collins. I truly believed that we were just two Americans who love our country but who have different ideas about how to solve problems, and that his bluster and invective against folks more liberal than he were more for the benefit of the cameras and his base. At best, I hoped that my friendly demeanor and respectful, reasonable arguments would telegraph to him that I saw his humanity and that, in turn, he would see mine. I really thought, on the basis of our shared American values, I could convince him that our resistance represents political engagement that benefits our Republic and was worthy of his applause, not his condemnation. At worst, I thought it would be a meaningless half hour in which my concerns would be answered with measured political doublespeak and condescending civility. Instead, my congressman told me that he will not represent me because I didn’t vote for him. My congressman called me a liar and hypocrite who voted for a scumbag. Never in a million years did I think I would be treated with the insulting hostility and contempt that I experienced. I wasn’t treated like a human being, much less a constituent. I was treated like an enemy, and it saddens me that that is the state of the nation today. 

Welcome to Collins country. “Collins for our Future”—a future of rude, arrogant, entitled multi-millionaires. 

As crappy as it felt to be on the receiving end of that much hostility, I am proud of the way I behaved and unapologetic for my idealism. Yes, it is clear to me now that my civility was wasted on Chris Collins, but it wasn’t a waste to me. Chris Collins supports a president and policies that run counter to fundamental American values and that will hurt his constituents and lead to the destruction of our environment. Collins’s behavior and hateful rhetoric yesterday were unprofessional, unbecoming, and incompatible with representative democracy. For those reasons I will work hard to ensure his defeat in 2018 and 45’s in 2020. But I will do so modeling the behavior and rhetoric I want to see from others, eschewing hateful and divisive speech and personal attacks. I hope you all will join me. To the fair-minded people we hope to convince, our integrity and decency will be as powerful a source of persuasion as our reasoned arguments. And when we win, we will have the satisfaction of knowing we did it in the sunshine, and not the gutter.

The Public reached out to Collins’s office Monday morning. Sutton’s version of events was copied and pasted, and these three questions asked: 

1. Is Sutton’s account of the meeting substantially accurate?

2. If there are inaccuracies, can you please identify them and offer the Congressman’s account?

3. Can the Congressman please explain or elaborate on this statement, which Sutton says she is quoting verbatim: “I represent the 72% of people who voted for me. You didn’t vote for me.”

Neither Collins nor anyone from his office responded. 

Let’s Talk About Chris Collins’ Constituents

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Luckily, the Buffalo News’ Rod Watson wrote this opinion column, so I don’t have to. Watson succinctly spells out why and how Collins’ refusal to meet with constituents in a town hall, (or other setting), is disgraceful and cowardly. In a nutshell: Collins works for us, but he doesn’t see it that way. 

…Collins, the Clarence millionaire, explain[s] his refusal to hold town hall meetings by telling WGRZ-TV such sessions are “useless.” In fact, he explained, “They are not what you hope they would be, which is a give-and-take from people actually interested in getting some facts.

You see? Collins sees constituents as people who should dummy up and listen to him to “get some facts”. Never in his world could it feasibly work the other way around. Oh, sure, when someone’s kid gets into West Point or asks for Passport help or needs a Capitol tour, Collins’ office is as responsive as anyone’s; however, we’re not talking about constituent services – we’re talking about policy.

By the way, Collins has literally never held a town hall meeting, nor any other event for constituents that was open to the general public. How would he know whether it would be “useless”? 

Collins is now a Trumpist – a branch of the Republican party that until recently I was calling “Palinist“. You may know them as the loudmouths formerly known as the “tea party”. They’re not conservatives in the traditional sense – they’re nativists; nationalists. They oppose free trade, environmental conservation and protection, and programs for the elderly and poor. They are for withdrawal from a world that they find scary or useless. 

Watson continues

The primary purpose of a town hall is for the politician to listen. The aim is for him to get the facts from the folks intimately affected by government policy so that he has a better understanding of how his votes and the policies he pushes affect average people, not just those is in his income bracket.

Yet the guy Roll Call pegged as worth $23.8 million in 2015 thinks he knows all about your life without ever coming out to listen to you.

Imagine that. A public employee who lives in a million-dollar mansion believes he has nothing to learn from people who don’t. The median income in NY-27 is $55,000 per year. 

A group of average constituents got together to demand a town hall meeting from Collins – over $7000 was raised for three billboards evoking “Where’s Waldo” publicly to shame Collins to meet with residents of NY-27 and listen to them

Why? Because, for example, every time Chris Collins denounces the Affordable Care Act as a “disaster”, there’s a family in his district that is petrified that they’ll lose their health insurance and, in turn, be bankrupted by medical expenses. That family deserves to tell Collins its story to his face; he works for them. They deserve to experience the satisfaction of telling their representative what will happen if his policies are carried out. 

Chris Collins’ constituents don’t owe him anything – he owes them everything. 

But it’s all for naught. Collins isn’t going to hold any town halls, mostly because of the political math. He represents the most conservative district in New York, and he’s safe in his +7 (R). His last two Democratic opponents were unknown and not well-funded, so he cruised to re-election both times. His defenders always point to those electoral successes as evidence that Collins’ constituents are satisfied. More on that below. 

But the opposition must have struck a nerve. If Collins was as safe as all that, the ragtag, poorly organized but motivated group’s billboards would have merited only silence as a response. Instead, the Republican establishment retained the services of crisis communications specialist Michael Caputo to push back. (He claims not to have been paid for this endeavor, and that he’s doing it for “fun”. Nevertheless, he acknowledges having given Erie GOP chair Nick Langworthy and Collins’ people a heads-up.) He started the GOP’s own billboard campaign, and here’s the text of the press release: 

A billboard funded by an online fundraising drive will start to be displayed in Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) district Monday, March 6 for a week – on the same Hamburg billboard where Collins detractors bought a billboard trying to force the Congressman to have his first town hall meeting.

The billboard art is attached. The location is 4536 Big Tree Road in Hamburg, New York.

“Sixty-seven percent of constituents in New York’s 27th Congressional District voted overwhelmingly to re-elect Rep. Chris Collins just a few months ago. Our simple and direct billboard thanks our congressman for a job well done,” organizer Michael Caputo of East Aurora said. “In fact, our billboard will be displayed on the same board where his opponents bought space last month.”

67% of constituents who bothered to vote – which was 66% of eligible voters – voted to re-elect Mr. Collins. My math might be wrong here, but 67% of a 66% turnout means that 44% of “constituents eligible to vote” re-elected Collins – the same amount who stayed home or didn’t tick the box. Not exactly the ringing endorsement being sold. Also, let’s not forget that people who are not eligible to vote, including kids, immigrants, and the migrant workers who seasonally toil in local farms, are all constituents. The population of NY-27 is 713,000. So, 220,000 people voted for Collins, given a Trump bump in turnout. That’s 30% of his constituents. Of eligible voters, 66% of the 66% who came out voted for him; fully 34% didn’t bother to vote at all. The results showed that, of ballots cast in NY-27, 25,500 of them were blank on the congressional line, meaning they voted for other offices, but didn’t bother with the Collins race.

The fundraising drive, hosted on GoFundMe.com, raised $1,700 in just one day – a testament to the strong support Rep. Collins enjoys in his vast district that spans across rural and suburban Western New York. The campaign was in response to a similar drive by Collins’ leftist opponents who have failed miserably to defeat him in three Congressional elections. 

Collins barely squeaked out a narrow victory against Kathy Hochul in 2012; it was 50.8 – 49.2. Is that a “miserable failure”? I don’t think so. There were 66 donations made to Caputo’s billboard effort. Caputo says he raised “$1,700 in just one day”.  I hope a media outlet checks that before reporting it as fact, because GoFundMe shows that 66 people raised $1,732 over the course of a twelve day long campaign.  

More to the point, those 66 donations only came in on four separate days: $160 on February 19th, $220 on February 20th, $1,132 on February 21st, and $220 on February 22nd. So, that’s $1,700 in four days, not one. 

“Rep. Collins represents the most Republican district in New York, by far,” Caputo said. “The leftists’ failed effort to force him to have a town hall meeting was just an attempt to give marginal activists from outside the district a forum to scream at the Congressman – a theatrical production designed by national groups as part of a national leftist program. Needless to say, they failed.”

Now, Caputo is lying. I’m a member of the group that organized the billboard and as been demanding town hall meetings with our employee, Mr. Collins. It’s not “theatrical”, it’s not “marginal activists”, and they’re not from “outside the district”. This is a slander. Query why it’s necessary. 

It’s necessary because the Republican strategy is to de-legitimize anyone who opposes them. Average citizens – housewives, teachers, fathers – who have organized a billboard campaign must be “marginal” professional outside agitators so that they can be dismissed and ignored. Caputo continues, 

Well-funded national activist organizations connected to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and billionaire George Soros were behind thousands of AstroTurf groups across the country similarly harassing Republican congressmen when they returned home for their February district work period. Rep. Collins ignored the local contingent’s demands and, according to Caputo, won’t suffer a bit for it in 2018.

George Soros. When they invoke the name of the International Jew, you know they’re spooked. Well, I guess we’ll see about that. I’ve been involved in every congressional campaign around here ever since Tom Reynolds defended Mark Foley’s pederasty by trotting out a bunch of kids. Only in the Hochul vs. Corwin special election race did I see anyone from the outside help in a concerted way, and that was the DCCC. Not George Soros. 

Here’s what Collins’ spokesman said to the Buffalo News about the anti-Collins billboard: 

The left-wing activists, many of which reside outside of NY-27, organizing these publicity stunts will never be satisfied, despite having multiple opportunities to share their message,” McAdams said. “The fact is only three months ago, voters in NY-27 overwhelming elected Congressman Collins with 68 percent of the vote.

I guess it’s not plagiarism when you’re all working from the same script. 

Here’s the billboard Caputo put together for the GOP: 

Your “Real Constituents”. 

So, first of all Caputo’s accusations of outside money AstroTurf (fake grassroots) related to the anti-Collins billboard is projection. Secondly, this GOP propaganda should be commended for finally putting in writing what Chris Collins truly thinks of constituents who disagree with or oppose him; they simply don’t count – they aren’t “real” constituents.

Caputo said on social media that it’s meant to be “snarky”.  It is, I guess. But Collins is already thought of as arrogant, inaccessible, and someone who doesn’t believe he has any duty or need to listen to people who might disagree. This billboard doesn’t help – it proves the very point “Citizens Against Collins” has made. In the battle of the billboards, Collins’ opponents are winning $7,000 – $1,700, and 3:1. 

Perhaps Tom Dolina of the local satirical site the “Tommunist” put it best

George Soros was unavailable for comment. 

Grading Chris Collins

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Kathy Hochul served as Congresswoman for the 26th Congressional district from 2011 – 2012. She defeated former Assemblywoman Jane Corwin in a special election, but later lost to Chris Collins, who was sworn in on January 3, 2013. 

Here’s an October 2014 letter to the editor of the Buffalo News I found. It avers that, while running against Hochul, Collins was asked in a debate to,

…give a letter grade to incumbent Kathy Hochul’s performance. Collins gave her an “I for ineffective” for failing (by that point) to pass any bills of her own. Collins promised, “As a member of the majority, I guarantee voters when I introduce a bill, I’m gonna have the kind of support that gets those bills passed.”

Collins has now been in Congress for four years. He has been in the majority in the House for that entire time. In those four years, only two of the bills he introduced have been signed into law; each of them involve the naming of a post office.

That is clearly an impressive record of achievement that more than justifies the $174,000 annual salary and federal benefits package that this distinguished gentleman from New York “earns” for the important legislation that he has introduced and “guaranteed” passed. 

On a similar note, Mr. Collins stands accused of using his knowledge and power as a congressman to promote legislation that might help his own personal investments; particularly in a small Australian penny stock trading at 70 cents per share called “Innate Immunotherapeutics”. (See here, here, and here). 

A CNN reporter caught Collins replying to “all” in an email when he meant only to reply to the CEO of Innate, who was coming to Collins’ defense. 

“Simon. Yellow journalism. Making the story fit a bias regardless of the facts. Distorted,” the email began, in apparent reference to the WSJ report. “In fact the offer was made available to every US shareholder who had ever participated in any share offering in the US. Interesting how he somehow distorted that.”

Collins, who both invests in and sits on the board of Innate Immunotherapeutics, continued on to say that “many US shareholders” — including his own children — declined to participate “because of the perceived risk.”

He went on to whine, 

Collins confirmed in a follow-up email to CNN Tuesday morning that he had “replied all by mistake,” before venting his frustrations about a “witch hunt where the press goes after my friends and family.” In the case of Price’s investment in Innate Immunotherapeutics, a “standard private placement” has been incorrectly portrayed as “some kind of insider special deal,” Collins said. “I was venting to Simon as he shares my frustration.”

Get the whaambulance. 

The Australian reports that Congressman Collins appears to be in violation of Australian law

A US Republican congressman has allegedly breached Australia’s corporations law by failing to make key disclosures about his family’s significant investment in a listed, Sydney-based health company, including that two of his children and other close associates bought parcels of the company’s stock.

and 

The Australian can reveal ­allegations that Mr Collins has breached Australian corporate law by disclosing he was a “substantial shareholder” — that is owning more than 5 per cent of a company’s shares — only after almos­t 18 months, instead of within two business days of acquis­ition, as required by law.

Mr Collins has owned more than 15 per cent of Innate Immunotherapeutics shares — three times the threshold — since before its December 2013 float, but only made the disclosure in May 2015.

His US associates — including family members, political donors and employees — have also bought shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics in recent years, many in private offerings at a 12 per cent discount to the traded share price at the time.

Mr Collins has also allegedly breached section 606 of the Corporations Act — known as the “20 per cent rule” — which prevent­s any party holding a “rele­vant interest” in more than 20 per cent of a company’s shares without gaining shareholders’ approv­al and making disclosures. The maximum penalty for breaching the 20 per cent rule and for breaching substantial shareholder disclosure laws is sixth months’ jail.

Law and order! The Australian report seems to contradict Collins’ allegation that HHS nominee Tom Price and others didn’t get a special price on this junk stock in a company with no products or revenue. As for Innate, the Australian reports that its CEO, Michael Quinn, used to run a company that delivered a flawed, smelly waste treatment plant to the Cairns city council in North Queensland

In its first year of operations, the plant’s Bedminster rubbish ­digesters repeatedly crashed, two were put “out of commission indefinitely” and the council later sued the company for contractual ­issues.

Later, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the plant reduce odours following problems with filters — which had to be ­replaced at a cost of $100,000 — and in 2010 the plant was again deemed inoperable after a large section of suspended concrete collapsed.

and 

In a highly unusual move for a listed company, EWT has gone to ground in recent days, with calls to its offices in

Sydney and Auckland ringing out and ­executives failing to respond to ­repeated texts and emails.

The Australian revealed on Monday that Mr Collins had ­allegedly breached Australia’s corpor­ations laws by failing to make key disclosures about significant investments in Innate made by two of his children and other close ­associates.

Sydney barrister James Wheeldon wrote to Innate last Friday, highlighting the alleged breaches, but was yet to receive any ­response.

To sum up: 

1. Chris Collins once derided Kathy Hochul as “ineffective” for having passed no laws in her less than one year in office. In four years in office, Collins has passed two laws, both to name a post office. 

2. Collins allegedly broke Australian securities law and could be prosecuted and sentenced there to 6 months in jail. 

3. The company for which Collins is an evangelist is run by guys who couldn’t properly build and run a garbage dump. 

Incidentally, Collins has never – not once – held an in-person town hall meeting that was open to the general public, and which was publicized in any way to his constituency at-large. People have been trying to set one up with him, to no avail. In Geneseo and Lancaster, people have been unsuccessful in getting a meeting with him. So, be sure to contribute to this Gofundme to get a billboard up asking Rep. Collins to show his face in the district and answer constituents’ questions. He works, after all, for us. 

I’d grade that an “I” for ineffective, an “F” for failure, and “G” for garbage. 

The kakocracy is working great for some, at the expense of everyone else. 

Mad Money with Chris Collins

madmoney

Afternoon WBEN talker David Bellavia ran in a Republican primary against Chris Collins to win the right to battle incumbent Kathy Hochul for the 27th Congressional District seat. He wrote this analysis of the allegations against Chris Collins’ alleged insider stock trading

In a world where I get political advice from The Financial Guys, Mike Lomas and Glenn Wiggle, it would only seem only fair that we get stock tips from Rep. Chris Collins. This week, HHS nominee Rep Tom Price (R-GA) was asked by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) during his confirmation hearing:
 
“Congressman Chris Collins, who sits on President-elect Trump’s transition team, is both an investor and a board member of [Innate Immunotherapeutics]. He was reportedly overheard just last week off the House floor bragging about how he had made people millionaires from a stock tip,” she said. “Congressman Price, in our meeting, you informed me you made purchases based on conversations with Rep. Collins, is that correct?”
 
So what is the big deal you ask? The Cures Act was a bill signed into law this past December 2016. The bill was originally sponsored by Fred Upton (R-MI). Chris Collins wrote three amendments to the bill. Two of which are alleged to have benefited companies like the one he invests in and sits on the Board of Directors: 

Section 3021, which encourages the broader application of innovative clinical trial designs, including the use of Bayesian  statistics and adaptive trials, to enhance and accelerate effective clinical trials. These changes to the way the FDA approves clinical trial designs will help unleash new, groundbreaking therapies by allowing researchers to efficiently change their trials to meet the individual responses of their participants. 

Section 3071 will expedite and improve the drug approval process by increasing the number of senior biomedical researchers the FDA is allowed to hire and also making the salary of those individuals more competitive with private industry. This will help ensure that our best and brightest scientists will remain with the FDA to review and approve drug applications, and get cures to patients more quickly.

With respect to Price, however, this isn’t the big deal; the big deal is that the Trump transition had publicly stated that a broker made all the decisions concerning the purchase and sale of equities on behalf of Dr. Price, with no input from the Congressman. This turned out to be false, as Price clearly at least retained control over the decision to purchase shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics. According to the New York Times, “[l]ast summer, Mr. Price, [Collins Chief of Staff Michael] Hook and [former WNY Congressman Bill] Paxon bought the stock at a discount as part of a private offering organized by Innate aimed at ‘sophisticated U.S. investors.’ They have since quintupled their money, at least on paper.”

Innate Immunotherapeutics would ostensibly benefit directly from Collins’ amendments to the 21 Century Cures Act, if it decided to enter the U.S. market with its only product, a treatment for M.S. that is now undergoing clinical trials in Australia and New Zealand. Collins sits on the Innate Immunotherapeutics board, and is its largest shareholder. LittleSis.org has prepared this chart showing the various personalities at play: 

view this map on LittleSis

Which brings us to this current allegation.
 
Collins is overheard on a cellphone conversation bragging about how many “millionaires he has made in Buffalo” with this alleged stock tip in the last month.
 
This is key, because the law was signed in December and directly implies that money was made since President Obama signed the bill.
 
Now, let’s be honest, the People’s House is not the arena to be talking about stocks, girlfriends or real estate. You are there to do the job of the people. And this is at best unprofessional and at its worst in violation of the Stock Act, passed in 2012, which limits the trading that elected officials can profit from with regards to their position and insider information.
 
The company in question is an Australian based corporation called Innate Immunotherapeutics, which tests trial drugs for serious diseases such as MS. Collins is a board member, has held the stock for 15 years and two of his children and Michael Hook, his longtime advisor and Chief of Staff are amongst the largest stockholders of the small biotech firm.
 
Yeah, it’s gross. Collins making the phone call and acting like a big shot is gross too. Has the law been broken? I don’t think so. Is Collins doomed because of this behavior? Not a chance.

Well, not so fast. There simply isn’t any evidence to conclude whether the STOCK Act was or was not broken; any such opinion is based merely on conjecture. If one were to proceed simply on the basis of an “appearance of impropriety” standard, there would be grounds to investigate further. In a nutshell, the STOCK Act exists to prevent members of Congress from using their knowledge as lawmakers in order to personally profit through the purchase or sale of securities. 

Bellavia’s argument, below, is that it’s far-fetched to accuse Collins of unjustly enriching himself in a company with which he has been involved for 12 years. That’s a fair point, taken without any context. Here, however, the company in question has been something of a failure during that entire time. This article explains how Collins came upon the stock in 2005 when its investors were desperate to stay afloat, and that Collins has lent the company money in later years when it seemed doomed. The M.S. drug now undergoing trials is its inaugural product, and its CEO is pretty up-front about the fact that he’s really just fishing for some large pharma firm to buy Innate out

To imply that Chris Collins held a stock for 15 years, ran for County Executive, lost, ran for Congress, in a wild scheme to make $3 million dollars in stocks is absurd. He is worth well north of $120 million. Collins has many businesses involved in the medical field. Are we saying he is disqualified from every authoring legislation or amendments because he may profit from them in the future?
 
Here is what no one is saying, “Chris Collins’ amendments to the bill were actually really good amendments.” The issue here is the behavior of what is expected of our elected officials.
 
Collins behaved poorly. Should never be on a cell phone near journalists bragging about his stock tips. Tom Price, should not be taking stock advice from his peers on the floor of congress.
 
This is a Tom Price problem, not a Chris Collins problem.

That’s only part of the issue, however. The Times points out that Paxon, a lobbyist, could appear before Collins not just to peddle influence, but also as a co-investor in Innate. A bunch of Collins’ friends and associates participated in a special, private offering of Innate stock just last summer – as the Cures Act was wending its way through committee. Price’s investment was between $50,000 and $100,000 – one of the largest investments he made since 2012. The Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremski noted Collins’ investment in Innate in his piece reporting on the passage of the Cures Act. Collins argued that his investment wasn’t a conflict of interest, but instead evidence of the “business knowledge” he brings to Congress. 

It’s also quite possible that it is both reflective of his savvy, and also of his conflict of interest; that his involvement in the amendments and passage of the Cures Act resulted in personal gain. 

What Collins did was the equivalent of picking up the back up quarterback in a fantasy league when the star QB is injured. Anyone who was following the market could have made the same decision and made more money on other companies that do the same thing bigger and better. The stock opened the day at $1.50 and closed at $1.46.

Unless other evidence surfaces, he did not appear to use his position and leverage as a Board Member to offer shares at a reduced cost. If there was a new product the company was going to market with and he told his friends to invest, that too is murky, but not illegal. The market turns on new drugs as quickly as it rewards the early bird for jumping first. For every Viagra, there is a thalidomide. This is not insider trading. Board members have to follow the SEC. They can’t purchase bulk stock until announcements are made and rules are followed. If Collins broke any of those rules, we will know quickly.

More significantly, the stock was priced at around AU$0.30 (30 cents) per share last summer for special investors like Price and Collins, and is now worth AU$1.55 – a five-fold increase for stock in a company that has zero products on the market. In the interim, Price and Collins advocated for a law that would benefit companies like Innate. 

More to the point Collins reportedly threw $4 million into Innate during the special summer friends & family stock offering – an investment that is now worth close to $20 million.  

But can we be honest? Confirmation hearings are not court proceedings. There is a lot tossed at the wall. Most slides off and onto the floor.

I have been very vocal in my criticism of Mr. Collins in the past. I have no issue calling him out when and if he does something wrong. In this case, his only sin is quite frankly, being Chris Collins. He is the same brash, self-congratulating man that we have known for over twenty years. The truth is he is a good and decent man. His flaw is that he will the first one in the room to remind you of that. He is calculating, self interested above all other concerns (ask Carl Paladino about his statement of support during his recent BPS issue) but he is not a bad person. Tom Price will be a great HHS secretary with a lot of work to do usher in the new healthcare plan in the wake of the Obamacare disaster.

To me, unless we are hit with a meteor of new information, this is much ado about nothing.

It doesn’t matter whether someone thinks that Chris Collins is a “good and decent man”. Good and decent men commit bad acts all the time. People who believe in good government, the rule of law, the appearance of impropriety, and in the notion that our elected officials should not be colluding to personally enrich themselves through legislative action, should all be demanding a thorough investigation of what transpired here with Rep. Collins and Price. 

Moscow Chris Collins’ Loyalties

krasnaya

Trump Oligarch / Congressman Chris Collins believes that party political ends justify illegal, hostile means.

Collins told the Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremsky and CNN’s Alysin Camerota that the “truth came out” as a result of apparent Russian hacking of private emails, so it doesn’t really matter. You don’t have to read between the lines to get that he feels this way because his side gained political advantage therefrom. “We can’t change it”, so why bother investigating it, he argues. Sort of like how you can’t “change” what happened in Benghazi. Sort of how you can’t “change” Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in her home. Sort of how you can’t “change” Obamacare, knowing that President Obama would veto any such effort, yet Collins’ congressional colleagues held a vote to abolish it on no fewer than 62 times. I guess you only need to “move on” and “accept” the results of something when you’re a Republican and the topic is the cult of personality you just elected President.

Hey, if it’s time to “move on” and “accept” the results, maybe Trump doesn’t need to go on a victory tour. 

Chris Collins doesn’t have a deep or complicated set of beliefs. Basically, he is against anything that President Obama or any Democrat is for. He exists to comfort the comfortable and aggravate the less fortunate, and he knows just what to say and do to cruise to easy re-election in the most conservative Congressional district in New York State. What I didn’t take him for was a … 

Well, you tell me

Reports indicate that Russian intelligence services hacked these email accounts and possibly others. The emails were then provided to DC Leaks and Wikileaks, which in turn published them. The Russians’ motives aren’t definitively known, but it doesn’t take much to conclude that the aim was to weaken Clinton and/or bolster Trump. It is telling that Donald Trump has consistently refused even gently to criticize Russian neo-fascist dictator Vladimir Putin, and Trump’s Secretary of State nominee, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, is very close to Putin

It seems almost as if Putin is the last and only prominent person Trump refuses somehow to demean. 

So Moscow Chris Collins, whited sepulchre that he is, struts upon a national stage and says that (a) he doesn’t agree with any investigation into alleged Russian hacking of private emails of the Democratic National Committee or Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta; and – more chillingly – (b) believes that the unredacted, unedited publication of private email correspondence is something about which he is “glad”. 

I’m saying thank heavens the revelations came out. The truth came out. You have to say: can you imagine an election won because of lies, deceit and underhanded despicable actions?

The palpable irony was evidently lost on the first congressman to support the candidacy of unrepentant liar and Twitter power-user Donald Trump. The entire Trump campaign was a Jenga set of lies upon deceits that Clinton couldn’t topple because of an email server

Moscow Chris told the Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremsky, “[t]he election is over and Trump has won, and I think it’s time to unite the country and to say that Donald Trump is our president … The sooner we can move the entire country into recognizing the results of the election, the better.” That’s nice, dear. No serious person thinks the results of the election aren’t being recognized, and everyone acknowledges that Donald Trump is the President-Elect. Nevertheless, that doesn’t somehow obviate the need to ensure that every valid vote was counted, or to investigate the theft of private correspondence perpetrated by a hostile intelligence service masquerading as a country in order to influence our electoral process.

Our intelligence services accuse Russia of hacking into and stealing the private correspondence of private American citizens and organizations. Websites run by organizations with overtly friendly ties to regimes hostile to the United States then publised those private emails in their entirety, timing the releases to occur daily in the weeks leading up to election day. At best, it was all a contemptible violation of the privacy of people, many of whom have no political power whatsoever. Even if you believe in “transparency” – whatever that means – you can see how irresponsible and inappropriate this all is. 

The Russians’ exact motives are still a mystery and up for speculation, but if you believe in things like foreign governments not interfering in our electoral process and online privacy issues, then this should be of paramount concern to you, regardless of party. When it’s your email or text message that Wikileaks releases, and/or when it negatively affects your preferred politician or political party, you’ll regret your nonchalance if you have a conscience and sense of decency.

Remember when Wikileaks released information about powerful governments that had been leaked to it by whistleblowers? The Podesta and DNC emails weren’t “leaked” – they were stolen. 

If you take Moscow Chris’ word for it, if his staffers’ Gmail and Yahoo accounts are stolen and published, he won’t demand any investigation and simply “accept” that the “truth came out”. Indeed, I call upon him and his staff immediately to provide constituents with the passwords to their email accounts; after all, transparency and “truth” coming out are more important than any right to privacy. Doing anything less would be against Collins’ own words

When Moscow Chris says, “thank heavens”, he’s expressing his schadenfreude – that prominent Democrats’ emails had been hacked and published, and this had adverse political affects. What if it had happened to the RNC or Steve Bannon? How would Collins react in that instance? 

Collins said the actions detailed in those emails – which show DNC officials favoring Clinton over her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, but that never directly implicate Clinton – “make Dick Nixon look like an altar boy.”

Interesting, because Nixon’s resignation was prompted by his covering up of a break-in to steal information from DNC HQ. This is only the second time in 50 years that the Republicans benefited at the ballot box thanks to the theft of information from Democrats, and Moscow Chris Collins not only endorses this, but ignores that it was a foreign attack. Until 2016, it was a given that Watergate and its subsequent cover-up were crimes. Now, Moscow Chris wholeheartedly endorses foreign cyberburglary in order to help Republican electoral chances. G. Gordon Liddy’s biggest mistake, it appears, would be his failure simply to retain the services of Soviet intelligence to execute his expletive deleted illegal wiretaps and break-in. 

Asked if he thought the DNC’s actions were more important than a foreign power’s possible meddling in a U.S. election, Collins noted that hacking is a common occurrence.

“It’s not for sure that Russia did this hacking,” said Collins. “The CIA seems to think so, the FBI not so much. But in the end the truth came out: the cesspool of Democrat committee actions.”

So, the political ends justify the illegal means. Moscow Chris quite brazenly puts partisan politics over country, here. Not just that – but he overtly applauds a foreign power’s theft and publication of innocent Americans’ private communications. Whatever the Russians’ motives, their actions brought about the result they sought, and we now have a pro-Russian oligarchy being organized to perhaps give Russia’s own anti-democratic, neo-fascist kleptocracy a run for its money. By simply ignoring how damaging this theft and publication was to the idea of online privacy and the integrity of our electoral process and institutions, Moscow Chris adheres to – and gives aid and comfort to – our enemies. Putting party over country, Chris Collins is, at best, only a nominal patriot. 

Convince me that it’s somehow too strong to call that treason. 

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