House Ethics Watchdog: 'Substantial Reason To Believe' Collins Broke Law

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A watchdog on Thursday said Rep. Chris Collins may have broken federal law when he took actions to help a biotech in which he held a big stake. "There is nothing in the record to suggest, let alone support, the conclusion that Rep. Collins violated House rules, standards of conduct, or federal law".

In a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics, Collins' attorney, Mark Braden, argued that even if certain statements in the emails contained nonpublic information, it was not material to the decisions investors would eventually make.

Collins is a board member of Innate Immunotherapeutics and holds stock in the Australian company.

"Rep. Collins has done nothing improper, and his cooperation and candor during the OCE review process confirm he has nothing to hide", they wrote in an August 14 letter released Thursday by the Ethics Committee.

Slaughter, the author of the 2012 law banning lawmakers from insider trading, had asked the Securities and Exchange Commission, the acting USA attorney for the southern district of NY, the House Ethics Committee and the OCE to investigate Collins following a report by The Hill about his boasts to other lawmakers about how much money he's made by tipping them off to Innate.

The Ethics Office report said there was "not substantial reason to believe" Collins had purchased Innate stock at a discounted rate not available to the general public and recommended that allegation against the Republican Congressman be dismissed.

Collins strongly denied any wrongdoing, saying that "throughout my tenure in Congress I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines when it comes to my personal investments". The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee. I was elected to Congress based upon my success in the private sector, and my willingness to use that experience every day to facilitate an environment that creates economic opportunity and jobs.

Collins was the first member of Congress to back Trump's presidential run in 2016, and was a key ally in his fight to pass a bill repealing and replacing Obamacare. Congress has an insider trading problem, and Rep. Collins must have been incredibly brazen about his activities to get caught. "How do Western New Yorkers feel about Rep. Collins possibly breaking federal law by engaging in insider trading?"

He has also warred with Gov. Cuomo over issues like health care and tax reform.

Turn 27 Blue, a coalition comprised of the eight Democratic Party chairs in Collins' congressional district and other grassroots groups founded for the objective of getting a Democrat elected to the 27 Congressional district, said in a statement Thursday that the Ethics Office report "makes it absolutely clear that the voters of New York's 27th district deserve better from their member of Congress". Such reports must be approved by the House or by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Committee.