And the GOP “Culture of Corruption Keeps on Coming”—Republican Congressman/ Trump Wingman Chris Collins Caught in the “Swamp” of Insider Stock Trading August 12, 2018
“Drain the Swamp, Drain the Swamp, Drain the Swamp!” That’s one of the major campaign promises “authentic” (NOT) GOP presidential nominee Demagogue Donald promised his campaign supporters he would fulfill. Lobbyists, Wall Street dealers, and corrupt capitalist cronies would be thrown out the door. Donald cast himself as “Mr. Billionaire Blue Collar Populist.” This “drain the swamp talk” was, frankly, just one of Donald’s thousand plus lies ranking as one of his “bigly” biggest. He ended up picking Wall Street bankers to numerous Cabinet, sub-Cabinet posts, and as top advisors. Several of his Cabinet appointees, including Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price and EPA chief Scott Pruitt, were forced to resign because of “y uu ge” clouds of corruption hanging over them. IMHO Trump, his family, and his crew easily surpass Harding’s Tea Pot Dome scandals and even the late 19th Century robber barons’ machinations.
“Birds of a feather flock together.” Witness the antics of GOP Congressman Chris Collins. NY Congressman Collins (68) was the first congressman to endorse Donald in 2016 (115th Cong. At Your Fingertips, NY Times, Goldmacher, 8/08/18). He has been a constant media fixture defending and pushing Trump’s agenda on radio and television and just about anywhere a microphone’s present. On 8/08/2018, Cong. Collins was charged by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York with 13 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud, and false statements stemming from an alleged insider trading scheme centered on an Australian pharmaceutical company, Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited. Collins was a board member of Innate. The 30-page indictment alleges that Cong. Collins received email information about a failed multiple sclerosis drug trial from the company’s CEO. One minute after receiving this information, Cong. Collins, as the indictment states, repeatedly dialed his son Cameron Collins on 6/22/2017 while attending a congressional picnic at the White House. The indictment says that Cong. Collins passed this information about the failed drug trial to his son, so that Cameron could execute stock trades. Besides selling this stock, Cameron passed this information on to others, including his fiancee’s father who also traded on this information. The prosecutors allege that Cong. Collins and his fellow associates were able to avoid more than $768, 000 in losses they would have incurred if they had traded the stock after the drug trial results had become public, classic insider trading (CNN, Orden, 8/08/18).
If convicted at trial on all these counts, Cong. Collins could face up to 150 years in prison (CNN, Orden, 8/08/18). When news of this insider trading indictment against Collins came out, GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan stated that Collins would be removed from his House Energy and Commerce Committee “until the matter is settled (CNN, Orden, 8/08/18).”
Despite the indictment, Cong. Collins first stated on Wednesday 8/08/2018 that he “will remain on the ballot running for re-election this November (CNN, Orden).” On Saturday, 2/11/2018, after late night comedians had skewered him and fellow GOPers had pressured him, Collins reversed himself. Collins said he “was suspending his campaign for re-election (See CNN, Vazquez & Bradner, 8/11/18).” He stated he was fulfilling the remaining few months of his term, but is not presently stepping down (See Vazquez & Bradner). Although Collins is suspending his campaign, according to the NY Board of Elections, it’s probably too late for him to withdraw from the ballot. According to NY Election Board spokesman John Conklin, the nominee would have to die, accept a nomination to a different office, or be disqualified (CNN, Vazquez & Bradner, 8/11/18). However, according to one GOP official, discussions are underway to nominate Collins for a county clerkship somewhere else in NY to meet the legal requirements to remove him from the ballot (NY Times, Goldmacher, 8/11/18). Get that? In order to try to keep control of the House, the GOP is not the least bit embarrassed by attempting to nominate indicted Collins for another local NY GOP position. If Collins is successfully removed from the NY ballot, local party leaders will select the GOP nominee. Within hours of Collins’ suspension announcement, Erie County comptroller, Republican Stefan Mychajliw, announced his candidacy (See Goldmacher, NY Times). Democrat Nate McMurray, Collins’ opponent, called on Collins to resign “immediately.” McMurray aptly argued that indicted Collins “should not be running for this or any other seat (NY Times, Goldmacher, 8/11/18).” Now that the 27th CD has become part of the 2018 national congressional battleground, let’s look at McMurray’s chances.
The NY 27th Congressional District (CD) that Collins has represented for three terms is located in that state’s western portion. The Empire State 27th CD is primarily rural with the shoreline of Lake Ontario making up the district’s northern border. Lake Erie is to the far southwest. The 27th contains the four counties of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, and Wyoming along with parts of Erie, Monroe, Niagara, and Ontario. Agriculture is the economic mainstay. Wyoming County is the state’s top milk producer. The towns of Lockport and Batavia are in the 27th and nearly 40% of this CD’s population is in the suburbs of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The 27th also reaches the exurbs of Rochester. There is some manufacturing in the 27th. State government employs people, often in prisons. In 1970, the town of Attica had a terrible prison uprising (CQ & Barone 14 Political Almanacs, CNN, Cillizza, 8/08/18).
Unlike much of the rest of multi-cultural NY, the 27th’s Black, Hispanic, and Asian-American populations are minimal. The 27th has a rural Midwest flavor with people speaking in Midwestern tones (Barone & CQ 14). The 27th has always been Republican, distrusting NYC. It is the most GOP CD in the Empire State with a 4/07/2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index of R+11. As of 4/01/2018, registered GOPers outnumber Democrats here by nearly 42,000 (NYSVoter Enrollment by Congressional District). The 27th is “Trump Country.” Donald clobbered Hillary with nearly 60% of the vote to her mere 35%, the largest Trump victory margin for him among any of the NY House districts (CQ 14 & Cillizza, CNN, 8/08/18).
Schenectady, NY native Chris Collins became a self-made millionaire by buying a gear manufacturing division and then purchasing and investing in several other companies (CQ & Barone 14). In 2007, Collins ran for Erie County Executive and handily won. In 2011, he lost re-election to a Democrat in this heavily “Blue” County. Collins decided to run for Congress in 2012. He ran against the Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul, who had won a special election by attacking GOP Paul Ryan’s anti-Medicare budget. However, because the newly redrawn 27th added some socially conservative suburbs and outside GOP groups spent heavily on his behalf, Collins beat Hochul 51%-49% (Barone 14). Collins has since coasted to re-election, with margins of 72% and 67.7% respectively (NY House 2014 & 2016 Results). Hochul is now NY’s Lt. Governor.
Collins has voted with Demagogue Donald 98.9% of the time (projects.fivethirtyeight.com). Collins’ rubber stamp backing of Donald should come as no surprise. Besides being the first Congressman to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign, Collins seconded Trump’s nomination at the GOP Convention and served as a key figure on his presidential transition team (buffalonews.com, 2/24/16, democratandchronicle.com, WGRZ-TV, 11/6/16, CNN, Cillizza, 8/08/18). In fact, as early as 2014, Collins along with several other GOPers met with Trump at Trump Tower to discuss Donald’s running against Dem. incumbent Andrew Cuomo. Although Trump did not challenge Cuomo, Collins kept in touch with Trump and his advisors (CNN, Cillizza, 8/08/18). Collins also made headlines for admitting that he had voted for the GOP bill to replace Obamacare in 5/2017, even though he had not read the full legislation. He also stated that people “now don’t die from prostate and breast cancer (cnn.com, huffingtonpost.com, Foley, 7/03/12).”
Democrat Nate McMurray’s background and record sharply contrasts with Collins’. McMurray (43) is currently Grand Island’s Town Supervisor where he brought in millions of dollars in business development. He has made Grand Island a tourist center, removed toll barriers on its bridges, and has championed the state’s plan for a major hiking and biking trail along the waterfront. He created budget surpluses and avoided tax increases. Born and raised in North Tonawanda, Nate likes to boast of having “Erie Canal water in his veins.” He grew up right on the Canal and spent summers fishing and swimming in it. His father’s family was one of Tonawanda’s founders. His mother’s family were Polish immigrants who ran a popular bar and grill. The second youngest of seven children, Nate was four when his father, a construction worker, died of cancer in 1979. His mother struggled to pay the bills and worked hard. McMurray enrolled in Erie Community College and took night classes. He paid his tuition by working at cleaning swimming pools and running the front desk at a Holiday Inn (votemcmurray.com/about-nate, mcmurrayforcongress). He graduated from SUNY Buffalo and earned a law degree from CA’s Hastings College. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study constitutional democracy in S. Korea. His wife is from S. Korea and they have two sons. While overseas, he chaired the American Chamber of Commerce Committee for Foreign Investment, worked with the USO, represented the US Embassy, and worked with the Special Olympics (votemcmurray,mcmurrayfor congress). He is pro-choice, pro-environment, and a strong supporter of health care reform.
Can McMurray flip this “deep Red” seat “Blue?” After Collins was indicted, the Cook Political Report changed its assessment of the race from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.” Number cruncher Nate Silver says that a scandal of Collins’ severity would normally “cost a House candidate 10-12 percentage points” in an election. However, in 27th CD “Trump Country” with its heavy GOP voter registration advantage, McMurray probably needs to get this race called a “Toss Up” to have a good chance. If the GOP gets Collins’ name off the ballot with their shenanigans, the new “Red” nominee would be easily favored. Even with Collins’ name remaining on the ballot, voters here could still re-elect Collins and hope for a GOP replacement after the election. Additionally, McMurray has only raised $133,975 and will need many more heavy hitting campaign staffers to run a credible race (Spinelli, “Mother Jones,” 8/09/18). Collins has $1.3 million and the Koch Brothers and GOP national groups will raise millions more for any Collins replacement (See rollcall.com, gonzales). Democrats, if they seriously want to flip the NY 27th, will have to level the financial playing field with millions here to counter the false charges of “radical” already being thrown at McMurray by GOP candidate Mychajliw.
IMHO, McMurray still faces an uphill climb in this race. However, Democrats must keep the GOP on defense in the NY 27th even if they don’t win. They must nationally brand indicted Collins and his GOP supporters as members of the Trump “Culture of Corruption.” This “culture of corruption” issue helped Democrats recapture the House in 2006. The corruption theme can similarly help them take back the 23 seats they need to win the House in 2018 to check Demagogue Donald’s reactionary excesses.