September 18, 2018

Collins to Run Again After All

Buffalo-area congressman and Trump first responder Chris Collins is going to be on the ballot for his congressional seat in November after all.

Unfortunately, it seems, trying to get off the ballot under some grand scheme being worked on by Erie County Republicans and Collins could jeopardize his defense against the federal criminal charges filed against him mid-summer, and could have led to a lawsuit by NY Democrats fighting against the plan to replace him on the ballot. It might even have jeopardized his bail, attorneys thought, which negated his earlier statement that he would suspend his campaign:
After extensive discussions with my family and my friends over the last few days, I have decided that it's in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party, and president Trump's agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress it's in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party, and president Trump's agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress.
Part of this is because of NY's convoluted election law; he'd only get off the ballot if he was no longer a resident of NY, or nominated for another office, or dead. Something we might want to think about changing in the future,  fellow NY voters...

Speaking of attorneys, it probably shouldn't be shocking to learn that Collins had used campaign funds to pay legal fees related to the insider trading. From this report  in August, we learn (emphasis added)
Since July 2017, Federal Election Commission records show Collins' campaign has been paying up to $60,000 per month in legal services to prestigious law firm Baker Hostetler. The firm is representing Collins in the case.
While it is legal to use campaign funds to pay for legal fees, it's not clear whether Collins' constituents and supporters were aware that donations were being used to assist his legal fight.
Those legal fees covered the time period of two separate House probes, including one by the Office of Congressional Ethics and another by the House Ethics Committee. 
A spokesman for the Collins legal team confirmed that the payments from the campaign were for the investigation by the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics and an ongoing inquiry by the House Ethics Committee. Going forward, the congressman will pay for his legal bills out of his own pocket, the spokesman added. 
That's right -- like a lot of other ridiculous expenses, including steak dinners and golf outings, legal fees can be paid out of campaign funds.

I mean, from an ethical perspective, isn't Collins using campaign funds to pay legal fees kind of like the president using donations to his charitable foundation for his own selfish purposes?

Collins recently did an interview with a Buffalo TV station, noting that he welcomed the FBI when they showed up at his house early one morning back in April, and that he thought when he was talking to them that it was related to the ethics investigations (that started in 2016, he noted). In the interview, he was asked whether he thought he had let his constituents down.
No, again, no allegations against me have a thing to do with my role as a member of Congress. Nor did I ever sell any stock, so I'm holding my head high.
He's right on the latter point -- as his stock is in a trust, he couldn't actually sell any specific stock.

But on the former, I can't disagree more: with two separate ethics investigations, the first finding good reason to refer him for the second one, his ethics have everything to do with his role as a Congressman.

 And voters seem to understand that, apparently; for example, residents in Eden, the likely spot to drop Collins so he wouldn't have to run for his Congressional seat, were not at all excited about that idea.
Car horns honked, eliciting cheers as they drove past the group of protesters standing outside the Eden Town Hall. Signs labeled "fraud," "Collins is a swamp monster," and "Eden not bossed, not bought, not Collins," waved in the air as the crowd marched down to the intersection at Route 62 and East Church Street... The protest is the latest in a series of protests revolving around the Republicans' attempts to get Chris Collins off the November congressional ballot after the congressman suspended his campaign following an indictment for federal insider trading and fraud charges. 
Hopefully, voters in the 27th district will do the right thing in November and not give him a single vote.

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