Collins is campaigning to use office to avoid jail for insider trading crime
If I may, I’d like to elaborate on Mr. Paul McQuillen’s recent opinion piece on Congressman Chris Collins. Our elected officials are gifted with a unique entitlement not available to the ordinary citizen. Most of us have seen this entitlement in action but perhaps not all of us fully appreciate it.
When an elected official is caught breaking the law – they can resign. Their resignation is effectively a “get out of jail free” card – a card available nearly exclusively to elected officials. Space and time do not permit an exhaustive list, but some random stories reveal that which I’m speaking of.
In 2015, New Mexico’s Secretary of State, Dianna Duran, was charged with 65 counts of public corruption. She pled guilty to six of them. She was allowed to resign (and keep her pension) but avoid any jail time. In 2017, it was determined that probable cause existed that Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley, had broken campaign finance laws. He pled guilty, paid a $7,000 fine and was forced to resign.
West Virginia’s Supreme Court Justice, Allen Loughry, resigned after a federal grand jury handed down a 22-count indictment against him that involved false statements, wire fraud and witness tampering. His resignation was accepted in exchange for foregoing any sort of criminal prosecution. In 2018 a delegate from West Virginia was forced to resign to avoid jail time relating to the mishandling of $150 million meant to go to flood victims.
Everyone knows of a crooked politician who played his or her “get out of jail free” card by tendering their resignation. New York has seen our fair share. I would add Collins to this potential list. Mr. Collin’s got caught red-handed working an illegal insider-trading deal.
We presume innocence until proven guilty but in some cases this is merely a formality. If I’m caught driving around in a vehicle I’ve just stolen, I’m innocent too. But let’s face it, this would be merely a temporary procedural status.
I disagree with Mr. McQuillen’s assessment that Mr. Collins will “use his seat in Congress as a bargaining chip.” I’m not sure Collins could do this and it isn’t necessary at any rate. Mr. McQuillen observes that Mr. Collins’ return to the campaign trail is “disingenuous.” I don’t believe it is, but it does make sense. It makes sense because Mr. Collins must get elected in order to resign – and remember – it’s an elected official’s resignation that’s allows him or her to throw down their “get out of jail free” card.
Mr. McQuillen is entirely correct that “Collins isn’t campaigning to represent the people of NY-27.” He’s not. Collins is campaigning to get re-elected, only so that he may resign and avoid prosecution. If Mr. Collin’s doesn’t get re-elected – then he’s an ordinary citizen and therefore loses that unique elected-official entitlement of resigning vs. being prosecuted.
What this boils down to is that a vote for Mr. Collins isn’t a vote for his policies, it’s a “jury vote” that says you desire that Mr. Collins avoid potential prosecution for the things he’s done.
It’s high time we stopped allowing unethical elected officials who abuse public office to “resign” and accept that all is now forgiven. And full disclosure, I currently hold a publicly elected position.
Darren D. Wilson