Congressman Collins may have broken rules and possibly law, Office of Congressional Ethics says
Congressman Chris Collins may have broken rules and possibly the federal law with his advocacy for a biotech firm, the Office of Congressional Ethics said on Thursday.
The watchdog group found Collins may have violated the law by meeting with government researchers in his official capacity. The 6-member Office of Congressional Ethics said Collins was acting to benefit Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited, a biotech company he is invested in, and was sharing private information to get investments in the firm.
The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics voted unanimously to have the Committee on Ethics look into the allegations. That Committee, if it finds wrongdoing, could sanction Collins, a Republican from Clarence whose district includes Orleans County.
“The Board recommends that the Committee on Ethics further review the above allegation because there is a substantial reason to believe that Representative Collins took official actions or requested official actions that would assist a single entity in which he had a significant financial interest, in violation of House rules and standards of conduct,” the Board wrote.
The Board in its report said that Collins may have purchased discounted Innate stock that was not available to the public and that was offered to him based on his status as a Member of the House of Representatives. That would violate the House rules, standards of conduct and federal law.
Collins also attended a meeting at the National Institutes of Health in November 2013. In that meeting, Collins discussed Innate and requested that an NIH employee meet with Innate employees to discuss clinical trial designs, the Office of Congressional Ethics said.
“If Representative Collins took official actions or requested official actions that would assist a single entity in which he had a significant financial interest, then he may have violated House rules and standards of conduct,” according to the report from the board on Thursday.
Collins has faulted Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, D-Rochester, for “a personal vendetta” against him, in bringing the ethics complaint.
“Throughout my tenure in Congress I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines when it comes to my personal investments,” Collins said in a statement. “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.”
Slaughter pushed for the STOCK Act for six years until it was finally passed in 2012. The bill prohibits insider trading by members of Congress, their staff, and other government employees.
“Anyone who has the privilege to be a member of Congress has a responsibility to uphold the public trust and meet the highest ethical standard,” Slaughter said in a statement on Thursday. “I wrote the STOCK Act and fought for six years to get it signed into law for precisely that reason. I called for the Ethics Committee to investigate Congressman Collins given all the evidence that suggests he used his position in the public trust for his own personal gain. Many people, including many members of Congress from his own party, were concerned by his zealous pursuit of profits when he should have been representing his constituents.”
Collins, in an interview with Fox News on Thursday, called Slaughter “a despicable human being” who is on “a witch hunt.”
Slaughter, in her statement to the media, said, “The Office of Congressional Ethics has found clear and convincing evidence that Congressman Collins likely broke federal law. He put his obsession to enrich himself before the people he swore to represent. It is a disgrace to Congress and to his constituents, who deserve better.”