Another Gift For Democrats

Update 20:00: In a public statement this evening, Rep. Collins announced that he is not going to resign his seat and will remain on the ballot in November. He refused to take any questions from the press. Shades of felon Michael Grimm (R-NY11).

Arrogance and stupidity can be a fatal combination, especially to a Republican running for reelection in a very blue state. New York state has its share of this class of congress critters on both sides of the aisle. This time its a House Republican, in a relatively safe New York seat. This morning Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York charged Representative Chris Collins (R-NY27), his son and another man with 13 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud and false statements stemming from an alleged insider trading scheme involving an Australian pharmaceutical company.

Prosecutors at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York alleged in an indictment that Collins and the other defendants used nonpublic information about the results of a drug trial to trade on the stock of the pharmaceutical company, Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited, of which Collins was a board member.

That allowed them, prosecutors allege, to avoid more than $768,000 in losses they would have incurred if they had traded the stock after the drug trial results became public.

Collins “placed his family and friends above the public good,” said US Attorney Geoffrey Berman at a news conference Wednesday in New York City. Berman also stated Collins “cheated our markets and our justice system.” [..]

The 30-page indictment highlights that the congressman both received the information about the failed drug trial from the company’s CEO and then repeatedly dialed his son, Cameron Collins, while the elder Collins was attending the annual congressional picnic at the White House on June 22, 2017.

“At the time Christopher Collins, the defendant, received this email, he was attending the Congressional Picnic at the White House,” the indictment says. At 7:10 p.m., he responded to the CEO: “Wow. Makes no sense. How are these results even possible???” [..]

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that Collins would be removed from the House Energy and Commerce Committee “until the matter is settled.”

“While his guilt or innocence is a question for the courts to settle, the allegations against Rep. Collins demand a prompt and thorough investigation by the House Ethics Committee,” Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said in a statement. “Insider trading is a clear violation of the public trust.”

It is relatively rare for prosecutors to indict a sitting elected official, particularly in an election year, and in the case of Collins, prosecutors at the Southern District of New York carefully weighed when to bring the charges, staying mindful of the upcoming election cycle in November, according to people familiar with the matter. [..]

The House Ethics Committee last October disclosed that it was investigating Collins for potentially violating federal law and House rules regarding insider trading. The outside, non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics began a review of Collins’ activity in March 2017 and voted to send its findings to the House ethics panel that July, which can formally launch investigations and recommend any sanctions against any lawmaker it determines has broken any rules. The ethics committee announced in the release of the report that it would start a review of Collins.

The report details how Collins met with officials at the National Institutes of Health to discuss the development of a drug made by Innate, a company whose board he served on.

“There is a substantial reason to believe that Representative Collins shared material nonpublic information in the purchase of Innate stock, in violation of House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law,” according to the report by the non-partisan ethics office, released by the Ethics Committee last fall.

Collins, who was among the first to come out in support of Donald Trump, posted a letter on line to his supporters stating that he would not address the charges and would not resign his seat.

Collins represent NY-27 in upstate NY on the Canadian border. Cook Political report rates the district R+11. Even if Collins is convicted and sent to jail, this will be a really tough district for Democrats.

Voters in NY-27 have also voted for Republicans in each of the last three presidential elections by 10 points or more — including backing President Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a margin of 25 points.

Added to this, Collins’ Democratic rival, Nate McMurray, is being badly outraised by his GOP counterpart so far this year. The Niagara Gazette reported last month that “McMurray’s campaign reported having $81,772 on hand — falling well below the $1.34 million campaign war chest reported by the Collins campaign in its report to the FEC.”

All the same, the battle against Collins isn’t completely hopeless.

In the first place, Democrats in 2018 have been significantly outperforming relative to what they’ve done in past congressional elections. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA), for instance, overcame the odds and won an election in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, which also has a partisan lean of R+11. And on Tuesday, Ohio Democrat Danny O’Connor came within one point of defeating a Republican in OH-12, which has a partisan lean of R+7.

These Democratic candidates over-performed, for what it’s worth, against candidates who were not facing major scandals as Collins is right now.

Additionally, NY-27 was represented by a Democrat as recently as 2012, when Collins barely eked out a victory against incumbent Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul.

So while Collins would typically be a favorite to hold onto his seat even in a Democratic wave year, the securities fraud scandal might be enough to put his seat within reach.

Consider Collins hubris a gift to Democrats in November, hopefully, with a big blue bow.