The following editorial appeared in the Times Herald-Record (Middletown, New York), a fellow GateHouse Media publication. Guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the views of Messenger Post Media.
Money. Power. Influence. Arrogance.
No, we’re not talking about Donald Trump.
We’re talking about now former-congressman Chris Collins of Buffalo. Collins, a Republican, resigned from Congress on Monday. On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and lying to federal investigators, both felonies. Collins’ son and his son’s future father-in-law this week entered guilty pleas in connection with the same insider-trading case.
This very bad week for the Collins family grew out of a series of frantic phone calls Collins made to his son from the White House lawn in the midst of a congressional picnic on June 22, 2017. Collins had just received an email from the CEO of a drug company on whose board he sat saying the company’s only drug had failed in clinical trials. Collins knew the coming public announcement of the news would send the company’s stock plummeting and he called his son — seven times until he reached him — to tell him to sell his stock before that happened. His son did just that, saving about $570,000. The son also told his future father-in-law to dump his stock.
Until this week, Collins had proclaimed his innocence, as he did when the FBI knocked on his door in April of 2018 to ask him about the convenient stock dumps. (The company’s stock plunged 90 percent when the bad news on the drug trials came out.) He even ran for re-election last year and won, by a half a percentage point over his Democratic challenger in a district Trump carried by 25 points.
The lying and involvement of family in shady deals are also reminiscent of Trump, which is not surprising when one considers that Collins, a millionaire as well, was the first member of Congress to endorse Trump’s candidacy for president and strongly supported his views on issues such as immigration and taxes.
There was, in essence, an attitude in Collins that the rules did not apply to him. So, despite serving on the board and owning 17 percent of the shares of Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian firm whose one product was an experimental treatment for multiple sclerosis, Collins also served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees health care.
He was removed from that committee when the insider trading charges were filed and the House Ethics Committee subsequently found that he had probably violated House rules. Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, alluded to this cozy arrangement Tuesday: "By virtue of his office, Christopher Collins helped write the laws of this country, but he acted as if the law did not apply to him."
Collins faces five years in prison, two years of supervised probation and a hefty fine. The judge, who has sentencing discretion despite Collins’ plea agreement with prosecutors, also noted the attitude of immunity from the law, saying, "I’d ask that when you speak to the probation officers, that everything you tell them is the complete truth."
Supporters say Collins finally fessed up to spare his son, who is 26, a lengthy prison term. Sounds like something Trump might do.