Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Ethics Committee extends review of Rep. Chris Collins

Ethics Committee extends review of Rep. Chris Collins

The OCE recommended the Ethics Committee further review two allegations against Collins: that he shared non-public information that may have been important to investors deciding whether to purchase company stock, and that he used his official role to assist Innate by discussing the company with National Institutes of Health employees.

Going back to the 1990s, Collins, along with a partner, owned and managed ZeptoMetrix Corporation - a privately held company that grows and maintains an inventory of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other similar clinical specimens.

Mr. Collins enthusiastically pitched Innate to almost everyone he met, the report said, discussing the company with members of Congress and his own staff, "most" of whom were also investors.

What the OCE is concerned with is in regards to a drug trial Innate was conducting in 2015. Some of the nonpublic information that he shared in emails, the report said, included details about how many participants had enrolled in the company's crucial clinical trial and details about the company's communications with large drugmakers who might be interested in acquiring Innate.

The outside, non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics began a review of Collins' activity in March and voted to send its findings to the House ethics panel in July, which can formally launch investigations and recommend any sanctions against any lawmaker it determines has broken any rules.

The House ethics committee is investigating New York Rep. Chris Collins, the first Republican on Capitol Hill to endorse Donald Trump's presidential campaign, for potentially violating federal law and House rules regarding insider trading. In that meeting, Collins is alleged to have asked with help in designing Innate Immuno's drug trial.

But it did find other new instances of potential wrongdoing - notably, a November 18, 2013, visit to the National Institutes of Health, where Collins and a House staffer visited with a key researcher into multiple sclerosis. The employee was apparently aware of Collins' involvement from doing his own research.

Price did not cooperate with the OCE probe, according to the report.

Collins also claimed that he went as a private citizen and the meeting was unrelated to his duties as a public representative, despite his legislative assistant attending with him. In 2013, during a public hearing, Mr. Collins mentioned the drug Innate was developing - called MIS416 - without disclosing his financial interest. The employee also said that Collins left a coin with a congressional stamp on it and asked her for her business card.

The report listed multiple people who refused to cooperate in the ethics review. Former Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, is also an investor in the firm.

Collins issued a statement on Thursday regarding the report.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) strongly denied any wrongdoing, saying that "throughout my tenure in Congress I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines when it comes to my personal investments".

"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", he said.

Collins thanked the committee for its review in the case and "for the tough work they do to hold all members of Congress accountable to the highest standards of conduct". He described the inquiry as being the result of a "witch hunt" driven by Representative Louise Slaughter, Democrat of NY, who requested the investigation. "The bigger question would be, who haven't I talked to?" he told investigators. "It is a disgrace to Congress and to his constituents, who deserve better".

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