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Ryan removes Collins from House commerce committee; Other indictment reactions

Eileen Buckley
Erie County Executive Chris Collins talks about budget surplus

Rep. Christopher Collins (R-Clarence) has been indicted on charges that he used inside information about a biotechnology company to make illicit stock trades- prompting  a range of statements from both sides of the aisle, and triggering his removal from the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

The charges were announced and the indictment unsealed in New York City on Wednesday.

In a separate but related proceeding, the US Securities and Exchange Commission announced a civil action against Collins, his son Cameron, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron's fiancee.

The indictment charges Collins, his son, and Zarsky  with conspiracy, wire fraud and other counts.

Read more:  Congressman Chris Collins, relatives, indicted on insider trading charges :


Other statements:

Attorneys Jonathan Barr and Jonathan New, of Baker Hostetler LLC, a Washington DC law firm, in a statement released by Cong. Collins office:

We will answer the charges filed against Congressman Collins in Court and will mount a vigorous defense to clear his good name. It is notable that even the government does not allege that Congressman Collins traded a single share of Innate Therapeutics stock. We are confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated. Congressman Collins will have more to say on this issue later today."

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has removed Collins from the Energy & Commerce Committee, and released the  following statement:

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. Insider trading is a clear violation of the public trust. Until this matter is settled, Rep. Collins will not be serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.”

Congressman Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) :

“The allegations included in the indictment against Rep. Chris Collins can be summed up in one word: shameful. 

“These charges, including insider trading, conspiracy to commit fraud, and lying to federal officials, laid out by professionals within the Justice Department and FBI are backed up by comprehensive evidence of these very serious offenses.

“I am confident that, in due course, justice will be served.”

Democrat Nate McMurray running against Collins in November:  “This is why I got in this race, because I understand that the man who claims to represent this community doesn’t actually represent it,” McMurray said. “Chris Collins has openly admitted that he serves only wealthy donors and that his proudest accomplishment is making millions for his friends here in Western New York and in Washington. That’s not what Congress is for and not what our democracy is about.

“Today’s allegations by the US attorney were shocking and sad, but not surprising – this has been unfolding, piece by piece, for many months. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows what’s going on. And now the jig is up, because no matter how this is spun, it’s clear that the swamp is alive and well in Washington, DC.” 

Erie County Exec. Mark Poloncarz, in a tweet Wednesday: " Today's news has me thinking about my late dear friend @louiseslaughter who wrote the STOCK Act to prevent representatives from using insider information to their advantage. Ethics and integrity mattered to her, it matters to me & should matter to all. Thanks Louise!"

Late Wednesday afternoon Poloncarz's office issued a written statement.

"The crimes charged against Congressman Collins are very serious. As an attorney I know it is a guiding tenet of our democracy that anyone charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and thus Mr. Collins is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. However, his alleged use of confidential information to benefit those close to him goes straight to the heart of whether we as elected officials serve the public or ourselves. If Mr. Collins is convicted or pleads guilty to a lesser charge he must immediately resign from office and offer an apology to his constituents for violating the trust placed in him by the people of 27th Congressional District. The people of his district, like the constituents for any office, deserve nothing less than to know their representative is working on their behalf," stated Poloncarz.

To read the entire statement from Poloncarz click here.

Erie County Legislature Lynne Dixon, republican from Hamburg: “I’m surprised, of course, but I think I will let the facts play out first before I make any judgement one way or the other.  I’m going to let the investigation playout.  Let’s hear details of the investigation. Let’s see where it goes," Dixon told WBFO News while attending a luncheon at the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora Wednesday. "Hamburg is the largest town in the congressional district that he represents, so certainly, I, myself and office deals with his office on a number of issues and we will continue to do that. There’s a great support staff and that holds true for both republicans and democrats, there are a lot of people that feel strongly on the issues that their party stands for that work behind the scenes in the offices and do a lot of good work and we will continue to work with his staff.  I’m sure there are going to be plenty of questions in the days, weeks and months to come. It has prompted people to sit up and take notice for sure."