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13 October 2017, 12:23 | Glen Norman
Ethics Committee extends review of Chris Collins
Congressional investigators say there is a "substantial reason to believe" Republican Rep. Chris Collins of NY shared material, non-public information about a drug company he had a major financial stake in and took official actions to assist the company.
Ethics watchdog groups allege Collins sponsored legislation that would benefit the company.
An allegation that he arranged for a company official to meet with officials of the National Institutes of Health about Innate remains under investigation.
Rep. Collins is a frequent face on cable news, as he is one of the few Republican members of Congress who is willing to consistently go on television to defend Trump. A May 2017 Politico investigation revealed that 384 members of the House and Senate made no stock trades over the previous two years, 28 members of the House and six Senators made more than 100 trades often involving policy areas that they oversee.
Collins did win one victory, with the independent Office of Congressional Ethics recommending dismissal of a charge he purchased discounted stock not available to the public.
"There is nothing in the record to suggest, let alone support, the conclusion that Rep. Collins violated House rules, standards of conduct, or federal law". But the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) started probing in March whether Collins overstepped bounds in his advocacy for the firm and corroborated some allegations in July.
Members are prohibited from trading stocks using insider information under a law enacted in 2012.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., also asked agencies to investigate Collins and said the OCE's report shows that Collins "put his obsession to enrich himself before the people he swore to represent". "Rep. Collins has done nothing improper, and his cooperation and candor during the OCE review process confirm he has nothing to hide", they wrote in an August 14 letter released Thursday by the Ethics Committee.
OCE identified multiple instances in which Collins provided updates to USA investors regarding clinical trials and a private placement offering.
"Given Innate's intention to partner with, or become acquired by a large pharmaceutical company, updates on patient enrollment, the eventual completion of enrollment, and specific communications with pharmaceutical companies were likely important facts for investors making a decision about whether to purchase or sell Innate stock", the report said.
Price did not cooperate with the OCE probe, according to the report. "It is a disgrace to Congress and to his constituents, who deserve better". Price was also an investor in Innate and served in the Trump administration as secretary of Health and Human Services until his resignation last month after reports of his extensive private charter travel at taxpayer expense.
The second allegation against Collins concerns discussions with NIH employees in 2013. Yet Collins told OCE that he went to the NIH as a private citizen and described the visit as a "tour", a "high school field trip", and like going "to the Smithsonian".
"If Representative Collins took official actions or requested officials 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", the report says. That led to Innate's chief scientific officer meeting with the NIH. In that meeting, Collins is alleged to have asked with help in designing Innate Immuno's drug trial.
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