House Ethics Committee Homing In on Rep. Chris Collins?

Congressman Chris Collins Speaks At Donald Trump Rally in Buffalo, NY

Congressman Chris Collins Speaks At Donald Trump Rally in Buffalo, NY

The House Ethics Committee may be homing in on New York Rep. Chris Collins, an early Trump supporter from the Buffalo area who has found himself in trouble as a result of his investment into a pharmaceutical company.

The Committee announced this week that it has “decided to extend the matter,” and that “the Committee will announce its course of action in this matter on or before Thursday, October 12, 2017.”

The Committee also notes that its announcement shouldn’t be taken as an indication of a violation of ethics rules, though local news in Buffalo is treating it as a bad sign, and certainly Collins would have hoped the Committee would have concluded its investigation by now, and favorably.

Collins is alleged to have violated the STOCK Act, to have tried to induce fellow members of Congress and friends in high places in Buffalo to purchase the stock, and in the words of Collins’ hometown paper, “discuss[ed] stock trades on House property.”

Critics have also noted that Collins has put congressional muscle behind proposed policies that would benefit the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics.

The House Ethics Committee generally doesn’t punish those it finds in violation of its rules extremely harshly, but if it finds Collins did something wrong, it may have an incentive to go harder on him than it normally would. With some strategists predicting a tough mid-term election for House members, signs of ethical taint or misbehavior in office could be damaging to the party beyond individual candidates. In 2006, when Republicans famously performed abysmally, TIME magazine noted:

But in the end, what appears to have mattered most was Congress’ own behavior. Fully 74% of voters surveyed in exit polls ranked corruption and ethics as important in determining their votes; by comparison, 67% said that about Iraq.

Of course, there are plenty of Democrats under House Ethics Committee investigations, too. However, Collins could be expected to play prominently in Democratic attacks in a mid-term due to his close relationship with President Trump, and the fact that he has appeared as a surrogate for the President on cable news with some frequency.