Collins faces ethics inquiry over investments

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UNITED STATES - JANUARY 25: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., left, and Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., do live television news interviews in the media room at the GOP retreat in Philadelphia onThhursday, Jan. 26, 2017. House and Senate Republicans are holding their retreat through Friday in Philadelphia. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) is under scrutiny by ethics investigators for his role in soliciting investors for an Australian biotech company, according to a news report.

The Buffalo News reported on Tuesday that investigators from the Office of Congressional Ethics — the independent ethics watchdog — are speaking to Buffalo-area investors in the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, over Collins’ role in finding investors.

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Collins owns a stake in the firm worth $5 million to $25 million, according to his most recent financial disclosure report.

Collins, one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters, was once heard bragging in the House Speakers’ Lobby about “how many millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo the past few months.”

Several GOP lawmakers, including now Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, bought shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics. Price made more than $225,000 on his purchase, more than tripling his initial stake. Price’s investment in Innate Immunotherapeutics became an issue in his confirmation hearings.

In a statement, Collins’ top aide insisted that the third-term lawmaker has followed ethics and legal guidelines in his dealings with Innate Immunotherapeutics.

"Despite the continued partisan attacks insinuating otherwise, Congressman Collins has followed all ethical guidelines related to his personal finances during his time in the House and will continue to do so," said Michael Kracker, Collins’ chief of staff.

“Congressman Collins’ relationship with Innate Immunotherapeutics dates back more than 15 years."

Kracker would not comment on whether Collins is cooperating with OCE or whether he has hired legal counsel to represent him in the investigation.

The OCE would not discuss a potential probe of Collins.

OCE can recommend a full-scale investigation into a lawmaker by the Ethics Committee, but it cannot sanction any lawmaker or aide. That is under the aegis of the Ethics Committee alone.

Source Politico