Congressman Collins defends himself over ethics concerns

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Republican Congressman Chris Collins is defending himself again over claims he acted unethically.

The Office of Congressional Ethics has received a number of requests for an investigation based on Collins’ stock purchases and also possible conflict of interest. The Office of Congressional Ethics cannot confirm to News 4 any investigation that may or may not be happening.

The Buffalo News reports Tuesday night an investigation is underway.

News 4 contacted two of the people who asked for an investigation, neither could independently confirm it.

Collins is on the board of directors for the company Innate Immunotherapeutics. He is also the largest shareholder. Collins told News 4 he’s had a relationship with the company for 15 years.

The company says on its website it’s currently working to develop a live-saving treatment for multiple sclerosis.

The non-profit Public Citizen sent a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics in January, voicing concern that Collins is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which passed the 21st Century Cure Act to accelerate clinical trials and expand resources to find a cure for neurological disorders like M.S.

Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, from Rochester said after Congress passed the law, Innate Immunotherapeutics stock tripled.

Collins is accused of giving a tip to fellow Congressman Tom Price to buy stock months before the law passed.

Collins denied the accusation to News 4’s Nalina Shapiro in January.

“No insider trading, no special deals,” said Collins. “I talk about it with everyone.”

Price is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He was questioned about the stock purchase during his confirmation hearings.

Collins’ spokesperson Michael Kracker sent News 4 a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

“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.

“Congressman Collins’ relationship with Innate Immunotherapeutics dates back more than 15 years. Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis is one of the most debilitating diseases in the world and Congressman Collins saw its deadly impact first hand as it affected a close family member. As of now, it has no cure and no relief of symptoms. He is very proud of the progress the company has made over the years and hopeful it will develop a potentially life-saving treatment for the millions of individuals suffering from Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.”

Congresswoman Slaughter has proposed an amendment to a bill that prevents insider trading by members of congress. The amendment would close a loophole so lawmakers can’t take part in a foreign IPO.

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