Rep. Collins may have broken federal law for sharing private information

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The conclusions were included in an announcement Thursday from the House Ethics Committee that it was extending its review of the three-term congressman, an early and strong supporter of President Donald Trump.

And while the Office of Congressional Ethics' findings about Collins were different than what Slaughter had suggested the committee might find, she said the office's report made it clear that Collins likely violated federal law in touting Innate's prospects with inside information. But the OCE report released Thursday details an instance when the NY congressman raised specific issue about an Innate drug at a public hearing before the House science committee where a witness from the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke was testifying in 2013.

"They're a waste of taxpayer money and they accomplish nothing", Collins told reporters in the Capitol. "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.

But the two remaining charges against Collins and the 155 pages of evidence released with the Office of Congressional Ethics report collectively portray a congressman working hard on behalf of an Australian company in possible violation of US law and House ethics rules.

"Rep. Collins has done nothing improper, and his cooperation and candor during the OCE review process confirm he has nothing to hide", Braden said in a letter to the House Ethics Committee.

Slaughter said Thursday that the report showed Collins "put his obsession to enrich himself before the people he swore to represent". When asked by OCE about his communications with members of Congress and staff about Innate, Collins responded: "The bigger question would be, who haven't I talked to?"

Said Collins, "She's a despicable human being". "You don't go after another member" of the House.

Collins' ties to Innate Immuno have been under public scrutiny since January, when Price was found to have purchased a significant stake in the company amid his nomination as HHS secretary.

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Collins strongly denied any wrongdoing, saying that "throughout my tenure in Congress I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines when it comes to my personal investments".

Price did not cooperate with the OCE probe, according to the report.

The OCE recommended the dismissal of a third allegation, that Collins purchased discounted stock that was offered to him because he's a congressman.

But it did find other new instances of potential wrongdoing - notably, a November 18, 2013, visit to the National Institutes of Health, where Collins and a House staffer visited with a key researcher into multiple sclerosis. The official then invited Collins for a visit.

One NIH employee interviewed by OCE about that visit in 2013 said that Collins told them that Innate needed help with a Phase 2 drug trial and asked them to help, and she agreed. Advocacy groups had said Collins sponsored legislation that could potentially benefit the company. By doing that, Collins may have violated the federal Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, a law barring insider trading among members of Congress, as well as House ethics guidelines.

Public Citizen had requested that the OCE review whether Collins and former Rep. Tom Price had used their office for personal benefit. "I clearly understand the optics, but there was nothing done that was wrong".

The discussion of Innate Immuno's trial, he added, "was an afterthought at the end of a tour".

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