Despite an indictment, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) will remain on the ballot in November. Collins has been charged with 13 counts of security fraud, wire fraud, and false statements.
What's the back story?
As a member of the board of the Australian biotech company Immunotherapeutics Limited, Collins received advanced notice that a drug crucial to the company's survival had failed its drug trials. Collins quickly alerted his son who sold off his stock and warned his fiancée’s father to do the same.
Collins has also been under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics since 2017 in an unrelated case also involving Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited. In that investigation, which is still ongoing, Collins is accused of using his position in Congress to help the company.
Since July 2017, Collins has paid for his own legal fees with $250,536 worth of campaign funds. Although perfectly legal, campaign donors may have been unaware that their donations were funding his legal battle. A campaign spokesperson said Collins has since stopped using campaign funds for this purpose.
What happened now?
On Monday, Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said in a news briefing that his team had been working for six weeks on ways to have Collins removed from the ballot. However, he said, the party "no longer had Congressman Collins's cooperation in our efforts to substitute him from the ballot."
Langworthy said that the GOP had a “crystal clear way” to replace Collins, but that ultimately the decision legally rested with Collins himself.
“This is obviously not something we were expecting,” Langworthy noted, adding that party officials had “no reason to expect” that this would happen.
New York Republican Party leaders had been trying to find a way to replace Collins before his election.
In August, Collins had said that he would “fill out the remaining few months” but would drop out of the race. However, Democrats, who see this as an opportunity to grab an otherwise Republican-leaning seat in Congress, have fought this move.
The only way that Collins could be legally removed from the ballot at this point is if he moves out of state, dies, or runs for another local office.
This is similar to the situation in California, where GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter has been charged with misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign resources. California does not allow a third-party candidate this late in the race, preventing the GOP there from throwing its weight behind anyone else.