Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence) says his last day in office will be Dec. 31, as charges of insider trading against him have essentially ended his political career and reputation. He says what he does next will not be politics.
Speaking to WIVB-TV in his first interview since his indictment in August, Collins did not talk about the case itself, but said it all began with a "witchhunt" by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and the late Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester).
"A good friend of mine, Tom Price, was an investor with a private placement with full disclosure, a position he saw the potential, as well, and he acquired the stock and that came up in his Senate confirmation and then that started the whole idea of 'what's he doing buying stock in a private placement?'" Collins said. "Well, that's how little companies, small companies, do things. There was nothing improper or anything else, but that started the witchhunt."
The U.S. Justice Department has filed charges against Collins, his son Cameron Collins and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron Collins’ fiancée, in the alleged insider trading scheme. The charges are related to Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotechnology company on whose board of directors Chris Collins served. He was also one of the company's largest shareholders, according to federal prosecutors.
Collins maintained the charges against him are "meritless" and that he will be exonerated.
"This happened. I'm going to overcome it. I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to become stronger because of it. That's where my head is at right now," he said. "I don't know what the next chapters are. My wife is confident I'm going to reinvent myself. I don't know exactly what that's going to be. My focus right now is beating these charges in court. So there'll be something I can give back."
He likened this time in his career to his 2011 loss in the race for Erie County Executive.
"Don't forget, I loss my re-election for County Executive. I expected two or three more terms as County Executive. So I've experienced this once," Collins said. "I did not expect to lose that election. I had to box up my office after losing that election and go home and say, 'Now what?'"
Collins said Republic Party leaders have assured him his name will be off the ballot on Election Day, even though Democrats have vowed to fight that. Republican Party leaders have been huddling, but no candidate has been endorsed to replace Collinson the ballot yet. They have their choice among nine willing candidates.