Ethics Observations On The Rep. Chris Collins Insider Trading Indictment

Three-term GOP congressman Chris Collins was indicted for insider trading after prosecutors determined that after Innate Immunotherapeutics  alerted him to the failure of company’s clinical drug trials for a promising multiple sclerosis drug, Collins tipped off his son, allowing him and others to  save hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling their stock in the firm before the news was made public. Now Collins faces prison time if convicted.

 Collins was a member of the company’s board until May of this year, and at one point was its largest shareholder.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has stripped Collins of his seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee and asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations of insider trading. Collins has ended his re-election bid, but maintains that he is innocent. Such statements are like the puzzle about the White Foot and Black Foot tribes that look and sound identical but have one difference: the White Feet always lie, and the Black Feet always tell the truth. If you ask a member of either tribe, “Are you a truthful Black Foot or a lying White Foot?”, you will always get the same answer no matter what tribe the individual belongs to: “I am a truthful Black Foot!” And whether an indicted Congressman is guilty or innocent, he will always say, as Collins did, that the charges are “meritless” and that he will fight them to have his “good name cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Until the plea deal.

Collins’s involvement with Innate dates back all the way to 2005, before he ran for Congress. He organized support from wealthy friends and neighbors,  many of whom would later become his political donors,  to help bail out the company, which was flailing at the time. In addition to Innate Immunotherapeutics,  Collins has held leadership roles in other biotech companies.  Until his indictment, he was chairman of the board of directors of ZeptoMetrix, a private lab company based in Buffalo that he co-founded. That one has received millions of dollars in federal contracts, according to government records.

Collins reported owning between $25 million and $50 million in shares of  ZeptoMetrix. In June, he sold about a million dollars of stock in Chembio Diagnostics, a medical tests and equipment manufacturer, according to his ethics disclosure forms.

The congressional ethics office found last summer that  Collins may have violated ethics rules by asking the National Institutes of Health for help with the design of Innate’s now-failed clinical trial.

Observations: Continue reading

I Don’t Know What You Call This, But I’m Pretty Sure It Isn’t “Honesty” Or “Integrity”…

This embarrassing cretinism is why Americans have no respect for politicians, and it is the kind of utter nonsense that explains how a non-politician was able to win the Presidency. It also makes me giggle, I must confess, in light of the serious statement of late by a generally  perceptive commenter  here that “only one party plays by the rules,” meaning Democrats.

Sure.

Over the Fourth of July, Democrats indulged their more deranged radical base by encouraging calls to “abolish ICE.” The motto is a direct challenge to common sense, national security, national integrity, sovereignty, oh, lots and lots of things, but you know: “think of the children,” the President is a Nazi, all of that. Hey, politics is only about figuring out how to govern effectively and responsibly, so why not encourage policy insanity, if it lets “the resistance” blow off steam between episodes of harassing Republicans in grocery stores and restaurants?

Former Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., attacked the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement  as being a part of a “cruel, dysfunctional immigration system.”  Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. said that ICE “has become a deportation force” which should be abolished. She was joined by New York City’s socialist mayor Bill de Blasio, who called the agency “broken” and “divisive,” and tweeted that it should be abolished. Then the grandstanding Democrats really got carried away in their dishonest political science fiction theater: some of them actually submitted a bill to abolish ICE. The Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act was introduced this week by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), and was instantly supported by major Democratic Party leaders  like Sanders, Gillibrand, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as the party’s’ new rock star, House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

And what did those mean old Nazi Republicans do to squash the illegal immigration lovers’ efforts? They announced that they will let the insane bill  go to the floor for a vote, thus forcing Democrats to go on record as opposing the enforcement of immigration laws, which the overwhelming majority of American citizens (aka “voters”) support.

The shocked response of the Democrats, having set a trap and fallen into it was priceless. They did a swell imitation of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, when he was caught in one of his foolish schemes…

On the day after the GOP agreed to put ICE’s existence to a vote, the always risible Ted Lieu (D-Cal) insisted that “Abolish ICE!’ was never meant to be a cry to abolish ICE. “Democrats who have said this are not saying abolish ICE and do nothing,” he humina-ed. “They’re saying we should have a new agency that has principles and values more consistent with what the American people believe.”  Ah. So Democrats saying that they wanted to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement really want Immigration and Customs laws enforced! Thanks for clarifying that, Ted, you pathetic weasel.

But Lieu was instantly outdone by the double-talking sponsors of the bill.  Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Adriano Espaillat of New York—the Three Open Borderskateers who launched the faux  bill, told The Hill, 

“We know Speaker [Paul] Ryan is not serious about passing our ‘Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act,’ so members of Congress, advocacy groups, and impacted communities will not engage in this political stun.If Speaker Ryan puts our bill on the floor, we plan to vote no and will instead use the opportunity to force an urgently needed and long-overdue conversation on the House floor.”

Interesting theory. If the Speaker “isn’t serious” about passing a Democratic bill up for a vote, then it’s not a real bill? Not a good bill? Not a statement of Democratic policy?  Said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), admirably suppressing a grin,  “I think everyone ought to be on record about where they stand on that issue.”

You see, and I know you can see, the Democrats who were calling for the abolishment of ICE were posturing, faking, lying. They were faking their indignation, and pandering in the certainty that they would never have to back up their words with actions.

Snarks Ann Althouse: “This story is the perfect illustration of the phrase ‘It’s all politics.'”

That’s a nice way of describing it.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/28/18: Ingratitude, Dishonesty, Hypocrisy, Speech Suppression And Character Assassination…Is This A Great Country, Or What?

1. An especially despicable example of airbrushing history. It’s done. Yawkey Way, the street bordering Boston’s iconic Fenway Park that was renamed in honor of the owner of the Red Sox and the park following his death in 1977, has been returned to its old name of Jersey Street. The team petitioned for the change, an example of ingratitude and willful betrayal seldom seen in a public institution. A rough equivalent would be the University of Virginia banning the name of Thomas Jefferson. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Boston Red Sox franchise owes it esteemed (and profitable) status in Boston’s culture to Tom Yawkey, who owned the team for almost half a century. He has a plaque in baseball’s Hall of Fame, too. But Yawkey, who was born in the 19th Century was a man of his time, and was late accepting the need to integrate baseball, like every other baseball team owner until 1947, when the Dodgers broke the color line. By the final decade of Yawkee’s ownership, he had certainly learned his lesson: his team had the longest stretch of excellence since Babe Ruth was sold, led by such black stars as George Scott, Reggie Smith, Jim Rice, Cecil Cooper, and Luis Tiant.

Never mind. Last year, Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones triggered a public relations crisis for the team when he claimed that he had heard racial slurs from some fans in the centerfield bleachers. (I don’t doubt him.) The easy solution was to throw Tom Yawkey’s memory under the metaphorical bus, since purging his name (his wife, Jean Yawkey, also owned the team after her husband’s death) from the franchise he built. It proves that John Henry is “woke,” you see.How cynical and cowardly.

(My previous posts on this topic are here.)

2. Another one bites the dust. Good. Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA) had already announced that he wouldn’t be running again after it was revealed that he had paid taxpayer funds to a sexual harassment victim on his staff,  abruptly resigned yesterday to avoid a House ethics investigation. “While I do believe I would be exonerated of any wrongdoing, I also did not want to put my staff through the rigors of an Ethics Committee investigation and believed it was best for them to have a head start on new employment rather than being caught up in an inquiry,”  Meehan said in his disingenuous statement, insulting anyone who read it,“And since I have chosen to resign, the inquiry will not become a burden to taxpayers and committee staff.”

Riiiight.

Meehan also said he would payback  $39,000 to the Treasury to reimburse the cost of what he described as a “severance payment,” as in “negotiated damages for workplace misconduct that he didn’t want to have made public.”

Say what you will about #MeToo, it has chased a lot of public trust-abusing creeps out of Congress. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2018: The Bad, The Beautiful, And The Stupid

Good morning, everyone…

1. Tales of the King’s Pass. Fox News put out a statement saying that Sean Hannity had its “full support.” We can assume that means no punishment, no sanctions, not even any public regrets, despite the fact, and it is a fact, that the right-wing talk-show host-turned-Trump propagandist went on the air and defended Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, without mentioning the fact that Hannity was Cohen’s client. Thus Fox is announcing, in effect, that undisclosed conflicts of interest are just fine and dandy if your ratings are good enough. This also means that Fox News is admitting that it really doesn’t care about candor, honesty, and objectivity, since it will ignore blatant violations of all three if the profit is sufficient.

In fairness to Fox, Hannity’s blatant biases toward all things Trump are no more egregious than the open Obama bias displayed across the mainstream media’s full spectrum of journalists and pundits; it just stands out more because he has less company. However, this is a specific conflict of interest, with Hannity having undisclosed connections to a newsmaker that could reasonably affect his commentary. The closest parallel would be ABC’s George Stephanopoulos reporting on the Clinton Foundation’s dubious activities without telling viewers that he was a $75,000 donor. ABC didn’t discipline him, either, but at least he made a public apology on the air.

To make the King’s Pass case even stronger, after Politico reported this week that dinnertime news anchor Bret Baier played nine holes of golf with President Trump over the weekend, Fox News acknowledged that Baier was admonished by the president of the network.  I don’t agree with the reprimand at all. The opportunity to spend that kind of time with a President is invaluable, a rare opportunity to acquire insight and access over an extended period of time. The idea, I assume, is that it creates the illusion of chumminess. It’s a dumb illusion. If I were a journalist,  I would play golf with anyone if it allowed me to learn something. If I were president of a network, I’d reprimand a reporter for turning down such an opportunity.

2. The Virtue-Signaling Hall Of Fame. Starbucks is reacting to the PR nightmare arising out of the arrest of two black men for refusing to order anything while waiting for a companion in a Philadelphia Starbucks by a grand gesture: it will close all U.S. stores and corporate offices on the afternoon of May 29 for “employee racial bias training.” I suppose this is good crisis management, though cynical and non-substantive. It also permanently tars as a racist the Starbucks ex-manager, who says she was following a locale-specific company policy in an area that had experienced problems with loitering. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY)

jailedI have to get the ridiculous Congressman Grimm on the record so he’s eligible for the “Worst of Ethics 2014”  awards coming up in just a week or so.

You’ll remember the charming Rep. Grimm from this post, when he threatened to kill a reporter for asking him a question.

Now, after winning re-election in November (Staten Island and South Brooklyn, hang your head) despite being indicted on 20 criminal counts mail fraud and perjury, he has pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion and will be sentenced in June. He could spend from 24 to 30 months in prison.

So far, Grimm has indicated that he will not resign, which is where the “incompetent” comes in: he’s nuts. The nation can’t have convicted felons making its laws, or even sitting in the halls of Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for Grimm to be thrown out; for once she’s right. It is likely that republican leadership will move against him quickly if he continues to be stubborn.

The House’s code of conduct could force him to abstain from congressional activities. There is a House rule that states that a member who has been convicted of a crime “for which a sentence of two or more years’ imprisonment may be imposed should refrain from participation” in committees and from “voting on any question at a meeting of the House,” until the member is “reelected to the House after the date of such conviction.”

The man has embarrassed himself, his office, his district, his constituency, anyone who voted for him, his party, his state and his nation and its system of government. Of course he has to resign.

I must say, though, if Grimm believes the same bozos who elected him in November won’t abandon him just because he’s wearing an orange jumpsuit while running, you can hardly blame him.

UPDATE: Grimm will resign.

______________

Sources: NPR, Washington Post

Two Embarrassed Legislators, Sex, And The Resignation Line

Question: When does a sexually-charged incident obligate an elected legislator to resign?

Answer: When one or more of the following is true:

  • When the legislator has been found guilty of a sex-related offense in a court of law ( or guilty of any crime, since law-makers must no be law-breakers.)
  • When the incident indicates a bigoted and disrespectful attitude toward women.
  • When the incident makes the legislator’s necessary status as a role model to children and others impossible to sustain,
  • When the incident embarrasses the legislative body and calls its competence, integrity and trustworthiness into disrepute.
  • When the incident calls into question the legislator’s judgment and trustworthiness.

With these standards in mind, let us examine the recent plights of two legislators, one Republican, and one Democrat. First, the Republican:

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.)

Blake

Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.)

Hey, maybe Trey Radel is trying to emulate the coke-addicted Congressman Peter Russo on "House of Cards"! Quick...somebody tell Trey what happened to him. THAT should make him quit...

Hey, maybe Trey Radel is trying to emulate  coke-addicted Congressman Peter Russo from  “House of Cards”! Quick…somebody tell Trey what happened to him. THAT should make him quit…

This is rather straight-forward.  Trey Radel was elected to represent his district and his state in Congress, and to make laws. He broke the law instead, getting arrested for trying to purchase cocaine. The short term for the Florida Congressman is “disgrace,” and if he had any respect for those who thought  they were voting for an honest, trustworthy man, he would resign. Instead, after taking a leave of absence to complete a rehab program (meaning that a self-inflicted disability robbed his district from representation for about 4% of the term he pledged to serve), he vows to stay on the job. Typical of his nonsensical posturing is this statement: Continue reading