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Financial disclosure by Collins confirms he is a very wealthy man

Congressional candidate Chris Collins on Monday released a financial disclosure statement required by federal law that confirms what everyone already knew: The former county executive is a very wealthy man.

The personal finance statement filed by Collins to satisfy Federal Elections Commission rules set off a new round of sniping between him and Republican primary opponent David Bellavia as they square off for the right to face Democratic Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul in November. They challenged and counterchallenged each other over who is more "transparent" in revealing details of their personal finances.

It all began last week when Bellavia released six years of tax returns detailing what he called a middle-class income and background. The candidate displayed income tax returns dating from 2006 showing his income in the mid-$60,000 range for most years, though jumping to $106,193 in 2007 and dipping to $24,141 in 2009. He said the low figure resulted from his stint running a Washington foundation assisting veterans that hit a low point during the recession.

Monday, Collins revealed investment assets ranging between approximately $25 million and $112 million, according to the FEC's broad reporting guidelines. The statement also showed Collins will earn anywhere between $345,000 and $3.15 million this year, while he earned between $450,000 and $3.3 million last year.

The statement does not include the real estate value of his two homes, one in Clarence and one in Florida.

But it does reveal income from serving as a director of his various investment companies, including ZeptoMetrix Corp. of Buffalo, Volland Electric Equipment Corp. of Buffalo and Audubon Machinery Corp. of North Tonawanda. It also lists the Worth Collection Ltd. of New York City as a "spouse's business" involving his wife, Mary.

In addition, the report lists dozens of investments in local and national companies, various stocks, funds and bank accounts.

But Bellavia said merely fulfilling FEC requirements fails to provide the transparency of income tax returns like those he revealed last week.

"I've released six years of tax returns," he said. "What's he hiding in tax returns out there?"

Bellavia, whose income stemmed mostly from a book he wrote about his experiences as an Army infantryman in Iraq, called the FEC statement "extremely vague" because of the broad reporting guidelines.

"They don't give you a window to anything, especially tax liabilities," he said, noting he will file his own statement with the FEC soon.

Bellavia also renewed his challenge to Collins to debate the issues in several venues around the new 27th Congressional District. He said his debate challenge and tax disclosure give voters the "transparency they deserve" and prove his commitment to an open and issue-based campaign.

"The voters of the 27th District deserve complete transparency from all candidates," Bellavia said. "Mr. Collins is snubbing the voters, and instead he's running a dirty campaign of intimidation and innuendo."

But Collins spokesman Michael Kracker said the candidate feels he has fulfilled requirements and will not release his returns.

"Like most small businesses, Chris' companies' income flows through his and the other owners' personal tax returns," Kracker said. "Releasing that information would provide competitors with confidential information that is not required to be disclosed under the law."

However, Collins did not shut the door on debates between the two Republican candidates.

"Debates are an important part of every campaign, and Chris looks forward to a serious discussion on cutting government spending and how to help small businesses create jobs for our families," Kracker said.