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Donor ultimatum: Chris Collins feels the heat over tax reform

WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins and other Republican lawmakers portray their tax reform plan as a win-win for taxpayers and the economy, but the Clarence congressman Tuesday acknowledged another, swampier reason for him to back a rewrite of the tax code.

“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’ ” Collins said.

Collins made those comments to reporters outside a House Republican conference meeting. The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, first reported his comments, which quickly went viral on Twitter among Congress-watchers.

Within four hours of its posting, 1,500 people had commented on Hill reporter Cristina Marcos' tweet of Collins' comment, with most of them taking a profoundly negative view of what he said.

Meantime, one of the Democrats aiming to run against Collins next year, East Aurora prosecutor and Army veteran Sean Bunny, issued a scorching statement on Collins' comments.

“Chris Collins is again admitting to us that he’s representing his big campaign donors in Congress – millionaires, billionaires, special interests – and not Western New York families," Bunny said.

Collins made his comments in the context of a conversation about how intense the lobbying is regarding the GOP tax plan, which aims to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent while trimming many deductions and lowering rates for many individual taxpayers.

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Democrats argue that's a bad deal for average taxpayers, saying the elimination of deductions and the personal exemption would, for many voters, result in higher tax bills.

"This is not tax reform," Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said Tuesday. "This is a tax scam that’s intended to take money from middle America and give it to corporate America unjustifiably.”

Collins, in his talk with reporters, acknowledged that lawmakers face great pressure from special interests in the tax debate.

“Every special interest is out in force,” Collins said. “I’d say the more they come out, it’s an indication we’re doing a darn good job.”

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Even Collins' niece urged him to restore the adoption tax credit, the Hill reported.

“We are getting lobbied by our families, our neighbors, our friends,” Collins said.

Collins' political adviser, Christopher M. Grant, said he was surprised that Collins' comments on his campaign donors caused a stir.

"Ninety-eight percent of Chris Collins' constituents will benefit from this tax bill," Grant said. "His donors are primarily small businesses and working class families, and they're interested in getting tax reform done."

An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that in the 2017-18 election cycle, slightly more than half of the $627,203 Collins raised came from political action committees representing business interests. Some $108,899 came from health care industry PACs, while $50,500 came from the energy industry and $50,000 came from political committees representing the communications or electronics industries.

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