WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins' campaign committee pretty much stopped fundraising in the first quarter of 2019, a year before his scheduled criminal trial on insider trading charges.
Collins raised only $5,000 between January and March, according to a federal campaign finance report filed earlier this week. In contrast, Collins, a Clarence Republican, raised $279,125 in the same period two years earlier, before a congressional ethics investigation and his August 2018 arrest.
The 2019 donations to Collins came from other GOP campaign committees. Not one individual contributed to his campaign.
Collins' low fundraising total highlighted the first-quarter campaign finance reports filed by local lawmakers this week, which also showed Reps. Tom Reed and Brian Higgins off to strong head starts in fundraising for their expected re-election bids.
A spokesman for Collins, Bryan Piligra, downplayed the significance of Collins' lack of fundraising.
"Congressman Collins campaigns have always been properly funded and through a combination of personal funds and fundraising always ensure his message is heard by voters," Piligra said.
Collins had $167,449 in his campaign war chest as of March 31. He was a multimillionaire businessman before entering politics, meaning he always has money to pull out of his pocket for his campaigns if necessary.
Still, Collins himself recently acknowledged that he's unsure about whether to seek a fifth term next year. He noted that his criminal trial is set for next February, although it's uncertain whether it will go forward then.
“There’s some things up in the air," he told the Batavia Daily News last week. "We’ll have to see where that stands, what the timing of that is. At some point, you sit down with your family and say, ‘Do I want to stay in the public’s eye and do this again or not?’ ”
Collins is charged with fraud, conspiracy and lying to the FBI. Federal prosecutors in New York say he called his son, Cameron, from the White House lawn in June 2017 to tell him inside information that would soon devastate the stock price of an Australian biotech firm in which they were both heavily invested. Collins, his son and Cameron Collins' prospective father-in-law, Stephen Zarsky, all face similar charges.
Despite the court case against him, Collins narrowly won re-election in November against Democrat Nathan McMurray, the Grand Island town supervisor.
McMurray is considering running again in New York's 27th Congressional District, which stretches from suburban Buffalo to suburban Rochester. His campaign finance form showed that he raised $10,388 during the first quarter, leaving him with $20,002 on had as of March 31.
Those donations came in to the McMurray campaign committee even though he didn't have an active fundraising effort. McMurray said he was pleased and honored that people gave him money when he didn't even ask for it, saying that could be an encouraging sign if he were to run again.
In the Southern Tier's 23rd District, Reed, a Republican from Corning, reported raising $347,220 during the first quarter, leaving him with $2.72 million on hand. In contrast, the Democrat who challenged him last year and who wants to do so again – Penn Yan cyber security expert Tracy Mitrano – raised $22,913 but had just $17,719 left at the end of March.
Meanwhile, Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat who often faces underfunded opponents in the heavily Democratic 26th District, raised $72,818 in the first quarter. As of March 31, the Higgins campaign had $907,606 on hand.