Congressman may have broken law with biotech he held, watchdog says

The report recommends the House ethics committee subpoena the 10 individuals and entities that refused to cooperate with the board's investigation, including Tom Price, former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Innate and its CEO, Simon Wilkinson, and Collins' former legislative assistant, Jeff Freeland.

The outside, non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics began a review of Collins' activity in March and voted to send its findings to the House ethics panel in July, which can formally launch investigations and recommend any sanctions against any lawmaker it determines has broken any rules.

Collins, who has denied any wrongdoing, was the largest shareholder of Australia's Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited and sat on the company's board of directors.

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In order to comply with Committee Rule 7 regarding confidentiality, out of fairness to all respondents, and to assure the integrity of its work, the Committee will refrain from making further public statements on this matter pending completion of its initial review. He noted that the central allegation from Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. - that he supported a bill, the 21st Century Cures Act, that could have benefited Innate Immuno - was not supported by investigators. He put his obsession to enrich himself before the people he swore to represent.

"She's on a witch-hunt, she's a despicable human being", Collins said of Slaughter. "You don't go after another member with fabricated allegations like she did". Mr. Price and officials with Innate could not be reached for comment. Two of Mr. Collins's children also owned stock.

But it did find other new instances of potential wrongdoing - notably, a November 18, 2013, visit to the National Institutes of Health, where Collins and a House staffer visited with a key researcher into multiple sclerosis. In 2013, during a public hearing, Mr. Collins mentioned the drug Innate was developing - called MIS416 - without disclosing his financial interest. The official then invited Collins for a visit.

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One NIH employee interviewed by OCE about that visit in 2013 said that Collins told them that Innate needed help with a Phase 2 drug trial and asked them to help, and she agreed. He did not, the employee said, discuss any constituents affected or any legislation involving multiple sclerosis.

A source close to the congressman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private actions, said Collins invested about $5 million in the company over the years and did not sell any of his shares.

The House Ethics Committee stated it would extend its review of the issue under a procedure that does not place deadlines for additional public announcements and the committee seldom metes out punishments.

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A congressional ethics panel Thursday found "substantial reason to believe" that an upstate congressman and key President Trump supporter broke federal law. "I clearly understand the optics, but there was nothing done that was wrong".

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