Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Missouri's Billy Long is among House GOPers who could get caught in insider-trading scandal that already has drawn indictment for Chris Collins, of New York

Billy Long
The Congressman from our current home district is among five Republicans who might become ensnared in an insider-trading scandal that broke last week.

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) was indicted last Wednesday and already is ensnared. U.S. Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), who has represented Missouri's 7th Congressional district since 2011, purchased the stock in question, worked closely with Collins to advance its cause, and could wind up in deep doo-doo as a result.

At least four other House Republicans -- Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, John Abney Culberson and Mike Conaway of Texas, and Doug Lamborn of Colorado -- invested in Innate Immunotherapeutics, an obscure Australian biotech company that was working on a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis. When a key drug trial failed, Collins (an Innate board member) received early word and notified his son and other family members, and phone records showed they offloaded their shares to avoid $768,000 in losses.

Collins announced Saturday that he is ending his bid for re-election. What about the other Innate stockholders in Congress? None are known to be under investigation, and some still own the stock. Long, however, joined with Collins to take legislative action that apparently was designed to help enrich both of them. From an article at The Daily Beast:

Collins, who denies any criminal wrongdoing, isn’t the only one who risks being wrapped up in controversy surrounding the company.

As The Daily Beast reported last year, Collins authored four bills that would likely have benefited the company. Two of them, separate versions of the same bill introduced in the 114th and 115th Congresses, had just one co-sponsor: Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which has oversight over the Food and Drug Administration. While no one has accused him of any legal wrongdoing, Long also held stock in Innate. Long signed on to both pieces of legislation the day they were introduced. The first was filed in December 2016, and didn’t make it out of subcommittee before the session ended.

Then in January, Long bought between $15,000 and $50,000 in Innate stock, apparently as part of a Fidelity retirement account. In July, Collins once again introduced his bill, which would have expedited FDA approvals for treatments such as Innate’s, and Long was once again an immediate co-sponsor.

Long’s office didn’t respond to questions about whether his Innate holdings might constitute a conflict of interest. A spokesperson would only say that the congressman “did not learn of Innate Immunotherapeutics through a colleague, but rather when it became a daily topic on the nightly news in January of 2017,” a timeline that suggests that Long, not a financial brokerage, made the decision to purchase Innate stock.

Collins was the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and Democrats likely will see the Collins indictment as an opportunity to push GOP corruption as an issue in the 2018 midterm elections:

Democrats see an opportunity to revive the "culture of corruption" message that helped them win the House in 2006. Nancy Pelosi repeated almost the identical talking points [last week] that she used 12 years ago to link GOP candidates to Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff, and Mark Foley.

"The charges against Congressman Collins show the rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment among Republicans in Washington today," said Pelosi, who could become speaker again. "The American people deserve better than the GOP's corruption, cronyism and incompetence."

A Web site called showmeprogress.com already is blasting Billy Long on his home turf, 
referring to him as a "charter member of the Party of Corruption":

When GOP Rep. Billy Long (R-7) first ran for Congress there were whispers that, in today’s parlance, he was more than familiar with the swamp that his idol, Donald Trump – evidently facetiously – promised to drain. With the arrest of New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins for insider trading, the swamp gas miasma around Long has thickened. Collins has been stripped of his position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and he is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. The question is why isn’t Rep. Long under similar investigation – or maybe he is and we just don’t know about it?

Long’s staff is of course denying that Long had any insider info from his colleague Collins with whom he coordinated to pass legislation that would enhance both their financial bottom lines . . .

Certainly, we know that Rep. Long is inclined to go easy when it comes to forestalling corrupt behavior, as would befit a guy with a reputation for being on the make. Remember Long’s 2017 vote to gut the Cardin-Lugar anti-corruption rule, “a major bipartisan law that helps safeguard trillions of dollars of payments to the U.S. and governments around the world.”

However, given that most GOPers in the House voted the same way, – the party of corruption perhaps? – I’m not holding my breath and would recommend that you also refrain to do so if you expect to see Long perp-walked out of Congress. The law got Collins fair and square, looks like Long may weasel out – and his fellow GOPers will probably be just fine with that -particularly those who may be equally guilty of conspiring with Collins to line their personal pockets.

No comments: