Local Matters

Recent comments

Community Sponsors


October 20, 2018 - 10:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, Larry Piegza, news.

Press release:

Pro-Trump Reform Party candidate Larry Piegza states that he is gaining a larger and larger portion of the pro-Trump voters.

"Our methodology for tracking this is simple," Piegza said, "we did a phone survey of every single Republican, Conservative and Independent that voted in a mid-term election. They explained that I am pro-Trump, pro-Second Amendment and pro-life. We then asked the voter if they would consider voting for me, the third-party candidate over Chris Collins. 

"The results were staggering. Of the people expecting to vote for a Republican this year, 73 percent stated that they would prefer to vote for me. This was validated by a follow-up poll that I showed to Howard Owens at The Batavian.

Mathematician Richard Ford reviewed the statistics and said, “The size of this sample is large enough to make the survey is significant, and close to the sentiments of the entire population from which the sample was taken. It indicates that when a Conservative voter learns that they have an acceptable alternative to Collins, the majority of them will choose the alternative."

While the 73 percent is not consistent with outside polling, the timing of published polls show that Piegza's popularity is definitely growing.  Many forecasters didn't list Piegza's vote total in August due to the fact that it wasn't statistically significant.

FiveThirtyEight.com had Piegza's numbers between 2-3 percent in September. In October, the McMurray campaign notes that 6 percent of the voters indicate they plan to vote for Piegza.

“You’ve got to consider that McMurray’s polling data might have been conducted earlier, they might be polling non-voters’ sentiment, and they obviously included the Democrats in the data,” Ford said. “Taking all of these factors into account, McMurray’s data validates the fact that pro-Trump voters are leaving Collins when they learn of Piegza.”

Another difference in predicted votes can be attributed to the fact that national websites include factors like campaign staff and available funds to inform their calculations.

"But this race is like no other," Ford said, "Collins wasn’t running six weeks ago. Piegza now has five times the available funds ($230,000) he did in his June filing. If Piegza and McMurray debate without Collins, Collins could easily find that he's the third-place candidate."

Whatever the actual polling results show, Piegza likes his chances.

"The people who are voting for me are never going to vote for Collins because many of them believe he will be serving jail time," Piegza said. "I already have enough support to cause Chris Collins to lose.

"Each day more and more people are thanking me that they can cast an ethical vote. Few people in the district want a Democrat to win, so if Chris Collins actually cared for our district, he should be telling people to vote for me.”

October 17, 2018 - 10:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, notify.

Rep. Chris Collins says he will clear his good name when his insider trading case goes to trial in February 2020.

But to do that he may need to convince a jury that he didn't tell his son about a failed medical trial for a new drug developed by Innate Immunotherapeutics when Collins called him from the White House lawn June 22, according to an attorney who specializes in insider trading law.

Robert Heim is a former Securities Exchange Commission attorney who now works as a private defense attorney for those accused of violating securities laws.

"Perhaps Mr. Collins might argue that somehow the information was either public or had been leaked out, but on its face, it seems like a very difficult case for him to beat right now," Heim said.

Neither Collins nor his attorneys have shared what his defense might be, but as Heim acknowledged, prosecutors have a lot of evidence related to the number and timing of phone calls, text messages, and trades, which is why Collins will need to offer a convincing explanation for the June 22 phone call.

On June 22, at 6:55 p.m, Collins received an email from Innate's CEO, Simon Wilkinson, informing Collins, who was among the company's largest shareholders and a member of Innate's board of directors, that a critical trial for a new multiple sclerosis drug had failed.

"I have bad news to report," Wilkinson wrote, according to government documents. "The top line analysis of the 'intent to treat' patient population (i.e., every subject who was successfully enrolled in the study) would pretty clearly indicate 'clinical failure.' "

Innate was a single-product company and the trial's failure meant it would not bring that drug to market.

Collins responded at 7:10 p.m., according to prosecutors, "Wow. Makes no sense. How are these results even possible???"

According to prosecutors, Collins immediately attempted to contact his son, Cameron Collins. He called Cameron twice. Cameron called back three times. Chris Collins called him back. On their seventh attempt to connect, at 7:16 p.m., father and son finally spoke with each other.

Chris and Cameron spoke for six minutes and eight seconds.

There was no wiretap on the phone call, and prosecutors have not indicated that they have any direct knowledge of what Collins told his son.

Prosecutors will attempt to prove Collins told Cameron of the failed MIS416 trial, disclosing nonpublic information, knowing it was a breach of his duties and anticipating his son would trade on the information and tip others.

Heim said Collins will need to convince a jury that he discussed with Cameron something other than the MIS416 trial, be it the weather, or "wow, I'm at the White House," wedding plans, or some other topic that seemed urgent at the time.

"I've worked on insider trading cases like this for about 20 years now and almost always these are circumstantial cases," Heim said. "People rarely come in and admit to committing insider trading, so a jury is going to really have to look at the various facts in terms of timing the phone calls, the timing of trades, and people's explanations to really come up with a decision as to what's more likely: Was this inside information discussed? Or were they talking about other things and this just happens to be very poor coincidental timing?"

If the failed drug trial was a topic of the June 22 phone call, Heim indicated Collins is going to have a hard time proving his innocence, especially in a Second Circuit court. The Second Circuit, he said, has a "loose standard" on what constitute's "tipper liability."

"If you're passing on information, the inside information, to a family member that satisfies what's called the 'personal benefit test' that is required to be proven for the government to win an insider trading case," Heim said.

Chris and Cameron Collins, along with 66-year-old Stephen Zarsky, father of Cameron's girlfriend, Lauren, are charged with in Federal Court with conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements to FBI agents.

Lauren and her mother, Dorothy have already settled with the SEC.

The morning after receiving his father's call, according to the SEC complaint, Cameron started to act on the allegedly non-public information, including selling stock and tipping the Zarsky family.

If Chris Collins can successfully argue that he didn't tell his son about the non-public information, then Cameron may need to prove he obtained it from another source.

It's not illegal to buy or sell stocks on "insider information" if it was legally obtained. For example, if Cameron overheard his father or somebody else talking about the failed trial with a person who was authorized to share the information, he can do as he pleases with the information.

Barry Switzer, former University of Oklahoma football coach, was at a track meet in 1981 when he overheard a company CEO discussing his firm's plans. The next day, Switzer and his friends acted on the non-public information and eventually made $600,000 on the trade. Switzer was charged with insider trading, but a court ruled in Switzer's favor.

"The court said that that's not illegal as long as you're not breaching some sort of duty or someone's not telling you the information in violation of a confidentiality agreement," Heim said. "That a legitimate defense."

Cameron's case hinges entirely, it seems, on how he knew to dump his 1.4 million shares of Innate stock just before news of the failed trial went public.

"In order for that chain to be legally actionable it has to have as the source a breach of a fiduciary duty or some other duty that's owed to the company and its shareholders," Heim said. "And that Cameron received that information separately, not from his father but by perhaps overhearing a conversation. Then if he's successful in that argument then, yes, he's free to tell other people about that information and essentially tip them because he did not breach his duty in the first instance by acquiring that information."

Besides the record of phone calls, texts, and trades, the prosecution may have other evidence that  is not yet publicly disclosed, Heim said. We also don't know how Lauren and Dorothy Zarsky, or others, might cooperate with the prosecution. There could have admissible information that supports the prosecution's theory that Chris Collins tipped Cameron Collins.

Witness testimony gets complicated, Heim said, because of trial rules involving hearsay and spousal privilege but there could be supporting witness testimony that is used at trial.

Without wiretaps, Heim said, "this could come down to a he-said-she-said type of scenario."

Based on the evidence made public so far, Heim said it seems like the government has a pretty solid case.

"It looks like there was a very thorough investigation, Heim said. "They put together the best evidence they could into a circumstantial case. Now I think really falls on Mr. Collins to come forward with some explanation or evidence as to what other topics were discussed in the calls and why they were being made at that particular time."

Photo: File photo.

NOTE: The Batavian has requested multiple of times an interview with Rep. Chris Collins. He has not agreed to an interview so we have been unable to ask him questions related to his insider trading case or even questions relevant to his bid for reelection.

October 17, 2018 - 12:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, Nate McMurray, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, Democrat and Working Families Party Congressional candidate in NY-27, today announced that he has been added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, which recognizes top-tier candidates who are running strong campaigns.

McMurray’s addition to the DCCC Red to Blue program is further proof of his momentum following a week of impressive fund-raising figures; polls showing the race is a dead heat; and news that his opponent, Chris Collins, who was indicted on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI, will not even stand trial until 2020, more than a year into the next congressional term.

“It’s gratifying to have earned this support of the DCCC," McMurray said. "It’s clear that they see what we see: our grassroots support is real and that we’re building momentum by talking to neighbors, getting small dollar donations, and standing up for what’s right.

"We’re sticking to our values of economic fairness and integrity, and voters are putting country before party because nobody wants a Congressman out on bail. People are tired of a system that’s rigged against them and know that we need real change to make it happen.”

“As Town Supervisor of Grand Island, Nate is a proven leader who has a record of working for Western New York. Nate’s emphasis on putting people first has helped him build a strong grassroots campaign that is highly competitive and prepared to bring ethical representation to New York’s 27th Congressional District,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan. 

Already, McMurray has welcomed the support of Democratic National Committee Chairman and Buffalo-native Tom Perez as well as New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Congressman Brian Higgins, Congressman Paul Tonko and the endorsement of almost every major local and national union.

Surging support for McMurray comes as national Republicans are running away from Chris Collins. Last month, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers told reporters, “I don’t plan to spend a penny in that race."

Red to Blue is a highly competitive and battle-tested DCCC program that arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support to help them continue to run strong campaigns. Additionally, the DCCC provides strategic guidance, staff resources, candidate trainings, and more.

October 16, 2018 - 12:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, notify, Nate McMurray, Larry Piegza.

A poll released today by Siena gives Rep. Chris Collins a mere 3-percentage-point lead over challenger Nate McMurray in the NY-27 congressional race.

Three percentage points are within the margin of error -- plus or minus 4.7 percent -- making the race a statistical dead heat. 

This matches the results of an internal poll released by McMurray's campaign last week that showed the race tracking as a tie with three weeks left until Election Day.

In response to the release of the poll, McMurray issued the following statement:

“This poll tells us what we already know, that voters are choosing country over party. They’re motivated based on who will help families like theirs rather than simply voting along partisan lines. We always knew this would be a close race, and this poll shows that it’s neck and neck. But our TV ads went on the air yesterday, after this poll was conducted; our grassroots support is strong, and as more voters tune in to the race and learn that they have a real choice, we’re more and more confident.”

The Batavian emailed Natalie Baldassarre, campaign manager for Collins, and asked for a statement from Collins -- not her -- about the poll, his third-quarter fundraising report, which includes a campaign expenditure for the use of a private jet. We have not received a response.

Political reporter Ryan Whalan with Capitol Tonight in Albany said in a tweet this morning that he has made several requests to Collins for an interview and has been rebuffed. Since his arrest on federal charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI, Collins has largely avoided contact with the media or answering tough questions.

His only campaign appearances have been at invite-only Republican events. After The Batavian was unable to secure an interview with Collins, we announced we would stop publishing his campaign press releases until he sits down for an interview with The Batavian. The deadline for the interview is this Friday and Collins has yet to agree to an interview.

The Siena Poll results released doesn't break out how Collins is doing vs. McMurray in Genesee County, but it does say McMurray is leading in Erie County 46 to 45 percent. Collins is leading in the rest of the 27th District 46 to 42 percent.

Reform Party Candidate Larry Piegza is favored by 1 percent of the voters.

While Collins has a narrow lead in the race, the indicted congressman has a much higher unfavorable rating than McMurray, 49 to 21 percent. 

In most congressional races throughout the country, women are trending toward supporting the Democratic candidate but not in the NY-27. Collins is supported by 46 percent of the women polled compared to 42 percent for McMurray.

McMurray also seems to be bucking the trend of Democrats picking up younger voters. In the under 55 demographic, Collins leads 49 to 42 percent. McMurray is fairing better with older voters, where Collins' margin is a mere 2 percentage points,  45 to 43.

McMurray leads the race among nonpartisan voters 46-45 percent.

Siena surveyed 490 likely voters in the district between Oct. 6 and 11.

President Donald Trump's approval rating is 56 percent among voters in the district, much higher than his 42 percent approval rating nationally.

Fifty-six percent of those polled want to see the Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, since his arrest, Collins has seen donations to his campaign fall off a cliff, according to the Buffalo News.

Collins, who reportedly had more than $1 million in his war chest before his arrest, raised $32,755.74 in the third quarter, and only $2,955 was donated to his campaign after his arrest.

All but $80 of the money donated to Collins in the last round came from residents of the 27th District.

In the quarter, Collins spent $233,369 on advertising, $40,147.33 in legal fees and a $7,895 on a charter flight.

Members of Congress must justify travel expenses as a legitimate campaign activity to spend campaign funds on travel, according to House Rules.

Baldassarre told the Buffalo News that the chartered plane was used to return Collins to Buffalo after his arrest in New York City on Aug. 8. Collins was hours late to a press conference he scheduled and congressional staff at the time (the event was staffed by government employees, not campaign employees) told members of the media that his flight had been delayed. Though Collins called a press conference, he refused to take questions after issuing a statement.

October 15, 2018 - 4:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, Nate McMurray, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, Democrat and Working Families Party Congressional candidate in NY-27, released the following statement in response to fundraising figures released by his opponent, Chris Collins who is currently out on bail after being indicted on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI.

“Let me get this straight: Chris Collins sat on the board of a drug company, then conspired to make sure he didn’t lose money when a drug trial failed, then lied about it to the FBI, then decided he’d run for re-election because his lawyers thought it would keep him out of jail and now the only financial support for his campaign comes from pharmaceutical special interests? If it wasn’t so shameless, it would be unbelievable,” McMurray said.

“Who is Chris Collins beholden to? Not the voters, he won’t even meet with them. But his buddies in the pharmaceutical industry? Yes, and he’ll end up in jail because of it. Now we have evidence that he’s using his campaign as a slush fund to pay his attorneys even after he said he wouldn’t.

“Mr. Collins has said that his loyalty is to his donors, but he doesn’t seem to have many of those either. He spent more on fundraising consultants and fundraising events than he’s earned.

“Support is fading, Chris. People see that your campaign gets more desperate by the day. I’m proud that we’ve had thousands of hard-working Americans chipping in through potlucks and picnics to fight the corruption they see in Washington. They know we can do better than a member of Congress out on bail and has been kicked off of every Congressional committee.”

A third-quarter filing with the Federal Election Commission by Collins shows his campaign raised a mere $32,755.74 in the last three months.

Last week, McMurray announced that he raised more than $475,000 in the third quarter, the vast majority of it in the seven weeks following Collins’ indictment. McMurray’s impressive fundraising comes even as he will not accept corporate PAC money.

He was recently endorsed by End Citizens United, a group dedicated to getting Big Money out of politics and fixing the rigged system in Washington so it works for all Americans. McMurray’s full announcement is here.

McMurray's impressive fundraising kicked off a week of good news as a recent poll showed McMurray tied with Chris Collins. And today, McMurray’s advertisements went on the air. Momentum is building for McMurray in NY-27.

October 11, 2018 - 7:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, Nate McMurray, news, chris collins.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, Democrat and Working Families Party Congressional candidate in NY-27, today responded to news that his opponent, indicted member of Congress Chris Collins won’t stand trial until 2020. Collins was indicted on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI in August.

“Now it’s official, Chris Collins will be beholden to his defense attorneys for the next year and a half, not the voters, not the hard-working people of Western New York, but his lawyers," McMurray said.

"He won’t just be a part-time, he’ll be a no-time Congressman. This is shocking and truly embarrassing to the people of Western New York. I’m out talking to voters every day and they tell me that they deserve better. They’re right.

“House Speaker Paul Ryan has stripped Collins of all of his committee assignments in Congress. He won’t help the people of this region. He can’t help the people of this region. He never did. There couldn’t be a clearer contrast in this race. He will not let go of his congressional seat until this trial is over, or until the voters take it from him. They will.”

This morning, McMurray stood shoulder-to-shoulder with more than 100 activists and supporters from the labor community who pledged to work to get McMurray elected on Nov. 6. They praised his integrity, work ethic and commitment to the values that help the working men and women of this region.

McMurray was endorsed by New York’s Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, the last Democrat to win this district and a great champion of Western New York./p>

McMurray'’s rally with working people comes a day after he announced polling that shows a dead heat between himself and Collins. Earlier this week, McMurray’s campaign announced he raised close to a half million dollars in the third quarter with the vast majority of that money coming in the seven weeks following Collins’ indictment – and that total does not include any corporate PAC money.

October 11, 2018 - 1:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, Larry Piegza, Nate McMurray.

Press release:

The Reform Party Candidate, Larry Piegza, announces he is willing to take Chris Collins' spot in the McMurray/Collins debate.

"Chris Collins obviously has more pressing legal issues than to explain to the voters in NY-27 how he intends to represent us," Piegza sent in a statement. "Fortunately, there are still two candidates on the ballot that are prepared to represent our district.

"Nate McMurray, I accept your #DebateNate Challenge. If the Buffalo News is still willing to host it, I am still game. Collins can come if he can get time away from preparing for his trial. I am sure that the voters would love to hear how he plans to represent our district if he is convicted and serving jail time."

A pro-Trump Republican, Piegza has been unsuccessfully pushing the local Republican offices to only endorse ethical candidates for the last 12 months. He earned the Reform Party's endorsement in June. In the past, the Reform Party has always endorsed Collins, but they broke from it this year when they learned about the fact that Collins might have broken the law.

"Kudos to the Reform Party for only supporting candidates who are more ethically sound," Piegza said. "And it really paid off. If they hadn't stepped up an endorsed me, the people in the district would have had to choose between voting for a possible criminal and a Democrat.

"I would have been curious to see how many people actually voted in November. Now, they can vote for an ethical conservative who supports all of Trump's agenda. In addition, I plan to use an online town hall so the people in the district can always tell me what their needs are. That means I will be able to do a better job of keeping in touch with everyone than Collins did."

Piegza has tried unsuccessfully to debate McMurray in the past. In the weeks following Collins' indictment, his campaign aired 30-second commercials on WBEN accepting his #DebateNate challenge. These were ignored by the McMurray campaign.

Now, it appears that McMurray is changing his mind. In a Facebook post on Oct. 10, 2018, McMurray played off of the "Fix It Larry" moniker McMurray has used for his website (FixItLarry.org) and said that McMurray should be calling for a debate.

"BANG THAT HAMMER! Democracy needs some noise." In the post, McMurray also proposes to set up an empty chair for Collins.

"This is a welcome surprise," Piegza said. "I thought that I would finally get a chance to debate Nate at the forum at SUNY Geneseo, but apparently McMurray isn't attending. I am glad to see he isn't avoiding me."

As for the empty chair, Piegza says, "Collins might feel more comfortable if we swap the chair out for a prison bench."

October 10, 2018 - 12:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, news, Nate McMurray.

Press release:

Days after revealing an impressive fundraising quarter, Nate McMurray revealed results of internal polling showing that the race for New York’s 27th Congressional District is tied between McMurray, the Democratic and Working Families Party Candidate, and incumbent Chris Collins, who was indicted on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI in August. The poll was taken from Oct. 6th – 8th, sampling 400 voters in the district.

With the race as a dead heat, McMurray’s support has come from a deep base of grassroots support as voters are demanding integrity and a member of Congress who will listen and truly represent them. McMurray has yet to air a single ad on TV, while Collins has spent heavily, launching extensive negative advertisements in the weeks before the poll.

“This proves what we’ve been seeing on the ground for months: We. Can. Win. Voters are tired of corruption and care about protecting healthcare, fighting for farms and supporting small businesses,” McMurray said. “Voters feel taken advantage of by a wealthy man who used his power to enrich himself instead of representing people like us.

"They are angry that he’s running for reelection because his defense attorneys told him to. They are sick of politics as usual that puts the desires of the powerful above the needs of working people. They know that we are better than this in Western New York, and they’re right.”

Among the findings of McMurray’s internal polling:

McMurray and Collins are tied and McMurray is in a strong position to win the election, having raised the necessary resources to communicate his message to voters in the final weeks of the campaign.

Collins and McMurray are each attracting 42 percent of the vote while Reform Party candidate Larry Piegza receives 6 percent and 10 percent of voters are undecided.

Nine in 10 voters (90 percent) report that they have heard, read, or seen information about Collins’ indictment, with a majority (57 percent) stating they have heard “a lot” about the indictment.

Earlier this week, McMurray’s campaign released his campaign’s third quarter reports, raising close to a half million dollars with the vast majority in the seven weeks following Collins’ indictment. This comes even as McMurray’s campaign will not accept corporate PAC money. Last week, he was endorsed by End Citizens United, a group dedicated to getting Big Money out of politics and fixing the rigged system in Washington so it works for all Americans./p>

Collins was arrested on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI in August and pledged to suspend his campaign. Collins broke his pledge weeks later on the advice of his criminal defense lawyers, announcing on Sept. 17 that he intended to keep remain on the ballot. It’s no surprise that overwhelming financial support has come to McMurray since voters learned that he would be running against Collins.

In that time, McMurray has built up his campaign staff and opened seven offices to hold the massive volunteer base.

NOTE: The Batavian has suspended publication of press releases from Rep. Chris Collins until Collins agrees to an interview.

October 8, 2018 - 4:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Nate McMurray, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, the Democratic and Working Families Party candidate for New York’s 27th Congressional District, today showed a major force of strength raising more than $475,000 in the campaign’s third quarter.  The vast majority of it was raised in the seven weeks following incumbent Member of Congress Chris Collins being indicted on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI.

The momentum of Nate’s campaign is accelerating even as the campaign is still counting checks from September.
“I’m proud to show the party bosses that our grassroots campaign has the resources to go toe-to-toe with special interest dark money and Mr. Collins’ dirty attack ads. We’re only getting started,” McMurray said. “I have been crisscrossing this district since January meeting thousands of voters from across Western and Central New York.

"We’ve been fueled by potlucks and picnics and our grassroots support has been growing from day one. But this race now has, and deserves, national attention. Mr. Collins’ arrest put NY-27 in the spotlight because it’s obvious to everyone, and certainly voters here, that they deserve better than a representative out on bail.

"I understand how big this district is – I know because I’ve been everywhere talking to voters about healthcare, Social Security, and how to help small businesses and family farms succeed – and I know that it’s important we get our message everywhere. You can expect to see us on TV soon and expect to see our grassroots supporters out in their neighborhoods, spreading our message of integrity and a system that works for the working men and women of this district.”
Nate’s impressive fundraising comes even as he will not accept corporate PAC money. Last week, he was endorsed by End Citizens United, a group dedicated to getting Big Money out of politics and fixing the rigged system in Washington so it works for all Americans.
It was Aug. 10 when Mr. Collins was arrested on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI but it was only Sept. 17 when voters of this region learned that it would be Mr. Collins running for reelection after weeks of bait-and-switch legal shenanigans.

It’s no surprise that overwhelming support has come to Nate since voters learned that he would be running against Mr. Collins.

In that time, Nate has built a professional finance operation, built up his campaign staff, and opened seven offices to hold the massive volunteer base.

Nate has also received the support of the working men and women of the district with support from:

  • Amalgamated Transit Union
  • American Federation of Government Employees
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
  • Buffalo Building Trades Council
  • Civil Service Employees Association
  • Communication Workers of America
  • International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 9
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • International Union of Operating Engineers
  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
  • New York State Nurses Association
  • New York State United Teachers
  • Niagara Building Trades Council
  • Service Employees International Union 1199
  • United Association of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, & Service Techs
  • United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Workers of America
  • United Brotherhood of Carpenters
  • United Food and Commercial Workers
  • United Steel Workers

NOTE: The Batavian has suspended publication of press releases from Rep. Chris Collins until Collins agrees to an interview.

October 6, 2018 - 7:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

The Batavian has always had a policy of publishing most press releases from elected officials who directly represent us, Assembly, State Senate, U.S. Congress.

During the campaign cycle, we’ve published most verbatim press releases from the candidates for those offices.

It’s also been our practice in the past to interview the candidates in tightly contested races for our congressional seat.

This year, so far, we’ve interviewed Nate McMurray (to be published at a later date) and will interview Larry Piegza.

So far, Rep. Chris Collins has brushed off requests for an interview, never saying no but refusing to commit to a date for an interview.

An interview is a chance to clarify a candidate’s positions on specific policy questions, to probe their errors in logic or counter-factual claims, as well as pin them down on campaign promises. Interviews with the press by politicians and candidates is an important part of our democratic process. It’s how we hold to account and ensure transparency from those who might represent us.

A good example of how this can play out comes from the 2012 contest when the Kathy Hochul campaign used, in our opinion, a Chris Collins quote out of context. We were able to publish the full context of the quote to correct the record.

For The Batavian, in a contested race, interviews, either a sitdown formal interview or along the campaign trail, are also a way to balance out the unfiltered claims politicians make in their press releases.

For that reason, we don’t think it is fair or right to continue publishing press releases from the campaign of Chris Collins without a firm commitment to a sit-down interview.

Chris Collins has told The Batavian many times that he appreciates the fair, factual and challenging questions we have peppered him with in past interviews. He said he considers our coverage of him fair and accurate. He has said he enjoys the challenge of tough questions.

But since his arrest on insider trading charges, he has tended to try and avoid the press, giving only one interview since to a Buffalo TV station, and confining his public appearance to friendly audiences with no prior notice to news outlets.

In my opinion, a person running for Congress should not be able to cloister himself in his office and avoid the accountability of public appearances and interviews.

We will continue to publish as appropriate press releases from the congressional office of Chris Collins but we will not publish campaign press releases until we have a time-certain appointment for an interview with no limitations on questions (and, of course, Collins must keep his appointment with us).

Of course, in the meantime, we will continue to publish campaign press releases from Nate McMurray and Larry Piegza since they're playing by the rules.

October 1, 2018 - 7:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, news, Nate McMurray.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, the Democratic and Working Families Party Candidate for New York’s 27th Congressional District, today released the following statement in response to President Trump announcing a deal with Canada and Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I think President Trump deserves praise for renegotiating trade deals that have hurt people of this region for decades. I believe in fair trade. My own life experience helping open markets to U.S. farmers and manufacturers shows me that trade creates opportunities. But I’m opposed to trade deals that only help the most powerful, where the true benefits of trade don’t come to the laborers and farmers who do the work. Remember that NAFTA was hailed when it was signed but ended up hurting people of this region.

“I don’t want to celebrate this deal until we see the full details, but I’m encouraged by President Trump’s commitment to dairy farmers. As we learn more details, I will evaluate its effectiveness based on what this means for workers in Lockport and farmers in Livingston County.”

In 2003, Nate was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the development of democracy in the Constitutional Court of Korea. He worked to represent U.S. farmers and U.S. manufactures ensuring that they had an opportunity to feature their products in Korean stories helping create jobs back here at home.

October 1, 2018 - 2:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) praised President Trump and his administration for reaching a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada to be called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

USMCA will make significant changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that will put the United States on more equal footing with the other nations. Specifically with regard to the dairy industry, Canada’s pricing program has created an unfair playing field and has essentially eliminated U.S. exports of certain dairy products, harming Western New York’s dairy industry.

“Today’s announcement is proof that House Republicans under President Trump’s leadership are getting our nation back on track and standing up for American interests,” Collins said. “President Trump has stood with Western New York’s dairy farmers to protect this industry and make sure American farmers are being treated fairly. The USMCA is a big win for Western New York and I applaud the President’s hard work.”

Collins has fought to end Canada’s unfair Class 7 pricing program, which has severely impacted New York dairy farmers. Under the USMCA, Canada has agreed to eliminate this program in order to level the playing field between the United States and Canada while allowing our dairy producers the ability to expand sales overseas.

Outside of the dairy industry, this trade agreement will increase the production of American goods and services. The agreement requires that 75 percent of auto content be produced in North America and makes critical reforms that will boost autoworkers’ wages. Additionally, the USMCA includes strong labor provisions that prioritize and protect American manufacturing jobs.

Furthermore, the agreement provides strong protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. This includes 10 years of data protection for biologic drugs and a large scope of products eligible for protection. These reforms are critical to driving innovation, creating economic growth, and supporting American jobs. 

Collins added: “President Trump is fulfilling his campaign promises and Republicans in Congress are eager to keep working with the White House to Make America Great Again.”

Press release from Sen. Charles Schumer:

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today released the following statement regarding the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico:

“As someone who voted against NAFTA and opposed it for many years, I knew it needed fixing. The president deserves praise for taking large steps to improve it. However, any final agreement must be judged on how it benefits and protects middle-class families and the working people in our country.

“Two areas where I particularly want to see the details are dairy, where our dairy farmers are being taken advantage of by Canada, and real enforcement of labor provisions. The labor provisions are good, but too often they are written into trade bills and never enforced.

“If a final agreement is signed by all three countries, I also look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to write ‘implementing legislation’ to ensure the deal actually achieves these goals.”

October 1, 2018 - 12:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, Nate McMurray, news, NY-27.

Press release:

Yesterday on ABC News, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said if Democrats regain control of the House, the House Judiciary Committee would have to investigate Brett Kavanaugh if he's confirmed to the Supreme Court.

"We are looking forward to seeing where our self-admitted progressive opponent Nate McMurray stands on this issue," said Collins campaign spokeswoman Natalie Baldassarre. "Both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the FBI have done everything in their power to investigate these allegations, and so far both have come up with nothing.

"Now, Nancy Pelosi and her radical cohorts are desperately attempting to hijack this seat. The voters of NY-27 deserve to know if Nate McMurray agrees with the far-left cries to impeach Brett Kavanaugh."

Rep. Nadler, who would likely chair the House Judiciary Committee if Democrats regain control, said lawmakers "would have to investigate any credible allegations ... of perjury and other things that haven't been properly looked into before." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has even floated the idea of impeaching Kavanaugh if he is confirmed.

"If the FBI doesn't find any corroborating evidence against Brett Kavanaugh, the vast majority of Americans agree that he should be confirmed to the Supreme Court," Baldassarre added. "At the very least, Nate McMurray should let the voters of NY-27 know if he plans to stand in the way of that happening."

September 28, 2018 - 5:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Nate McMurray, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, the Democratic and Working Families Party Candidate for New York’s 27th Congressional District, today applauded the House of Representatives for unanimously approving legislation that would rename the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act after the bill’s champion, the late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. The bill outlawed insider trading in Congress.

“Here in New York’s 27th Congressional District, we know the consequences of a member of Congress who takes their constituents for granted and decides that enriching themselves is their top priority. It took the FBI arresting Mr. Collins for many to see what Congresswoman Slaughter had been saying for months.

“On the campaign trail, I often tell the story of the time I met Louise Slaughter. I tell them that when I decided to challenge Congressman Collins a lot of people told me to go home, a lot of people in Washington told me not to bother. But then I met Louise. In her legendary Kentucky accent, she told me ‘if you do it, fight like hell,’ and since then we’ve made that the motto of our campaign.

“Louise told me to fight like hell and she showed us what it looks like to fight for what’s right. I’m proud that the House of Representatives honored her once again by recognizing her integrity, tenacity and the simple idea that a representative’s duty is to the constituents they serve, not their own financial interests.”

This week, Real Clear Politics labeled Nate’s race a toss-up.

September 22, 2018 - 8:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, Nate McMurray.

Rep. Chris Collins, under federal indictment on charges of securities fraud, has kicked off his resurgent campaign with an ad attacking Democratic candidate Nate McMurray for supposedly having something to do with a free trade agreement with Korea, which Collins falsely claims has cost the United States 95,000 jobs.

In 2010, South Korea and the United States entered a free trade agreement commonly known as KORUS. 

Collins is apparently getting his statistic from a 2016 report by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute, which has a record of calculating job loss estimates solely on a balance-of-trade figure. 

Such a calculation ignores the increase in exports, the lower costs of imports, the jobs created from increased trade, and an assumption that the imports would have been made in the United States if not for the trade agreement. It is not a survey of how many actual workers, if any, were terminated after the trade deal.

Scott Lincicome, an international trade expert with the conservative Cato Institute, has written a couple of times about EPI's flawed methodology. 

EPI used the same methodology to make false claims about jobs lost to China. 

Writing about a similar report in 2012, Lincicome said:

I really shouldn't give the "study" an iota of bandwith, but because it will undoubtedly be mentioned by ignorant journalists or opportunistic politicians looking to respectively score a few cheap page views or scare a few unwitting voters, here's all you need to read:

  • My 2010 blog post dismantling of EPI and its study (including boatloads of links from myriad scholars decrying EPI's asinine "trade deficit = job losses" methodology); and
  • Today's quick dismissal of the EPI report by the U.S.-China Business Council.

The claim of 95,000 jobs lost is also contradicted by steady economic growth in the United States since 2010, including 95 straight months of job growth. Since 2010, the U.S. economy has added more than 18 million jobs.

According to a U.S. Trade Representative report from 2015, KORUS had increased U.S. exports to Korea by nearly $25 billion annually to that point. 

"U.S. auto exports to Korea increased by 208 percent by value between 2011 and 2015," the report states, "more than 14 times faster than the increase of U.S. auto exports to the world (up 14 percent), thanks to Korea’s 50-percent tariff reduction (from 8 percent to 4 percent) when KORUS entered into force."

In 2016, the USTR reported that total, two-way trade with Korea had increased to $144.6 billion, with $63.8 billion in exports and $80.8 billion in imports.

A trade deficit does not translate into job losses, however. It means Americans are buying more because of greater availability or lower prices. It doesn't mean those products would have been made in the United States.

The Batavian tried to contact the communications director for the Collins campaign this morning and got no response. We reached out to Chris Grant, who works for the campaign, and he referred us to a statement Collins issued to the Buffalo News.

This is a real video of Nate McMurray that he removed from social media because he didn’t want to defend his efforts to promote a Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement that shipped nearly 100,000 U.S. jobs overseas. Nate McMurray needs a new video to explain why he opposes President Trump's policies that are protecting American jobs and American workers. Hopefully, he’ll leave that video up.

Via text message, The Batavian pointed out to Grant that the statement didn't address Collins's false claim about the number of jobs lost and we got no response.

Collins made his claim as part of a campaign commercial (see video above) that attacks McMurray's past employment as an attorney for U.S. companies in Korea.

According to the Buffalo News story, McMurray helped U.S. companies trying to open up the Korean market to their exports.

McMurray learned to speak Korean while working there. He married a Korean. He's said that the Collins' ad is xenophobic. He shared this on Twitter yesterday:

"I watched that ugly attack ad with my son. His mom is Korean. My son speaks Korean. He looked at me with a grave sadness on his face. He felt what I felt. Neither of us said a word."

Collins was arrested Aug. 3 and charged with securities fraud. A few days later he suspended his campaign. Earlier this week, he announced he would not cooperate with GOP efforts to remove his name from the ballot in November and then announced he would resume actively campaigning for reelection. As far as we know, he made his first public appearance in the district today in Newstead. About the event, he tweeted

It's great to be back on the campaign trail meeting with constituents across NY-27. Voters have a clear choice in November. We must keep this seat in Republican hands to continue advancing President Trump's America first agenda.

September 22, 2018 - 12:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Larry Piegza, NY-27.

Press release:

“Everyone knows Chris Collins will not do a good job representing NY27 from a jail cell. He is not going to care about getting a great Farm Bill or making the middle-class tax cuts permanent while contemplating up to a 150-year jail sentence,” Larry Piegza said.

“Republicans who want to vote for an ethical pro-Trump candidate should vote NY Reform Party this year. I have offered to give my congressional salary to charity after I pay for my Washington, D.C., expenses just because I want to show voters that I am not in this for the money.”

The NY Reform Party chose to break from tradition this year and not endorse Chris Collins due to the fact that the Office of Congressional Ethics had “substantial reason to believe” that he had broken the law. Collins was found to have tried to pass legislation in Congress designed to help his company, Innate Immunotherapeutics.

This turned out to be a sound decision as Collins was arrested on a different charge related insider trading concerning the same company.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if a quarter of the Republican Party votes Reform Party in this district this year," stated Charlie Flynn of the Reform Party selection process before Collins’ arrest. "We have the better conservative candidate.”

Recently, Piegza spoke on NPR with Evan Dawson and at “Left, Right and Center,” a political discussion group at the Orchard Park Presbyterian Church. After this appearance, he has seen donations to his campaign pick up. His campaign currently has $220,000 available, double the amount that the Democrat Nate McMurray has on hand. He anticipates that that number will grow if he can get either candidate to debate him.

“I understand why Chris Collins won’t debate me, he has to prepare for his trial and never met with his district since he took office," Piegza said. "What I can’t figure out why Nate seems to have changed from his #DebateNate stance to #NeverDebate.

"I offered to debate him in Batavia two weeks ago. Some reporter should ask him why he won’t. This is an interesting contrast to the fact that I am advocating for an online town hall, where residents can contact me 24/7.”

September 19, 2018 - 4:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, Nate McMurray, notify.

Rep. Chris Collins announced on Twitter today that he will "actively" seek reelection to the NY-27 seat he's held through three terms despite being under federal indictment for alleged securities fraud, wire fraud and lying to the FBI.

Collins released his statement in a graphic. Below is the graphic:


Below is a response from Nate McMurray, who is challenging Collins in the November election:

Nate McMurray, the Democratic and Working Families Party Candidate for New York’s 27th Congressional District, reacted to today’s news that indicted member of Congress and master insider trader Chris Collins would suspend suspending his campaign.
“It looks like the criminal is returning to the scene of the crime – and I’m not just talking about insider trading, lying to the FBI and everything else he’s been accused of – I mean the derelict(ion) of duty he did by ignoring his constituents and their interests for every second of his elected life.

"I’m curious to know what Mr. Collins means by ‘actively campaign’ because he hasn’t talked to his constituents, hasn’t held town halls, and has been hiding in his penthouse since the FBI arrested him. Now he thinks that the voters of this district who are getting hurt by a trade war, are struggling to make ends meet, and know that Washington is more corrupt than ever, he thinks they’re going to trust him? Give me a break. He looks out for himself. And maybe his donors.

"Chris Collins has been charged with a crime. He can’t buy his way back into his job.

"Chris Collins thinks the rules don’t apply to him. They do.

"Chris Collins represents everything that’s wrong with Washington.

"Chris, if you’re listening from Manhattan, here are a few words you may remember, ‘lock him up’ ‘drain the swamp’. I hear your next court appearance is on October 11. I bet some folks from NY-27 may take a road trip.

"In the meantime, I welcome you on the campaign trail, sir. Bring it.”

September 17, 2018 - 1:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, notify, Nate McMurray.

Rep. Chris Collins, the three-term congressman representing the NY-27 who was arrested on insider trading charges, will remain on the ballot in the November election.

Collins, in contradiction with prior statements, has decided not to cooperate with the efforts of GOP leaders in the district to have his name removed from the ballot and replaced by a new candidate.

Below is the only statement released by the Collins' campaign about the decision:

“Because of the protracted and uncertain nature of any legal effort to replace Congressman Collins we do not see a path allowing Congressman Collins to be replaced on the ballot.”

Statement by Mark Braden, legal counsel for Rep. Chris Collins

GOP county chairs were scheduled to meet tomorrow in Albany to select the person they hoped would replace Collins. WBTA reached Genesee County Chair Dick Siebert this afternoon and he said he was as surprised by the sudden of plans as everybody else.

In response to the news of the decision, Nate McMurray, running as the Democratic opponent to Collins in the election, released the following statement:

Today, Nate McMurray, the Democratic and Working Families Party Candidate for New York’s 27th Congressional District, responded to the breaking news that his opponent, indicted Congressman Chris Collins, the first Member of Congress to endorse President Trump, will remain on the ballot despite long-pushed rumors that he would removed before November.

This morning several local news outlets reported and local Republican leaders confirmed that Congressman Collins, on advice from his attorneys, will choose to remain on the ballot.

“Well, it’s nice to finally know who I’m running against. But, in truth, we always knew we were running against Chris Collins. There are laws for a reason. There is accountability in our society for a reason. And in the greatest democracy in the world, voters weren’t going to take this kind of sham switching around names on a ballot at the whims of local party bosses,” McMurray said.

“I credit the people of Western New York for standing up in town after town saying ‘don’t force him on the ballot in my town.’ They saw through this fraud. They weren’t going to fall for the bait-and-switch strategy by the same team that endorsed, celebrated, took pictures with and defended Chris Collins.

“There is an incredible grassroots movement in NY-27. Like me, the voters want to Fight Like Hell against the political machine that has let them down for so long. They like that I’m an underdog. Every day when I’m out meeting voters, we talk about affordable, accessible healthcare for all, defending Social Security, investing in our infrastructure, protecting our farms. But in this region, we’re still always talking about corruption. Voters have a chance to end that once and for all in NY-27 and I’m excited for the next 50 days.”

McMurray heard the news as he was on stage opening his new office headquarters, his fourth in two months, standing with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. Chairman Perez announced the news to a raucous crowd of more than 120 volunteers and supporters as he announced that the DNC was “all in” for Nate’s campaign.

September 15, 2018 - 8:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Nate McMurray, NY-27, news, notify.


Standing in front of about 100 members of the Democratic Party -- volunteers who signed up walk precincts on his behalf -- Nate McMurray, candidate for Congress, said something you might find surprising: Donald Trump is right about a few things.

"Let's be honest, a lot of people voted for Donald Trump because they knew they needed help," McMurray said. "It was a Hail Mary. They felt like there wasn't a party representing them and maybe they needed somebody on the outside to say, 'hey, I can shake the system up.'

"I'm going to tell you something to a lot of people in the Democratic Party will not say," McMurray added. "Mr. Trump may be a master salesman. He may be a lot of things but his message was right in many respects. The message of the fact that a lot of Americans get left behind or forgotten about."

Many of Trump's voters are now disappointed in Trump, McMurray suggested, because he hasn't delivered on his promises.

"The problem is, Mr. Trump's message has been nothing but bluster," McMurray said. "He's is not doing anything to help people in this country. We hear about a booming economy but do you think the people here in this part of the region or the people in Attica, do you think they feel things are booming and moving and things are going great?"

McMurray promised not only to fight for jobs if elected, including opposing bad trade deals, but to support health care for all, protect Social Security, and follow through on a campaign promise Trump seems to have forgotten: infrastructure.

"Within 60 days in office, we will present a joint infrastructure bill in the house," McMurray said.

Right now, it's unclear who McMurray is running against. The man he planned to beat, Rep. Chris Collins, is under federal indictment on insider trading charges. The Erie County businessman continues as the singular target in McMurray's crosshairs, at least until, and if, the GOP NY-27 chairs are able to remove Collins from the ballot and replace him with another nominee.

Next week, Democratic Party Chair Tom Perez is going to visit the NY-27 but there was a time in McMurray's congressional quest, he said, when the party bosses told him he couldn't possibly beat Chris Collins and he should save his political capital for another fight, he said he told them Collins needed to be taken out.

"I said no someone has to stand up to Chris," McMurray said. "We know he has an ethics violation. We know he has this history of saying 'I only represent my constituents who are my donors.' He had this horrible record and all knew his record even before he was a congressman. We knew about his record when he was county executive when he would fire people and defund libraries and defund all kinds of projects important to the community just because he felt like it."

There was only one person in Washington, D.C., back then willing to encourage McMurray's run, said: Louise Slaughter.

It was Slaughter, he said, who wanted to know if McMurray would "fight like hell," which has become the campaign motto. 

"She said something else," McMurray said. "She said, 'this man has used the house of the people not to do people's business but to make money for himself and his family. Are you ready to stand up against that?' and I said yes and she said, 'Will you stand on his neck?' She said that.

"Now that's mean and it sounds tough but there comes time for accountability. It is time for accountability, not just for Collins but for the entire party that supported him."



September 12, 2018 - 5:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news, notify.

The GOP chairs in the NY-27 will apparently meet soon now that a way has been found to remove the name of Chris Collins from the ballot in the race for the NY-27 congressional seat.

Collins dropped out of the race after being arrested Aug. 3 for alleged insider trading. He is charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI.

Dick Siebert, the Genesee County chair for the GOP, said he can't disclose any details and that he doesn't even know all of the details.

"I received a call from a source in Erie County and was led to believe that we will get Collins' name off the ballot with the opportunity to replace him with another candidate," Siebert said.

Siebert doesn't know yet when the GOP chairs will meet to discuss this latest development or pick a replacement candidate.

Both the Democrats and the Reform Party have candidates in the race. Nate McMurray, the Democrat, has issued statements blasting the Republicans for any attempt to remove Collins from the ballot and Larry Piegza has issued statements arguing he is the logical pick for the GOP chairs since he's a Trump supporter. Piegza has expressed frustration that none of the GOP chairs will even return his calls.

There are at least eight people vying for the GOP selection, including Batavia's own Steve Hawley, whom Siebert said he favors.

Whatever scheme the Republicans use to remove Collins from the ballot, the Democrats have vowed to fight it in the courts.


Subscribe to



Copyright © 2008-2018 The Batavian. Some Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
Original content available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license.
Contact: Howard Owens, publisher (howard (at) the batavian dot com); (585) 250-4118

blue button