Congress

At least half of Rep. Chris Collins’ full-time staff has left since he was indicted

New York Republican will fight the case in court, but some employees not waiting around

More than a handful of staffers for Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., have left his office since he was indicted in August of 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The trial of Rep. Chris Collins is in February, but some of his staffers aren’t waiting on the legal system to run its course.

Half of Collins’ full-time staff have left since he was indicted in August 2018 on fraud charges. Seven of 14 full-time staffers — among them his deputy chief of staff, Michael Kracker, communications director Sarah Minkel, and health policy adviser, Charlotte Pineda — are no longer working in the office, according to payroll records from May 2019, the most recent filing available in the Legislative Resource Center.

For comparison, two of his fellow New York  Republicans experienced fewer departures over that time frame. Rep. John Katko lost five full-time employees, one of whom is a shared employee. Nobody in the office of Rep. Tom Reed left during that period.

Collins’ office did not respond to an emailed request for comment. The lawmaker has denied the charges.

Collins faces eight counts of federal criminal charges involving conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and false statements. His trial is scheduled for Feb. 3 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Collins, along with his son, Cameron, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron’s fiancee at the time, are alleged by federal prosecutors to have engaged in an insider trading scheme involving an Australian biotechnology company — Innate Immunotherapeutics.

Collins, who was on the company’s board, allegedly provided material, nonpublic information to his son about confidential drug test results, paving the way for Cameron and others to trade on that privileged information before the public could. 

The other indicted congressman

Another lawmaker facing federal criminal charges is experiencing less turnover. Rep. Duncan Hunter, indicted in August 2018 and set to stand trial Jan. 14 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, has seen three staffers leave the office over the 10-month period.

The staffers who have left held roles such as field representative and legislative assistant, which tend to be prone to turnover. 

For comparison, two of Hunter’s fellow California Republicans, Reps. Devin Nunes and Ken Calvert, had four and two employees leave their offices, respectively, in that August-to-May time frame.

UNITED STATES - JULY 27: Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. celebrates as his teammates ball goes in the hole as Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., left, looks on at hole 7 during the First Tee Congressional Challenge golf tournament at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., on Monday morning, July 27, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Since his indictment, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has seen less turnover in his office than Collins. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Hunter faces a 60-count indictment that also names his wife, Margaret, for allegedly using over $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use, including for vacations, golf outings and video games. Margaret pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds in June.

Hunter’s office did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

In a video posted by the San Diego Union-Tribune after the indictment was filed, Hunter denied ever using campaign money for personal expenditures and described the allegations as part of a partisan attack by the Department of Justice. 

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