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Democrats blast GOP 'culture of corruption' after indictment of Rep. Chris Collins

The attack, which followed news of insider trading charges against the congressman, echoed the party's messaging during the 2006 midterm elections.

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Wednesday accused the GOP of a "culture of corruption" after Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., was arrested on federal charges of insider trading.

“The charges against Congressman Collins show the rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment among Republicans in Washington today,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement.

The House Ethics Committee had already been investigating Collins for insider trading after a July 2017 referral by the Office of Congressional Ethics. Pelosi said Wednesday that the committee “must accelerate” its probe of Collins' “illegal abuse of the public trust.”

“The American people deserve better than the GOP’s corruption, cronyism, and incompetence,” Pelosi said. “While House Republicans enrich themselves and their special interest donors, Democrats are committed to cleaning up corruption to make Washington work For The People.”

Democrats pushed the message of a “culture of corruption” among Republicans during the 2006 midterm election cycle that ended with their reclaiming of majorities in the House and Senate.

Collins, 68, his son, Cameron Collins, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron Collins’ fiancée, were charged Wednesday with participating in a scheme to commit insider trading relating to Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech company, whose board Collins served on. Collins, who has served in Congress since 2013, represents portions of Western New York, including suburbs of Buffalo and Rochester.

Attorneys for Collins said in a statement Wednesday, “We are confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated.”

Congress passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama, in 2012. The measure bans insider trading by members of Congress and government employees.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., who represents Buffalo, said in a statement that the allegations against Collins “can be summed up in one word: shameful.”

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., tweeted that President Donald Trump’s Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, “should be next.” Some congressional Democrats have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Ross engaged in insider trading after several reports surfaced about his connection to a financial transaction that involved a company with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, tweeted Wednesday: “Asbestos shouldn’t be legal. Cars should be fuel efficient. We have a right to clean air and water. Our national parks and monuments should be held in trust for future generations. Also insider trading is bad. Please vote for Democrats in November.”

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday that the indictment demanded a “prompt and thorough investigation” by the Ethics panel and that until the matter is resolved, Collins would not be serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

When Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., faced federal charges of conspiracy and bribery in 2015, he was not removed from his leadership post on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but decided himself to step down for the time being as its ranking member. After he was acquitted in January of several charges, he re-assumed the leadership role on the panel in February.