Huffpost Politics

Chris Collins Criticizes Kathy Hochul's Wealth In Race For Congressional Seat

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Rep. Kathy Hochul is being criticized by Republican opponent Chris Collins for her family's government income.
Rep. Kathy Hochul is being criticized by Republican opponent Chris Collins for her family's government income.

A wealthy Republican congressional candidate in western New York has launched a new website in an attempt to parody the source of his opponent's wealth.

On Wednesday, Republican former Erie County Executive Chris Collins unveiled the website "Who Wants to be a Public Sector Millionaire" to raise money for his campaign and criticize how his opponent, Rep. Kathy Hochul (D), and her husband have made money. It comes a day after Hochul released her tax returns for the last three years, which showed the couple made $259,979 in government salaries in 2011. Hochul's financial disclosure form says her net worth is between $1.05 million and $2.27 million, according to the Buffalo News.

"This website tells the story of the depth and history of Kathy Hochul's reliance on taxpayer salaries and her failure to ever create even a single job," Collins campaign manager Michael Kracker said in a statement. "Kathy Hochul attacks wealth and success achieved by small business owners like Chris Collins, but doesn't want to acknowledge her own significant wealth that she earned on the backs of taxpayers."

The Buffalo News reported that Hochul's net worth could be higher due to two blind trusts set up by her father, who created a company in the Buffalo area; what's in those trusts has not been reported. Collins, a businessman who served one term as Erie County executive until his defeat last year, has an estimated net worth between $25 million and $112 million. Collins has said he will not release his tax returns because they would include the income of his business partners and his business earnings, which would harm the companies.

Collins' campaign said in a statement that Hochul "may be one of Congress' more wealthy members" citing the disclosure form and the blind trusts. In Roll Call's 2011 list of the 50 wealthiest members of Congress, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) was ranked as the wealthiest with a net worth of $294.21 million. Collins would rank fourth on the list using the upper end of his financial disclosure and 13th based on the bottom range.

Hochul was first elected in a May 2011 special election defeating assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R-Clarence), a Collins ally, in an election based largely on Hochul's opposition to Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's budget plan. Hochul was placed into a Republican heavy largely rural district between Buffalo and Rochester after a panel of federal judges redrew the Empire State's congressional districts in the spring.

Hochul has worked as a congressional aide and as an attorney in the private sector, and was the Erie County clerk prior to her congressional victory. Her husband, William, is the U.S. attorney for western New York and a longtime federal prosecutor. Collins' camp describes him as a "top Obama political appointee." Hochul served as a Hamburg councilwoman and first deputy county clerk at the same time, a fact that Collins criticizes because she was receiving paychecks from both posts.

Hochul campaign manager Frank Thomas responded to Collins' website by criticizing the Republican's business record, including outsourcing jobs from companies he controlled.

"Chris Collins is the only candidate in this race who admits he makes his money by sending manufacturing to China, a nation that he acknowledges undermines American workers and their ability to make a profit. Kathy's family has been very successful in the private sector, creating jobs and growing a business from the ground up, and she doesn't deny she has benefited from her family's success," Thomas told HuffPost by email. "However, the tens millions of dollars Chris Collins has made by firing American workers to and sending business to China dwarfs Kathy's income from her many years of dedicated public service."

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