A fellow New York businessman may have given Donald Trump his first congressional endorsement through extortion, a New York Magazine report claims. New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins, a congressman who represents a western New York district, was the first member of Congress to throw his support behind Donald Trump.
Collins, known as a moderate Republican who tends to vote more often to the left of his party on immigration issues, endorsed Trump after Jeb Bush, the candidate with Collins’ endorsement initially, dropped out of the primary.
Collins’ move to back Trump, many believed, was reportedly traced back to Carl Paladino, a wealthy western New York real estate developer who upset the New York 2010 gubernatorial Republican primary — with the help of political consultant and former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone — and went on to lose decisively the governor’s race against Democrat Andrew Cuomo.
Paladino is not new to the Trump political world. In 2012, he was involved in the “draft Trump” for president movement. The Trump campaign opened an office in one of Paladino’s buildings in Buffalo recently.
Paladino recently threatened New York Republicans in the House and other local and state GOP officials saying that if they did not endorse Trump, unspecified consequences would follow. Staying neutral would be considered a slight towards Trump, Paladino alluded.
Days after he sent the initial threat, on March 14, he sent an e-mail saying in part:
Really! Open your eyes. Ed Cox, Al D’Amato, Karl Rove, Mitt Romney and the other Washington and Albany elites, facing the remainder of their careers as “has been’s,” have turned into irrational, desperate Looney Tunes looking to destroy the party they think they own before they will let Donald Trump be President.
Can you imagine that their brazen elitism has brought them to the point where they have completely forgotten that they do not own the Republican Party? The people own the party– and they now want the insiders booted out the front door.
This is our last request that you join Trump for President and try to preserve what’s left of your pathetic careers in government.
Whatever you do staying neutral is not an option. Pick a horse in the race and you may salvage some of your constituents’ respect for you. Not choosing paints you as a coward.
The bus is leaving the station very soon. Get on, or you’ll be left behind.
Over a week after the e-mail above was sent out, The Huffington Post asked Collins about whether Paladino, who lives in Collins’ district, had anything to do with his endorsement of Trump.
“Uh, so — I mean, Carl and I know each other,” Collins said, admitting that Paladino is a “big Trump guy” and that “he’s been pushing other New York members to endorse.”
Additionally, Collins revealed to HuffPost that he was simply in the middle of a stand still between Paladino and the New York Republican delegation, where he would be moderating for Paladino to not pressure the New York members before the primary filing deadline. In exchange, HuffPost reported, Collins would tell his colleagues that after the deadline, Paladino would start pressuring them again.
Collins eventually sent a text message to all of his New York GOP colleagues stating:
I know Carl Paladino has been aggressively pushing all of you to endorse Trump. And I know he has indicated he will start ‘attacking’ NYers who don’t endorse Trump. You may or may not care, but he does have a formidable email list.
New York Republican Rep. Tom Reed became the second member of the delegation to endorse Trump last week almost immediately after the last e-mail from Paladino was sent to him and the other New York GOPers.
“What influenced me was watching the millions of people that are engaging in this process, many for the first time, and hearing from folks across the district that are supporting Donald Trump,” Reed told The Buffalo News. “This was a recognition that we need to coalesce, that we need to unify” in order to defeat the likely Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the fall.
The Buffalo News notes, however, that Cook Political Report changed Reed’s district for the 2016 election from “likely Republican” to “competitive” after Reed’s endorsement.
“Reed just became the first swing-district Republican to endorse Trump, which has the potential to make the incumbent a more polarizing figure,” wrote David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.
Congressman Collins denied that Paladino pressured him to endorse Trump; however, Collins talked up the Manhattan developer as the best man for the White House — “no two ways about it.”
After securing Reed’s endorsement for Trump, Paladino specifically targeted New York’s North County first term Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik.
“Anyone interested in running in a primary to defeat Elise Stefanik?” Paladino asked his supporters in an e-mail, reported Syracuse.com.
Paladino wrote, “80 percent of her constituents want Trump, and she gives me the bull that she is too focused on her district to consider endorsing in the presidential primary. She needs to learn what treachery means.”
Despite Paladino’s attack, all 12 county Republican committees in Stefanik’s 21st Congressional District endorsed her for a second term. Stefanik continues to ignore Paladino’s threat to run a challenger in her primary, and only promises to support the eventual GOP nominee.