- The California GOP endorsed former Green Party presidential candidate Joe Collins in his bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters.
- Collins claimed his bodily fluids were worth $15 million in a lawsuit he filed against San Diego in 2017.
- Collins has switched political parties four times since entering the arena in late 2016, Federal Election Commission records show.
- Collins had $22 in his checking account in April 2018, court documents show. Now he’s running a congressional campaign that has raised $761,000.
The California Republican Party endorsed a former Green Party presidential candidate who once claimed that his bodily fluids were worth $15 million in a lawsuit that, according to a lawyer, appears to have evoked the fringe legal theories of the sovereign citizen movement.
Navy veteran Joe Collins has also raised nearly $761,000 for his longshot bid to unseat 15-term Democratic California Rep. Maxine Waters, campaign records show. He first entered the political arena as an anti-Trump presidential candidate in November 2016 and has since switched political parties four times, most recently to a pro-Trump Republican.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that since Collins launched his congressional bid in July 2019, his campaign has spent $112,000 on food and travel and has paid nearly $148,000 to a mysterious consulting firm that Collins once reported to the FEC shared the same office address as his campaign.
In 2018, while running for president, Collins revealed that he had just $22 in his checking account in court documents related to a lawsuit he had filed the year prior against San Diego.
Representing himself in the lawsuit, Collins sought the termination of a child support order and damages of $100 million. Lawyers for San Diego said Collins’s complaint was “nearly impossible to decipher.”
During the reporting process for this story, Collins personally sent a cease and desist notice to the Daily Caller News Foundation with no apparent legal representation. The would-be federal legislator claimed the DCNF had no right to question him about his previous record as an anti-Trump presidential candidate, his personal finances or the legal theories he espoused in his lawsuit against San Diego.
Joe Collins: A ‘living breathing man with a soul’
In December 2017, while campaigning as an anti-Trump presidential candidate, Collins sued the San Diego Department of Child Support Services for $100 million in damages and the termination of his court-ordered child support obligations.
Prior to issuing his cease and desist notice, Collins told the DCNF that DNA tests confirmed he was not the father of the child he has been ordered to financially support. He said he was still actively fighting the case now that he’s campaigning for Congress.
Representing himself without a lawyer, Collins argued in the lawsuit that he was a “living breathing man with a soul … acting in a sovereign capacity and is the registered owner” of his own self. On those grounds, Collins declined to participate in any proceedings related to his child support payments, saying the process “violates my inalienable rights as a living breathing man.”
“Joe E. Collins doing business as JOE EDWARD COLLINS III, does not consent to any contract, codes, state codes, statues, commercial presentments or anything similar,” Collins wrote in his lawsuit.
Constitutional lawyer Caesar Kalinowski reviewed Collins’s lawsuit and told the DCNF that his arguments “definitely indicate to me that he is espousing and/or invoking the same type of pseudolegal principles that you would find in the sovereign citizen movement.”
While there is no leader or central authority for the sovereign citizen movement, adherents to its legal theories generally believe they are “sovereign only unto themselves,” Kalinowski explained. “Unless they consent, no government can exercise jurisdiction over them,” he said.
The FBI goes further, describing sovereign citizens as “anti-government extremists” that have a propensity for clogging up the court system with frivolous lawsuits. “Not every action taken in the name of the sovereign citizen ideology is a crime, but the list of illegal actions committed by these groups, cells, and individuals is extensive (and puts them squarely on our radar),” the FBI notes.
Collins did not respond to inquiries seeking clarification on whether he considers himself a sovereign citizen.
In a response to the lawsuit, lawyers for San Diego County said the arguments Collins made in his complaint were “nearly impossible to decipher.” After the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California dismissed his lawsuit, Collins appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ultimately concluded that his case was “frivolous.”
Kalinowski, who has studied the sovereign citizen movement, said: “Anyone that would self ascribe to that ideology likely lacks a very basic understanding of the Constitution and the framework of the government and how laws work.”
“It’s always concerning when any candidate or anyone in government does not have a strong grasp of the actual powers enumerated under the Constitution,” Kalinowski said, though he declined to comment specifically on Collins’s candidacy.
Collins claimed in court his presidential campaign was worth $100 billion
Collins made a number of noteworthy statements about his finances in his court filings related to the child support dispute.
For instance, in his initial filing, he attached documents claiming that he transferred a combined $800.2 billion worth of assets to his private trust, the “Royal Family of Collins.”
Among the assets Collins claimed to have transferred to his trust was his Social Security number, birth certificate, his own self and his presidential campaign, each of which he asserted as being worth $100 billion each.
His trust also contains a lengthy “schedule of fees,” which includes charges of $15 million for “DNA or Body Fluids,” with an additional “extraction” charge of $100 million for the “Forced giving of fluids/samples.”
Collins swore under penalty of perjury in an April 2018 court filing that he couldn’t afford the fees necessary to appeal his case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Collins told the court he was earning $6,861 a month in the Navy until his retirement in October 2017. By the following April, Collins was surviving on just $675 a month in Veterans Affairs disability benefits and had just $22 in his checking account, he told the court.
But Collins wasn’t paying his court-ordered child support even when he had a steady military salary, court documents show. His initial lawsuit includes a statement showing he owed $14,000 in back child support the month he retired from the Navy.
The woman who’s owed monthly child support from Collins told the DCNF that Collins made only two child support payments in 2018 and just one in all of 2019. She asked to stay anonymous for this story to keep her child out of the spotlight.
Collins confirmed in an email to the DCNF that he wasn’t paying child support because he says he did not father the child.
“The child is not mine, which is why I’m not paying it. I’ve taken multiple DNA test when the issue arised [sic] years ago,” Collins said.
“This is a case that I am still fighting,” the congressional candidate added. “The courts violated my right to due process by not notifying me of court date to close the matter after I was supposed to had won the case. They freaking did that purpose to default me which is why I filed the suit in the first place.”
“I would ask that you NOT publicize that because I’m still fighting the case with the crooked court system til this date and I dont [sic] want to hamper my chances of having this thing drawn out any longer than it has to be,” Collins told the DCNF.
Collins went from $22 in the bank to running a $761,000 campaign
Collins has raised nearly $761,000 since he launched his congressional bid against Waters in July, FEC records show, $112,000 of which has gone to pay for food and travel in the final six months of 2019 and another $148,000 has been disbursed to a mysterious company called Pure Strategy Solutions for digital and strategic consulting services.
To be sure, there’s no indication that Collins has violated campaign finance laws in his campaign’s travel and food disbursements and transactions with Pure Strategy Solutions.
Collins has been pictured across the country rubbing elbows with major Trump-world figures such as Donald Trump Jr. and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
What a great day in the Hamptons at President Trumps fundraiser. Excited to learn from @RudyGiuliani on how he cleaned up NYC and @DonaldJTrumpJr on how to bring awareness to our district on Criminal Justice Reform, First Step Act & Opportunity Zones pic.twitter.com/W5ajWjgfJo
— Joe Collins III (@joecollins43rd) August 10, 2019
Collins told the DCNF that his extensive campaign-funded travel is justified because the district he’s seeking to represent “doesn’t have the funds to donate to take on the most hated and corrupt female politician in the country. Therefore, I need to get financial support all over the country.”
And Collins reported to the FEC in a July 2019 campaign filing that the consulting firm, Pure Strategy Solutions, shared the same address as his campaign. In subsequent filings, the consulting firm was listed as having an address in Beverly Hills, and starting in October campaign filings show the firm having an address in Delaware.
Collins told the DCNF that it was “definitely an error” that he listed Pure Strategy Solutions as having the same address of his campaign in his July 2019 filing. But Collins did not address any follow-up questions about his relationship to the firm.
Instead, he sent the DCNF a cease and desist notice he authored with no apparent legal representation, saying the DNCF does not “have the right nor my permission to question me.”
Collins wrote in the notice that the DCNF’s questions involving his “closed Presidential Campaign, court proceedings and questions regarding the personal finances and dealings of Joe Collins’s private life” were “defamatory.”
Attempts to reach Pure Strategy Solutions were unsuccessful.
‘It’s hard to be in the Navy with a president like Donald Trump’
Collins has had only positive things to say about President Donald Trump since he set his sights on Waters.
“We’re going to unseat Maxine Waters. We’re going to help Mr. Trump keep America great and we’re going to make California great again,” Collins said in July during his congressional campaign launch event at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
A magnitude 6.4 earthquake ravaged southern California on the same day Collins launched his congressional campaign. Collins said the earthquake was a “sign from God” that “we got to get Maxine Waters out of there.”
Within months of launching his congressional bid, Collins began boasting the support of major Republican politicians.
Collins tweeted in September that he had the backing of South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw.
I had a great time hanging out with Champions yesterday evening!
It’s great to have the support of @SenatorTimScott, @DanCrenshawTX and Shafron Hawkins. These men are making a real impact in America. Huge thanks to @RepublicanChick (my press secretary) and my Campaign team! pic.twitter.com/lQnUh2ApSv
— Joe Collins III (@joecollins43rd) September 12, 2019
Scott spokesman Sean Smith told the DCNF that the senator “did not and does not support this candidate, and did not have a meeting with him. He takes pictures with a lot of folks at events, and it appears this gentleman took that picture and ran with it.”
A Crenshaw staffer told the DCNF that the Texas congressman never supported Collins.
Collins also posted in September that he was looking forward to joining Rep. Thomas Massie on the Freedom Caucus in a tweet containing pictures of himself with the Kentucky lawmaker.
Massie’s chief of staff, John Ferland, told the DCNF that the congressman “is not in the Freedom Caucus and has never been. Several months ago, Mr. Collins wrote a check to Thomas Massie for Congress, but we decided against cashing the check.”
And in early February the California Republican Party endorsed Collins, saying he “will fix the problems caused by the Democrats, including Maxine Waters.”
It’s unclear if the California GOP was aware of Collins’s recent history running as an anti-Trump presidential candidate or of the legal theories he espoused in his lawsuit against San Diego.
The California GOP did not return requests for comment.
Collins changed political parties four times after he entered the political arena in November 2016 as a Republican presidential candidate challenging then-President-elect Trump.
Over the next two-and-a-half years, Collins changed political parties four times, filing paperwork with the FEC listing his affiliation as the Democratic Party, the Millennial Political Party and the Green Party. Collins rejoined the Republican Party in a February 2019 FEC filing.
A constant theme throughout Collins’s presidential run was his criticisms of Trump.
Collins said during a January 2018 interview that he felt compelled to retire from the Navy and campaign against Trump over his concern that the president’s Twitter account could lead to open military conflict.
“It’s hard to be in the Navy with a president like Donald Trump,” Collins said. “Not to say anything bad about him, but he agitates everything and everybody so much.”
Collins remained critical of Trump as recently as March 2019, which was shortly after his return to the Republican Party.
During an interview in March, Collins spoke out against Trump’s incitement of “hatred and violence and racism across the country” in 2016, saying the president’s actions on the campaign trail “didn’t sit well with my soul.”
“I didn’t like Donald Trump and I felt everybody was centered around Donald Trump in the Republican Party,” Collins said of his mindset entering presidential politics during another interview in March. “They don’t have no leadership and I felt like they a bunch of cowards.”
Collins then said he returned to the Republican Party so he could fight Trump on his territory.
“If you want to knock out the biggest dog, then you step on his turf. The biggest dog is not in the Green Party,” Collins said in the interview. “I’m stepping on the turf, and I’m going to get my name out there with Donald Trump and everybody, and I’m going to fight him on his own stance because I can beat him.”
When first contacted by the DCNF, Collins blamed his Green Party foray on “very bad advice” he was given by “someone in politics.”
“I had no clue as to how the political game was played,” Collins said. “I realized quickly that the advice I was given to ‘just get my name out’, was the worst idea I have ever been told.”
Collins said he never intended to “hurt the process that our President had started” and that “high-profile people in Washington DC” had encouraged him to drop out of the presidential race and run for Congress as a Republican against Waters.
This story has been updated to include a clarified comment Crenshaw’s staffer provided after publication. The initial quote did not clearly convey that the congressman denied supporting Collins.
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