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Facing Bipartisan “Backlash” and Growing Calls for Ethics Investigation and Resignation, Loeffler’s Stock Trades “Roil” Georgia Senate Race

With Ultra-Wealthy Political Mega-Donor Kelly Loeffler “Under Fire” for Stock Trades After Closed-Door Coronavirus Briefing, Republicans Worry About Down-Ballot Fallout

Following a series of new reports this week detailing how political mega-donor and temporary Senator Kelly Loeffler dumped up to millions in stocks after a closed-door Senate briefing while publicly downplaying the risks of coronavirus, the fallout for the GOP’s unelected and unethical incumbent is rapidly snowballing out of her control:

  • The AJC reports that Loeffler “faced immediate political backlash” as some Republicans in Georgia “worried about the down-ticket damage” and called for her to resign.
  • 11Alive reports that Loeffler’s stock transactions “are raising questions whether” she was “getting even richer with early knowledge of the virus’s threat.”
  • POLITICO reports that Loeffler’s wealth “is suddenly looking like a serious liability” and “damaging her bid” for Senate, with one Georgia Republican operative saying the revelations put her campaign in a “perilous” and “dangerous” position.
  • National Journal reports that “picking Loeffler now looks like a major strategic miscalculation for Republicans” and raises the question of whether “an ethically compromised candidate is more likely to cost them a Senate seat.”
  • The New York Times editorial board argued Loeffler’s stock trades were a “rank betrayal of the public trust” and called on the Senate to “initiate an ethics investigation of all accusations, and, if warranted, refer relevant findings for criminal prosecution.”

“These reports demand an ethics investigation and the fact that Senator Loeffler hasn’t voluntarily asked for one raises even more questions about the circumstances behind her up to multi-million dollar stock trades,” said DSCC spokesperson Stewart Boss. “To make it more egregious, Senator Loeffler’s trades occurred while she was dismissing real concerns about the virus. The political mega-donor has faced well-deserved scrutiny over a corrupt appointment process, a laundry list of potential conflicts of interest, and an assignment to the subcommittee charged with overseeing the key regulator for her business interests — Georgians deserve the facts.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Loeffler faces backlash over stock trades after coronavirus briefing

  • U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler faced immediate political backlash after the disclosure that she sold up to $3.1 million in stocks shortly after attending a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Republican allies of her top conservative adversary, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, openly worried about the fallout of her stock sales.
  • House Speaker David Ralston, a longtime Collins friend, said in an interview Friday that he’s heard from “upset” House candidates concerned that the Republican ticket will get tainted in November by Loeffler’s financial dealings.
  • “I’m absolutely worried about the down-ticket damage,” said Ralston. “A lot of people are going to associate these activities with some very fine candidates running for the Georgia House and are going to hold that against us.”
  • At least one Republican candidate went a step further. Mark Gonsalves, a Republican candidate running for Georgia’s 7th District, said “with a heavy heart” he was forced to call for Loeffler’s resignation.
  • The fallout could be heightened because she faces tough competition from within her party, making it more difficult for Republicans to rally around Loeffler.
  • Collins, a four-term Gainesville congressman, has long painted Loeffler as a flimsy conservative intent on using her deep personal wealth to secure her Senate seat. He seemed certain to use stock trades to further that narrative through November.
  • “People are losing their jobs, their businesses, their retirements, and even their lives and Kelly Loeffler is profiting off their pain?” said Collins. “I’m sickened just thinking about it.”

11Alive: Georgia Senators Perdue, Loeffler stock trades under fire

  • ATLANTA — In the days before he showed up at the state capitol March 2 to sign up for re-election, Republican US Sen. David Perdue’s financial portfolio was very active – according to reports Perdue filed with the US Senate ethics office. And in that same time period, the same records show that Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her husband Jeff Sprecher were even more active.
  • All following a private US Senate briefing Jan. 24 on the spreading threat of the coronavirus.
  • Records show Loeffler and her husband – whose company owns the US Stock Exchange – sold stock valued between $1.3 and $3.1 million in the weeks before the market tanked.
  • Records show that Perdue… did purchase between $63,000 and $245,000 worth of stock in Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company now developing a Coronavirus vaccine. The records show only a range, not exact amounts.
  • The transactions are raising questions whether Georgia’s two wealthy US senators are getting even richer with early knowledge of the virus’s threat.
  • Loeffler and her husband were worth an estimated half-billion dollars before the market plunged earlier this month.
  • Their opponents seized quickly… seeking to unseat Loeffler, Democrat Rafael Warnock wrote “profiting off this disaster is unconscionable.”  And Loeffler opponent Republican Doug Collins wrote “I’m sickened just thinking about it.”

POLITICO: Loeffler stock trades roil Georgia special election

  • One of Kelly Loeffler’s most appealing traits to Republicans who embraced her for a coveted Senate appointment — her ability to self-fund a competitive election this fall through immense wealth — is suddenly looking like a serious liability for her and the GOP.

  • Loeffler’s rivals in a special election pounced on revelations that the recently appointed senator dumped millions of dollars in stocks after a classified Covid-19 briefing in January — damaging her bid against a formidable GOP opponent in Rep. Doug Collins, a close ally of President Donald Trump.
  • Collins told POLITICO in an interview Friday that Loeffler needs “to explain to Georgians and Americans what happened here, and why it happened.”
  • “To have sold and then bought stocks that benefit them personally is just very, very frustrating,” Collins said. “And it’s very disheartening for those of us who have been in public service.”
  • One Georgia Republican operative, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said Loeffler was in a “perilous” political situation caused by the revelations about her stocks specifically because, in the all-party November contest, another Republican was on the ballot.
  • “They can’t just appeal to partisan loyalties and say, ‘Don’t believe these storylines. This is a media attack,’” the operative said. “People have somewhere else to go if they’re uncertain about her, and that’s a really dangerous place to be.”
  • The accusations of self-dealing while the U.S. copes with the unprecedented coronavirus crisis… represent a major early test for Loeffler, a first-time political candidate on whom Republicans are counting to keep a contested Senate seat in GOP hands as Democrats mount a charge to retake the chamber in this year’s elections.
  • Warnock, national Democrats’ preferred candidate in the race, called the transactions “deeply disappointing” and said they should be investigated.
  • Loeffler… said in the appearance on CNBC that she was “happy to answer any and all questions and would submit to whatever review is needed,” but she has not called on the Ethics Committee to look into the matter.

National Journal: Money can’t buy you love in politics

Appointed Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler is the latest example of a wealthy candidate whose money can’t overcome serious political vulnerabilities.

  • That lesson that money can’t buy you political love is relevant yet again in the wake of a scandal involving several senators selling stock after receiving a private briefing in January over the looming threat of the coronavirus.
  • One of those senators is appointed Georgia GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the wealthiest member of Congress, whose husband is a primary stakeholder in the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange.
  • Unlike other senators accused of profiting from their service, most notably North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, she is the only one facing a competitive election this year… Republicans were hoping that Loeffler’s wealth would also dissuade other more politically tested GOP candidates from challenging her in the all-party special election this November.
  • Picking Loeffler now looks like a major strategic miscalculation for Republicans, who badly need to hold onto her seat in order to keep their Senate majority.
  • Even before the accusations of self-dealing emerged, there were signs of trouble for Loeffler’s campaign.
  • Facing skepticism from a president who counts Collins as one of his top supporters, she has been forced to showcase her loyalty to Trump at every turn. All this has limited her ability to reach out to Trump-skeptical independents in the suburbs—which was the whole point of picking Loeffler in the first place.
  • Now she’s facing a firestorm that all the money in the world can’t fix. She’ll need to quickly prove that the timing of her stock sales were coincidental, perhaps under the auspices of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation… In the wake of the coronavirus crisis threatening the economic fortunes of many Americans, her privileged background is a serious vulnerability that will be hard to overcome.
  • Collins is already hammering her over the allegations, accusing Loeffler of profiting from the crisis. “People are losing their jobs, their businesses, their retirements, and even their lives and Kelly Loeffler is profiting off their pain? I’m sickened just thinking about it,” Collins wrote on Twitter. A columnist at the conservative Washington Examiner called on her to resign if she can’t back up her defense.
  • The revelations surrounding Loeffler also raise uncomfortable questions for Republicans going forward… If Loeffler turns out to be damaged goods, Republicans will have to reconsider their options. They may end up regretting their attacks on Collins in a red-state race that any Republican would be favored to win. They’re politically savvy enough to appreciate that an ethically compromised candidate is more likely to cost them a Senate seat in a GOP-leaning state than someone who’s a bit too conservative.
  • “Even if we’re well past coronavirus by November, this is a ready-made TV ad for the Democrats to use, and voters tend to be hard on people they see as profiteering from a crisis,” said one veteran GOP pollster uninvolved in the race. “It obviously looks very bad for her, and buying Citrix stock at the same time she dumped millions in other stocks is an additional note that makes it hard for her to say she was doing anything other than reacting to insider information about coronavirus response that she received as a senator.”

New York Times: Editorial: Did Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler Profit From the Pandemic?

  • Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, are in the hot seat this week, facing questions about whether they misused their positions to shield their personal finances from the economic fallout of the pandemic, even as they misled the public about the severity of the crisis.
  • These briefings were occurring when much of the public still had a poor grasp of the virus, in part because President Trump and many Republican officials were still publicly playing down the threat.
  • Instead of raising their voices to prepare Americans for what was to come, Mr. Burr and Ms. Loeffler prioritized their stock portfolios, in a rank betrayal of the public trust — and possibly in violation of the law.
  • Of Ms. Loeffler’s 29 transactions, 27 were sales. One of her two purchases was of a technology company that provides teleworking software. That stock has appreciated in recent weeks, as so many companies have ordered employees to work from home.
  • Even as she was shedding shares, Ms. Loeffler was talking down the threat of the coronavirus. 
  • “Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on Coronavirus readiness,” she tweeted on Feb. 28, assuring the public that the president and his team “are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.”
  • “Concerned about the #coronavirus?” she tweeted on March 10. “Remember this: The consumer is strong, the economy is strong & jobs are growing, which puts us in the best economic position to tackle #COVID19 & keep Americans safe.”
  • There is pressure for Ms. Loeffler to step down as well, and the recent stock dealings of other senators are now being dissected — as well they should be.
  • The Senate should initiate an ethics investigation of all accusations, and, if warranted, refer relevant findings for criminal prosecution.
  • That said… the real scandal here is the way in which these public servants misled an already anxious and confused public. In times of crisis, the American people need leaders who will rise to the occasion, not sink to their own mercenary interests.

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DSCC FRIDAY TAKEAWAYS: GOP FAILED TO PREP FOR CORONAVIRUS—LOEFFLER FACES “BACKLASH” OVER STOCK DUMPING—COOK: DEMS “SEE MORE PATHS TO THE MAJORITY”

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