(Right Country) – Last week, Sens. Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler attracted widespread criticism for selling their stocks ahead of the coronavirus stock market crash and were accused of insider trading.
Big League Politics reports that, contrary to popular belief, they’re not the only elected officials who appear to have benefited from the crisis as regular, everyday Americans wonder how they’re going to make ends meet.
According to a report from POLITICO, several members of Congress “had traded shares at times or in industries that bore a relationship to the coronavirus threat.”
There was California Congresswoman Susan Davis, who sold thousands of dollars of stock in Alaska Air and Royal Caribbean cruises.
Meanwhile, a senior aide to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell purchased stocks of biotech company Moderna, Inc. in mid-January that announced earlier in the month they’d been working on a coronavirus vaccine.
An aide to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sold stocks in several companies, including Delta Airlines, in late January. This aide went on to buy stock in Clorox, Inc., which manufactures a variety of disinfectant products.
These business moves seem to indicate members of Congress have enjoyed the privilege of insider info while the rest of us were blindsided by the economic crash.
“The reality is that if you work on the Hill, or you work in government, you have access to information that the public doesn’t have or, if they have it, they can’t always see the signal through the noise,” says Meredith McGehee, executive director of the watchdog group Issue One. “If you’re on the HELP Committee, you’re going to grasp threats much faster than the general public. You see things much more clearly.”
Several senators, including Loeffler, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, and Georgia Senator David Perdue, all sold off stock at the end of January and the beginning of February as the Senate was being briefed on the Wuhan virus.
POLITICO noted the following:
It’s illegal for lawmakers and aides to trade stocks based on private information. But they are allowed to buy and sell shares based on public information they absorb on Capitol Hill so long as they disclose those trades within 30 days. That permissive approach to buying and selling stocks — the executive branch has much stricter rules — has drawn criticism from watchdogs who argue the freedom to trade isn’t as important as the need for the public to trust Congress to act only on its behalf.
Other members of Congress are also expected to profit from the crisis.
West Virginia congressman Rob Wittman bought between $1,001 and $15,000 of stock in the pharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc., on February 27, 2020 the day the company issued a statement saying it had donated one of its antiviral drugs to China as an experimental option for combatting the Wuhan virus and that it was looking into a research collaboration on potential options for treatment.
Wittman’s office declared he “does not have any involvement in investment decisions for his financial portfolio” and mentioned how AbbVie shares have lost value ever since. The office then added that Wittman’s original AbbVie purchase was for $1,218.