GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler—Georgia’s “Peach” of an Insider Stock Trader March 29, 2020
Some GOP, G rand O pportunistic P arty lawmakers love to play it both ways. Way #1, falsely and repeatedly tell your own MAGA-supporting constituents that the coronavirus crisis is way overblown by Democrats to hurt Trump. Way #2, after getting private information about how truly devastating this pandemic, actually is, sell millions in stock that might be badly hit by this catastrophe and buy stock in other companies whose services will be needed during this time. On 1/24/2020, Sen. Kelly Loeffler was present at a private all-Senators meeting of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. At that meeting, CDC (Center for Disease Control) officials, including CDC director Anthony Fauci and the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, discussed the effects of the coronavirus. Sen. Loeffler tweeted, “Appreciate today’s briefing from the President’s top health officials on the coronavirus outbreak (thedailybeast.com, Markay, Bredderman, & Brodey, 3/20/20, nytimes.com, Lipton & Fandos, 3/19/20).”
Loeffler did more than follow up this key Senate committee meeting with a tweet. On the very day of that meeting and after hearing the government speakers there, Sen. Loeffler started selling off various stocks. Between 1/24/2020 and 2/14/2020, Sen. Loeffler and her husband sold between $1.2 and $3.1 million worth of joint stock holdings. During this time, Loeffler and her husband made 29 stock transactions. All but two of these transactions were sales. One of Sen. Loeffler’s two purchases in this period was stock worth between $100,00 and $250,000 in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software useful to people working at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Citrix has seen an increase in its stock price since Loeffler bought it as a result of the coronavirus-market turmoil. The stocks she sold off after getting her private Senate briefing were hard hit when the Dow Jones Industrial average fell about 10,000 points, approximately 1/3 of its value (See, thedailybeast.com., Markay, et al, 3/20/20, nytimes.com, Lipton & Fandos, 3/19/20, foxnews.com, Wulfsohn, 3/19/20). Because of her post-Sen. meeting stock transactions, Loeffler has been accused of insider trading during the coronavirus pandemic. The 2012 United States STOCK Act, (acronym for Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge), explicitly bars lawmakers, their aides, and other government employees from using non-public information for private stock trading profit (See nytimes.com, 3/20/20, Editorial Board).
On 3/19/2020, Loeffler denied wrongdoing on her part or her husband’s. She stated that these investment decisions were made by third-party advisors without her or her husband’s knowledge or involvement. However, Loeffler was informed of these stock purchases and sales on 2/16/2020 as confirmed in the periodic transaction report to the Senate Ethics Committee, three weeks after they had been made (twitter.com/SenatorLoeffler/status). In Feb. and March, 2020 tweets, Sen. Loeffler attacked Democrats for “intentionally misleading the American people about coronavirus readiness,” praised Donald for doing a “great job to keep Americans healthy and safe,” and called the economy “strong and ready to attack the coronavirus, COVD19 (thedailybeast.com, Markay et al, 3/20/20).” Who is Senator Kelly Loeffler?
First-term GOP Senator Kelly Lynn Loeffler (49) is currently Georgia’s junior Senator. Bloomington, Illinois native Loeffler was raised on her family’s Stanford, IL farm. She received her BS degree in marketing from the University of IL at Urbana-Champaign and an MBA from DePaul University (ajc.com, Bluestein, 11/18/19, ajc.com/sports, Hiskey, 6/04/11, ajc.com, Denery, 12/02/19). After receiving her undergraduate degree, Loeffler worked for Toyota as a District Account Manager. After obtaining her MBA, she worked for Citibank, William Blair & Company, and the Crossroads Group (linkedin.com/in/kelly-loeffler, atlantamagazine.com, Lichtenstein, “Bloomberg News,” 12/02/19). In 2002, Loeffler joined Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) a commodity and financial service provider (amp.ft.com, Meyer, 3/27/18). After marrying ICE’s founder, CEO, and that company’s largest individual shareholder, Jeffrey Sprecher, in 2004, Loeffler was promoted to senior vice president of investor relations and corporate communications. In 2010, Loeffler bought a minority stake in the Atlanta Dream a team in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). In 2011, Loeffler co-purchased the Atlanta Dream. In 2018, Loeffler became the CEO of Bakkt, a subsidiary of ICE and a cryptocurrency trading platform (ajc.com, Seward, 9/04/11, ajc.com, Judd, 2/08/20, forbes.com, 9/26/11, Tully, fortune.com, 8/03/18 ). Loeffler and her husband built their wealth through taking ICE public in 2005 and through a string of acquisitions, including the NY Board of Trade in 2006 and the NY Stock Exchange in 2013. Loeffler’s husband is currently the Chairman and CEO of the NY Stock Exchange. In the 15 years since ICE’s shares started trading publicly, the company’s market value has grown from $1.4 billion to about $51.5 billion (thedailybeast.com, Markay, et al, 3/20/20, ajc.com, Judd, 2/08/20). ICE operates worldwide exchanges in energy futures, agricultural commodities, and various complicated financial instruments. ICE also owns a subsidiary that registers home mortgages (Judd, ajc.com, 2/08/20).
Loeffler and her husband have donated $3.2 million to political committees. The majority have gone to the Republican Party (opensecrets.org, 12/04/19). Loeffler donated $750,000 to Restore Our Future, a Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. The National Republican Senatorial Committee received $247, 500 from Loeffler and her husband (opensecrets.org,12/04/19). Loeffler first considered running for the U.S. Senate in GA in 2014, but decided against it, because of ICE’s pending acquisition of the New York Stock Exchange (Politico, Schultheis, 11/04/2013). In 11/2019, Loeffler applied to succeed incumbent GA GOP Senator Johnny Isakson, who had announced his resignation, effective 12/31/2019, for health reasons. Isakson had been re-elected in 2016. Loeffler stated her intention to run in the 11/2020 special election to complete Isakson’s term. GA GOP Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler to succeed Isakson and she was sworn into the Senate on 1/06/2020 (Bluestein, ajc.com, 12/04/19, Mitchell, 1/03/20, ajc.com).
Loeffler describes herself as a conservative GOPer and supports the re-election of Demagogue Donald. Since taking office, Loeffler has voted in line with Donald a perfect 100% of the time, surpassing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “mere” 96% score in the current 116th Congress (projectsfivethirtyeight.com, projectspropublica.com). She voted to acquit Demagogue Donald in his Senate impeachment trial (ajc.com, Mitchell, 2/05/20).Sen. Loeffler identifies as pro-life and has stated she will vote for pro-life legislation. The anti-choice Susan B. Anthony list had initially opposed her appointment, but has now backed her for the 2020 election (Levine, politico.com, 1/06/20, National Review, 12/03/19, washingtontimes.com, 1/02/20). Loeffler is for gun-owners Second Amendment Rights, read anti-gun control, and for constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border (albanyherald.com, nytimes.com, Edmondson, 1/28/20).
When Loeffler assumed office, she immediately became the wealthiest member of Congress, with a fortune estimated at $500 million (thedailybeast.com, Markay et al, 3/20/20). From the get-go, Sen. Loeffler has faced strong scrutiny and criticism for being part of the ultra-rich corporate “swamp” Trump had claimed he opposed in his 2016 campaign. Loeffler conveniently sits on the Commodities, Risk Management, and Trade Subcommittee of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, And Forestry Committee. Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the ethics group “Public Citizen,” told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “This committee oversees futures markets and gives Kelly Loeffler a direct position in overseeing her and her husband’s financial enterprises. Holman added, “I find it utterly irresponsible the Senate would choose to put Loeffler on that committee.” And unlike other Senators, Loeffler’s finances are directly tied to her electoral fate. She has pledged $20 million of her own money on her bid to hold on to her seat when she faces voters for the first time this 11/2020 (See thedailybeast.com, Markay et al, 3/30/20).
Loeffler’s ICE company employs lobbyists to influence federal regulatory agencies and Congress including committees on which Loeffler now sits. Sen. Loeffler’s husband and other ICE executives often testify at congressional hearings. When she was ICE’s senior VP for corporate communications, Loeffler herself publicly criticized ICE’s primary regulator, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for proposing “excess regulation” during the late 2000 financial crisis. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission answers directly to the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Commodities and Trade Subcommittee upon which Sen. Loeffler, as previously noted, now sits (ajc.com, Judd, 2/08/20). How do you spell “Conflict of Interest?” That’s simple, “SENATOR KELLY LOEFFLER.”
GA’s electoral votes will be in play in Campaign 2020. In 2016, Donald beat Hillary in GA by just 5% of the vote. Suburban areas peeled away from Trump, and only the rural sections carried him to victory (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac). Suburban hostility to Donald remains strong. Turnout in GA should be high in 11/03/2020 because of the presidential election. In addition, the two GA U.S. Senate seats are being contested on that date, the regular Senate election for the seat held by David Perdue, as well as the special election to fill Isakson’s seat in which incumbent Loeffler is running. Under GA law, in this special election, all candidates, regardless of party, will be placed on the same ballot and their party labels will be printed on the ballot. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election on 1/05/2021(dailykos.com, Singer, 8/28/19).
This special election is no “cakewalk” for Loeffler. She is running against GOPers Doug Collins, and Wayne Johnson. Collins is her strongest “Red” opposition. He is a 4th term-Congressman best known for his pit-bull attacks against Trump’s impeachment as the ranking or top minority member of the House Judiciary Committee. He is doing his best to outflank Loeffler as more Trumpier than she can ever be. He has criticized her for being an “insider” and he is running an insurgent campaign with some strong backers. He has already attacked Loeffler for “profiting off the coronavirus crisis” and has called her selling and buying stocks for personal benefit “very disheartening for those of us who have been in public service (See politico.com, Arkin, 3/21/20, CQ 116th Cong. At Your Fingertips).” On the Democratic side, Loeffler’s key opponents are Matt Lieberman, the son of former Gore 2000 VP nominee Sen. Joe Lieberman. Matt Lieberman is an educator and entrepreneur. Senior pastor at Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rev. Raphael Warnock, is also in this race. He has been endorsed by former GA Dem. gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and many national Democratic leaders have rallied around him (ajc.com/blog, Mitchell, 2/05/20). Loeffler, of course, has her own fortune to spend on this race, and the Senate Leadership Fund, controlled by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has already spent $2 million to help her. That fund now has no plans to spend further money on her. It claims the move was “unrelated” to her controversial stock trades, but don’t believe that for one minute (latimes.com, Halper, 3/20/20).
In any event, the two GOP contenders Loeffler and Collins are currently the top two contenders in most polling, and political analysts call this race a “Lean R” or “Likely R” one (Wikipedia, Cook, Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Politico, 2/24/20). Even if Warnock or Lieberman make one of the top two spots, a runoff with MAGA rural Georgians primed up will be very rough. However, if Democrats turn out in droves plus in the special election and the possible runoff, this race is doable.