It was a late breaking news scandal that will no doubt keep growing.
Late in the day yesterday, ProPublica published a story reporting that Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the current Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold a lot of stock shortly after receiving a private coronavirus briefing. Their article says that he sold off “$628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions.” The stock market started to tank days later.
This story also came on the heels of a secret recording becoming public where Burr had given a VIP group a much more dire outlook of what the consequences of the coronavirus could be for the economy than anything he was saying publicly. You can read the full report HERE.
Hours after the Burr story dropped, the Daily Beast published an article reporting that Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), did the same thing. But in her case, she started to sell stock the DAY she was in the private coronavirus briefing with the CDC and administration officials. (Did I mention that Loeffler did BUY a stock, too. In a technology company that offers teleworking software. Convenient, as huge numbers of us are now working from home for the first time.)
Time will tell how many Senators (and maybe Representatives?) sold stock right after learning how severe the coronavirus would be on public health, and how it would potentially affect the economy.
Can Senators sell stock while in office?
A lot of people–on both sides of the aisle–believe that every federal legislator should divest or have their stocks put in a blind trust before they take office, but that is not the current law.
There are some limitations on what Congressfolk can and can’t do with their stocks, but the STOCK Act, cleared up a lot of details. Here’s the summary from GovTrack:
The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act is an Act of Congress designed to combat insider trading. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama on April 4, 2012. The bill prohibits the use of non-public information for private profit, including insider trading by members of Congress and other government employees.
So at first blush, what Senators Burr and Loeffler did certain seem like they violated the STOCK Act. If they received a private briefing that they used to make decisions about selling stocks, that is in violation.
What can we do?
First, a more thorough investigation needs to be conducted for both of the Senators. Furthermore, there were names floating around on Twitter last night of other Senators that may have done the same thing. All of that needs to come to light. But if they did violate the STOCK Act, they need to resign. Period.
When that moment comes, we may need to create a lot of public pressure to make sure that they DO resign. Corruption must be rooted out.