And now she’s holding crowded, indoor rallies ahead of her Jan. 5 run-off that will contribute to the increase in Georgia’s coronavirus cases.
Georgia, like other states across the country, is experiencing an alarming uptick in new coronavirus cases. Days after the White House placed the state back in the red zone for its increasing case rate, Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue opted to host a crowded indoor rally ahead of their January run-off elections.
The “Save Our Majority” rally, held in Cobb County on Wednesday, was so packed that a CNN crew opted to leave due to safety concerns. Cobb, a suburb of Atlanta, is one of the hardest hit counties in Georgia.
Loeffler and Perdue both failed to secure 50% of the votes in their bids for re-election, and will face off against Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively, in a Jan. 5 run-off. The results of these elections will determine whether the GOP remains in control of the US Senate, or tips power in favor of Democrats by splitting the legislative body 50-50 and allowing Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to break any tie.
Loeffler said on Wednesday that if she and Perdue win, they will “save the country.”
Yet, as Warnock and other critics have pointed out, Loeffler was privy to early intelligence regarding the potentially catastrophic coronavirus outbreak back in January—and did nothing about it. From the date of that first briefing on Jan. 24 through Feb. 14, the senator and her husband—Jeff Sprecher, CEO of Intercontinental Exchange and the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange—sold off millions of dollars in stock.
“We have a United States senator, Kelly Loeffler, unelected by the people of Georgia who, when she heard about COVID-19 seemed much more focused on her own portfolio than the people she was sent there to represent,” Warnock said on MSNBC last month. “She profited from the pandemic.”
One noteworthy sale came a day before President Donald Trump announced a ban on most European travel to the United States. On March 10, four days after first purchasing shares in Brooking Holdings, an online travel company, Loeffler and her husband sold a total of $46,027 worth of the stock. Trump announced his European travel ban after the markets closed on March 11, and the following day, Booking Holdings lost 12% of its value.
Loeffler dismissed allegations of insider trading as “politically motivated attacks,” and argued that those sell-offs were made on her behalf by third-party advisors who did not notify her of those transactions. In June, the Republican-chaired Senate Ethics Committee dismissed its investigation into accusations that Loeffler broke the law—the 2012 Stock Act forbids lawmakers from profiting off information they learn in nonpublic briefings.
Nonetheless, it’s clear Loeffler—who is also the wealthiest member of Congress and worth, with her husband, at least $800 million—benefited from those trades.
Meanwhile, at least 380,000 Georgians have been sickened with the coronavirus, 8,403 have died, and more than 4 million filed for unemployment for the first time in the state since March 21.
Earlier this year, Loeffler penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal where she promised to divest from the kinds of individual stocks that got her in trouble and move to “exchange-traded funds and mutual funds.” A spokesperson told Forbes, Loeffler would recuse herself from “any Senate matter where there is a conflict of interest.”
But as Donald Sherman, former chief oversight counsel for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, pointed out, that means there may be times Loeffler may not be able to do the work she was elected to do.
“If she recuses because of a conflict of interest arising from her husband’s business, it also means that Georgia has 50% less of a voice in what happens,” Sherman told Forbes. “In a divided government, with a closely divided Senate, one vote can certainly be decisive. It’s a disadvantage to folks back home if their senator has a conflict.”