Meet the D.C. Parasites Profiting Off of the Wuhan Virus While Middle America Suffers
Senators Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler caught a lot of flak last week for their sales of stock made during a time when the Wuhan virus threat was front and center of media attention. Contrary to popular belief, these two weren’t the only elected officials to buy and sell stocks at sensitive moments during this crisis.
According to a POLITICO report, that several members of Congress “had traded shares at times or in industries that bore a relationship to the coronavirus threat.”
Several of the lawmakers who sold assets in the weeks approaching the market crash were California Congresswoman Susan Davis, who sold thousands of dollars of stock in Alaska Air and Royal Caribbean cruises.
A senior aide to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell made a mid-January purchase of Moderna, Inc., a biotechnology company that had announced earlier that month it would begin working on a coronavirus vaccine. Additionally, an aide to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sold stocks in companies including Delta Airlines in late January. Then the aide proceeded to buy stock in Clorox, Inc., which makes bleach and sanitary wipes.
The trades demonstrate the privileged information members of Congress enjoy when it comes to stock trading.
“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,” declared 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.”
The North Carolina Republican is one of several senators, including Loeffler, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, and Georgia Senator David Perdue, who sold off stock at the end of January and the start of February as the Senate was holding more Wuhan virus briefings.
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 expected to make money off companies developing ways to combat the disease. 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.