20 March 2020
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
Four United States Senators may have made stock market transactions based on information gleaned from classified briefings regarding the Covid-19 virus pandemic. The four are Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), James Inhofe (R-OC), and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA). Senator Loeffler is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange and who also made suspect sales. The question of legality is irrelevant. If the allegations are true, the four have forfeited the moral standing needed to remain in the US Senate.
The Washington Post reported, "As head of the powerful Intelligence Committee, Burr reportedly was receiving daily briefings on the threat of the virus. In mid-February, he sold 33 stocks held by him and his spouse, estimated at between $628,033 and $1.72 million, Senate financial disclosures show. It was the largest number of stocks he had sold in one day since at least 2016, records show. The Feb. 13 stock sales were first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics."
At the same time, NPR reports that he told a private donors' luncheon on February 27, "There's one thing I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything we have seen in recent history. It's probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."
Just three weeks earlier he had penned an op-ed that read in part, "the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus. No matter the outbreak or threat, Congress and the federal government have been vigilant in identifying gaps in its readiness efforts and improving its response capabilities." It is quite possible that he learned new facts and changed his view in 3 weeks; that is the mark of an intelligent person. But failing to warn the public as opposed to donors and selling off one's shares looks dreadful.
The other senators are not quite in such hot water. "All of Senator Feinstein's assets are in a blind trust, as they have been since she came to the Senate. She has no involvement in any of her husband's financial decisions," said Feinstein spokesman Tom Mentzer. Fair enough, but perhaps a bit more needs to be said by her husband as to why he sold when he did. Did the senator mention the virus to him, and he acted alone with knowledge denied the public?
Bloomberg reports, "Loeffler did not make any sales from Jan. 6 until Jan. 24 -- the day the health committee she sits on held a briefing that included presentations from top level U.S. public-health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci. She and her husband began selling 27 stocks on Jan. 24, according to her financial disclosure form, including investments in Auto Zone and Ross Stores, worth millions of dollars. Loeffler's stock sales were first reported by the Daily Beast."
She responded by tweeting, "I do not make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband's knowledge or involvement." The question is the same as for Senator Feinstein's husband. Why did the adviser sell? Was there communication about the virus separate from a buy/sell decision?
TheHill.com states, "Inhofe sold at least $180,000 in stocks on Jan. 27, days after the Senate's coronavirus briefing, according to senate records. Inhofe also sold at least $50,000 in stock in an asset management company on Feb. 20, days before the stock market crashed. A spokeswoman for Inhofe did not immediately respond to a request for comment."
At a time when the American people (indeed the people of the whole world) need to have faith in leaders who have the best interests of those whom they serve as their focus, even appearances of profiteering are harmful to the common good. Right-wing bloviatror and Trump suck-up Tucker "No-More-Bow-Tie" Carlson has called for Mr. Burr to resign. That is how far things have gone; this journal is inclined to agree with Tucker Carlson.
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