But as these two races in Georgia go to runoffs in January that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, we’re learning more about the stock trades of the other Republican senator in the race, David Perdue.
There has been new reporting that he, too, was in the Justice Department’s crosshairs for stock trades that paid off handsomely at the start of the pandemic, and there has been a steady drip of other news about his stock trades.
Here’s what we know.
The suspicious stock trades
There are a lot of trades to review. A New York Times analysis of thousands of Perdue’s trades found that since coming to Congress six years ago, he’s become the most prolific stock trader in the Senate by far. He frequently traded to make money off companies that stood to benefit from legislation on committees he served on.
There were some particular trades that got him in hot water, but not outright legal trouble.
This January, some senators attended a classified briefing this spring about the coronavirus. Loeffler was one of them, and her stock trades afterward drew prominent attention. Perdue did not attend that briefing, but he, too, bought stock in businesses that stood to benefit from a pandemic, such as Pfizer. (Sen. Richard Burr [R-N.C.] is still under investigation by the Justice Department for his trades.)
Both Perdue and Loeffler said they didn’t do anything wrong. Loeffler said her trades were made by an investment firm. Perdue said most of his investments were made by an independent adviser, though the Associated Press recently noted he still could have told that adviser what to buy and sell.
The Justice Department closed its look into Perdue’s coronavirus-related stock trades, as it did Loeffler’s. But with Perdue they found something else to review: his sale of more than $1 million in stock in January from an Atlanta financial company for which he previously sat on the board, weeks before that CEO stepped down and the stock price plummeted.
Perdue bought the stock back at a low price, and it has since quadrupled, reports the AP. Shortly before Perdue sold his stock in this company, Cardlytics, the New York Times reports that investigators found an email from the CEO to Perdue that mentioned “the upcoming change’” in the company. When Perdue replied he didn’t know what change he was talking about, the CEO later responded he had sent the email to the wrong David. Perdue still told his financial adviser to sell the stock, the Times reports.
A handful of senators put their stock holdings in blind trusts to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, though they don’t have to. Some top Senate Republicans have said they just don’t own stock at all to avoid a conflict of interest. (It’s illegal to trade based on information they receive as senators that the rest of us don’t have.) Perdue said in May he would divest from his holdings after scrutiny over his coronavirus-related buys.
New reporting after the election, first from the Daily Beast and then confirmed by the Times, found more eyebrow-raising trades from Perdue. In 2019, he became chair of a subcommittee that oversees the Navy. Right before that, he bought stock in a contractor that works with the Navy that ultimately benefited from legislation on which Perdue worked.
The legal bottom line
Perdue is not in legal jeopardy. Some of his trades were suspicious enough to prompt investigators’ attention at the Justice Department this spring and for FBI agents to interview him, reports the Times — but not enough to press charges. The Justice Department closed the case this summer.
“Senator Perdue has always followed the law,” a spokesman for Perdue’s campaign, John Burke, told the Times.
The political bottom line
This is certainly not helpful to Perdue. Just because something isn’t found to be illegal doesn’t mean it’s not fishy.
Privately, Perdue and Loeffler were selling millions of dollars of stock. Publicly, Loeffler and Perdue were championing the strength of the economy to withstand the coronavirus and President Trump’s ability to keep it in check.
His Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, has been accusing Perdue of enriching himself at the outset of the pandemic while average Americans struggle to find jobs and pay rent. Ossoff even called him a “crook” at one debate. It’s helpful to Ossoff that new reporting has revealed even more trades by Perdue that raise questions about whether he’s using his influence to make money.
Democrats also think this helps contrast Perdue, a wealthy former CEO, and Loeffler, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, whose husband owns the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, with their candidates’ backstories. Ossoff’s wife is a doctor who was infected with the coronavirus while working with patients. The Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is challenging Loeffler, grew up in public housing.
That said, accusing the Republican senators of being corrupt isn’t a new line of attack from Democrats. They were saying much of the same thing before the Nov. 3 election. Perdue briefly ran an ad saying he was cleared of wrongdoing, and he ended up getting more votes than Ossoff.
As for the other race, Warnock got more votes than Loeffler, but there were also more Republicans in that special election who probably took votes away from her.
Now, though, Democrats have a little more to work with on shaping attacks against Perdue.
This has been updated with a new New York Times investigation into Perdue’s trades and to clarify Perdue did not attend the January classified briefing on coronavirus that Loeffler did and came under scrutiny for.