One sure thing about being a rich politician is that your electoral opponents are going to take a look at whether you are profiting from your elected office. Media watchdogs keep looking at Georgia Senator David Perdue’s investment history, and they keep finding troublesome transactions. The latest involves his buying and selling of stocks in a Navy contractor before and after he took over the Senate subcommittee that oversees the fleet.
Questions were raised earlier this year about Perdue, and also his junior colleague Kelly Loeffler, for individual stock transactions in companies that might have gotten a boost from the COVID-19 crisis — transactions they suspiciously made around the time of a top-secret briefing on the pandemic they received as senators. Loeffler, who is crazy rich, bought and then sold off some stock in a software company that sold products associated with telecommuting. Perdue, who is just regular rich, did a lot of buying and selling off stock during that fraught period, with two items drawing scrutiny, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted: “Perdue invested up to $245,000 in Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company, during multiple transactions around the same time that members of Congress began sounding the alarm that more should be done to address the spread of the virus. Perdue also sold up to $165,000 in stocks for Caesar Entertainment, the casino company whose facilities have shuttered to help combat the spread of the virus.”
Both senators were cleared of wrongdoing under the very tolerant approach to conflicts of interest applied by the Senate Ethics Committee (they both claimed they were unaware of individual transactions), but it didn’t look good. Then this September, Perdue drew some scrutiny via a Daily Beast article on stock transactions involving an industry he was supposed to be overseeing as a senator:
Two weeks after Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) helped to dilute a rule that governed the prepaid debit card industry, he reported acquiring stock in a company that stood to benefit from the rollback of those regulations….
A review of Perdue’s trading of shares of Atlanta-based financial company First Data reveals that an investment firm owned by the senator and his wife, and for which he serves as a director, bought and sold substantial shares in the company from June 2017 to April 2019. Perdue has been among the most active traders in Congress. But of the more than 400 companies in which he’s bought and sold stock since taking office in 2015, he’s reported more transactions involving First Data—a major card payment processor with a significant business in prepaid cards—than any other company but one.
As with the earlier allegations, Perdue claimed third parties handled his investments, making him an innocent beneficiary.
Now comes the same Beast reporter, Sam Brodey, with a third allegation of a potential conflict of interest in Perdue’s stock transactions:
Right before he was put in charge of a powerful Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the U.S. Navy [in January 2019], Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) began buying up stock in a company that made submarine parts. And once he began work on a bill that ultimately directed additional Navy funding for one of the firm’s specialized products, Perdue sold off the stock, earning him tens of thousands of dollars in profits….
Scott Amey, the general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan good-government advocacy group, said it’s concerning that a lawmaker like Perdue would invest in a defense stock out of the thousands of stocks available, given his specific responsibilities on the Armed Services Committee.
To be sure, all these allegations coming to light involved transactions before Perdue finally decided to stop buying individual stocks this past April. But the aroma of foul conduct won’t quickly go away. And it’s certainly inconvenient that he and Loeffler will both face voters in the incredibly high-stakes January 5 runoffs in Georgia that will determine which party controls the Senate. Perdue’s Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff has already called the incumbent a “crook,” which led Perdue to refuse to debate him during the runoff campaign. I’m guessing he might reconsider that decision if his pollsters tell him he’s in trouble. But then again, at the current rate he might have a lot to explain if Ossoff’s oppo research file keeps swelling.