The Daily Beast came out with a new report on Wednesday uncovering a quiet push that Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican candidate in the Georgia Senate runoffs, made in May that may have paid off for her, literally, in August. This latest report is just another in a pile of scandals that have been uncovered involving Loeffler in the past month or so.
Loeffler, as the Daily Beast’s Sam Brodey reports, signed a letter this spring that was aimed at stopping Democrats from issuing a moratorium on negative credit score reporting, which they had pushed for as part of a COVID assistance program. The letter, along with heavy lobbying from the three major credit agencies, was eventually successful, and the cause was dropped. Then in August, Loeffler’s husband’s company, Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE: ICE), where Loeffler formerly worked as an executive, bought one of the companies that would have been negatively affected by a credit reporting moratorium — mortgage application processing software company Ellie Mae — in a $10 billion deal.
Loeffler did not publicize the letter, and the timing and motivation is suspect, especially considering the fact that she is not typically involved in financial regulation, as Brodey points out. A representative from an ethics watchdog group told the Daily Beast that, while her motive isn’t clear, “we should not need to wonder whether it could have been an instance of her selling out the interests of constituents who were in economic distress in order to maintain the value of her stock portfolio.”
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The ordeal wouldn’t be nearly as suspicious if this were the first report on Loeffler’s involvement in shady self-dealing activities. But the Senator has racked up multiple scandals, many uncovered just recently, both in and out of Congress.
Early in the pandemic, and before the pandemic even hit the U.S. full force, Loeffler and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, were busy engineering ways to glean financial benefits from the crisis. After Senators learned about the potential economic effects of the coronavirus at a confidential meeting in January, Loeffler was one of the first Senators to dump millions of dollars worth of stock between January and February, well before the stock market faced direct hits. This move, worth at least $18 million, was potentially insider trading. Meanwhile, Sprecher had been overseeing Intercontinental Exchange’s slow dominance over online mortgage services, which were growing rapidly in value as the pandemic hit.
“All at once, COVID hits, and we see everyone from lenders to lawyers to title insurers flocking to go to our digital platforms,” Sprecher told Fortune. “In part, it was that sea change that gave us the confidence to buy Ellie Mae.” And, perhaps, the fact that Ellie Mae was not under threat of a financial hit because of a moratorium on negative credit reporting.
There have also been numerous other questionable (though not overtly illegal) actions by Loeffler over the course of the past year. On the campaign trail earlier this fall she claimed that she had voted for a foreign stock trading bill that her family’s company lobbied against, when in fact she had not done so. She held several committee positions, including a subcommittee on commodities and trade, which governed issues that would partially affect her husband’s business and presented a potential conflict of interest. Loeffler’s conflicts of interest were so brazen and common that a spokesperson for her opponent in the Senate primary quipped, “she has five conflicts of interest before her first chai latte every day.”
Prior to her appointment to the U.S. Senate by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in December 2019 to the seat held by Johnny Isakson (who retired for health reasons), Loeffler and her husband were accused of facilitating an Enron-like scheme that ended up “costing residents of Georgia millions of dollars”, according to Mother Jones magazine. Media watchdogs have speculated that such schemes are a large part of how Loeffler and her husband accumulated their net worth of an estimated $800 million.
Loeffler is up for reelection on January 5 in Georgia’s run-off race along with incumbent Sen. David Perdue, a fellow Republican who has himself been accused of insider trading following secret coronavirus briefings. The election results could determine which party ends up controlling the Senate.