Finley: Keep heat on senators for stock dumps

We were reminded repeatedly during the impeachment proceeding against Donald Trump that a president isn’t above the law.

And that’s right. Senators aren’t either. 

In the avalanche of news generated by the COVID-19 crisis, it would be easy for the Senate’s insider trading scandal to slip into the shadows, with no one held to account.

That shouldn’t happen. This episode of self-dealing is an egregious example of politicians who believe their offices entitles them to perks not afforded their constituents. 

It involves three Republicans and a Democrat — Sens. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, Dianne Feinstein, D-California, Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, and James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma.

All four, according to various media reports, dumped significant stock holdings after receiving briefings in late February on the anticipated devastation from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Three weeks later, as the virus rapidly spread, the stock markets crashed, losing roughly a third of their value in a week. The impact on American investors has been severe. It’s been less so for the four senators.

Loeffler is married to the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. The couple made trades involving up to $3 million in securities after she was briefed on the virus. Loeffler’s net worth is listed at $500 million. 

Inhofe, who is worth more than $8 million, dumped $230,000 in stock after being briefed. 

Feinstein, who was among the Democrats who so righteously reminded Trump the law applies to him, too, and her husband got rid of up to $6 million in securities. She’s worth a cool $58 million. 

Burr’s dealings are the most offensive, because as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee he was receiving daily briefings on the building pandemic. During that period, he sold up to $1.72 million in stock. Burr is worth $8 million. 

Even some Republican sympathizers have called on Burr to resign, and at the very least he should be relieved of his chairmanship. He can’t be trusted.

If these senators were corporate officers rather than elected officials, the Securities and Exchange Commission would have already hit them with an insider trading probe. The SEC has issued all four a warning.

Senate rules prohibit members from trading on information not readily available to the public. But congressional ethics rules are so rarely enforced they are worthless. 

Private citizens are getting hammered by this sudden assault on the economy. Many have seen their savings for retirement and college set back by years.

They didn’t get the chance to avoid the earthquake that rocked their investments. But the senators did. 

The U.S. Senate is a millionaires club. More than half its members have a net worth above $1 million. If a senator isn’t wealthy when he or she arrives in the chamber, the opportunity to become so is far greater than if they’d stayed in the private sector.

One reason is that they are privy to information the rest of us don’t get. 

The SEC should mount a vigorous investigation, and the Senate should tighten rules that are obviously too loose to keep senators from exploiting their positions.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

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