BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
In case you haven’t heard by now, four United States senators have been accused of using their positions to financially benefit. Yes, I know this isn’t that shocking for most people. Since leaving Washington, D.C. I’ve found many of my fellow citizens, regardless of political affiliation, automatically assume that their elected officials are reaping untold financial benefits from their “service” to the country (after all why would so many otherwise successful, technically well-educated people seek elected office?). The suspicions of our fellow citizens about the intentions of their elected leaders in Washington are usually correct.
What makes this situation so terrible is that the four senators in question appear to have financially benefited from the still-developing coronavirus outbreak, even as they were assuring Americans publicly that all was well. Of course, we now know that all was far from okay. In fact, as this website has almost exclusively reported since January, the US government has been operating on a timescale that is at least two weeks ahead of where the public is at. In this respect, then, the Trump administration has enjoyed what I believe to be unprecedented information dominance during a severe crisis (something that few administration often enjoy under similar circumstances).
The four senators in question are none other than Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-SC), Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA). Burr has been the one who has gotten most media attention since the story broke, if only because he was the chairman of the intelligence committee and was, therefore, privy to exclusive information collected by US intelligence agencies (and paid for by American tax dollars).
After Burr had a consequential briefing by US intelligence where it is believed he received information on the coronavirus outbreak in China, he waddled over to a private event for his campaign’s top donors and warned them that coronavirus outbreak was going to be akin to the “Spanish Flu” and that it was far worse than what was being reported at the time in the press. He subsequently sold as much as $1.5 million of stocks shortly before it became public knowledge that the COVID-19 virus outbreak in Wuhan, China was, actually, a “Spanish Flu”-like event. Burr saved his financial skin while publicly assuring Americans (and investors) that all was well.
In response to the understandable outcry, after the stock market has essentially crashed–and appears poised to enter into a recession by Q3 of this year unless a cure for the COVID-19 outbreak is found soon–the voters demanded he resign and face insider-trading punishment.
Senator Burr, however, has remained defiant. His staff released an absurd explainer to the press indicating that everything that Burr did was perfectly legal. In fact, his office argued, they even SEC filings proving that it was legal.
This, of course, is an obfuscation.
Burr has since doubled-down on his argument that everything he did was above-board by arguing he’d be in favor of appearing before the Senate Ethics Committee.
Gee, in the midst of a tight election cycle, as the economy collapses, a pandemic spreads, does anyone seriously believe that Burr would be punished by his fellow Republican senators–especially since they are likely all benefiting in some grotesque way from their “public service”?
While Burr has been the most flagrant example that has rankled American voters, Senator Kelly Loeffler is worse, in my opinion. Unlike Burr, your typical Washington cronyist, Loeffler actually knows better. Having spent 20 years in the financial services sector, she understands the ins-and-outs of insider-trading laws.
As she told Tucker Carlson on March 20, once she was elected, she spent time learning the Senate ethics rules surrounding insider-trading laws. Loeffler further insisted to Tucker that, just as with her time in the financial services sector, she left everything to a blind trust. Thus, she is not responsible for the actions of her financial adviser who, as per the outline of a blind trust, has total separation from her and total control of her investments.
The question that Tucker asked twice in his Friday night interview with Loeffler, and never got a firm answer, was: who, exactly, is Loeffler’s financial adviser? Just how did Loeffler’s supposedly “blind” financial manager coincidentally sell stocks that so few others were–right before news of the coronavirus broke indicating that things were far worse than any elected official was telling the press at the time?
Consider this, if you will: Loeffler’s husband is none other than Jeffrey Sprecher. For the uninitiated, Sprecher just so happens to be the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Loeffler and Sprecher live in a $10 million mansion in a posh suburb of Atlanta.
I say all of this to give you an idea of who you’re dealing with.
These are not run-of-the-mill dotards who happen to win public office through mindless, low-brow shenanigans. These are grade-A, professional rent-seekers who’ve honed their craft in the financial services sector and have now transitioned to the much easier domain of national politics (a.k.a. “clown world.”) Her interview with Tucker was case-in-point: the Fox News host was no match for the cool, hedgefund-type demeanor of Loeffler.
Loeffler had a plausible answer for everything and what she did not know she deftly deflected whereas Tucker, a man of the Washington, D.C. chattering class, missed his target repeatedly (I say this with all due respect to Tucker). Whereas Burr dumped a meager $1.7 million, Loeffler projectile vomited about $3 million in stocks (that few others were selling at the time, but which were seriously exposed to coronavirus disruptions) after she received the same briefing that Burr did.
Loeffler has refused to name her financial advisers.
Yet, given not only her two decades of professional success in the high-stakes world of the financial services sector, but more importantly, her husband’s role as the chairman of the NYSE, it seems highly unlikely that her financial advisers are not in contact with her husband on some level.
This is key. While Loeffler is technically correct (and therefore legally protected): her blind trust protects her from claims of impropriety, so long as it was properly established–which it was. Instead, some way or somehow, you can rest assured that that purportedly unbiased and disconnected financial adviser was very much connected to Loeffler’s husband. This is how true corruption, influence-peddling, and insider-trading works in Washington, D.C. Or, at least, this is how skilled operators engage in such vile activities.
Meanwhile, Diane Feinstein (D-CA) dumped an astonishing $6 million in stocks related to a specific biotech company after receiving the classified briefing. Poor old Inhofe jettisoned a measly $400,000, though.
In each case, rest assured, the proper SEC filings were made. And each of the senators’ investment portfolio were managed by a totally blind trust…that just happened to somehow dump stocks most affected by the crash before the crash could occur and after these members received their classified briefings on COVID-19. How much do you want to bet that these members’ financial advisers weren’t as disconnected from their interests as they portray in public?
After all, these are the same corrupt politicians who lied–that is the right word here–to the American public about the threat that COVID-19 posed both to public health as well as to the economy, all while positioning themselves to reap the rewards from that lie.
By selling their stocks before most Americans could have or would have, these elected leaders gained immense advantages over their fellow citizens. But this is how Washington works. The reason going before the ethics committee is useless is not just because, for many of the people involved in this scandal, their party happens to be the majority party in power. It is also because, as I noted above, most of their colleagues in both parties are engaged in similar corrupt practices.
Why else would Congress have exempted itself from OSHA laws that it passed in the 1970s? Oh, sure, it ultimately allowed itself to fall under certain parts of OSHA in 1995, but it did not fully embrace OSHA, despite mandating it for the rest of the country. It also exempted itself from the Obamacare law that went into effect, despite large sections of its members extolling the virtues of former President Barack Obama’s preferred healthcare “reform” plan.
Why else did these leaders even allow for members to have any involvement with the industries they regulate at all? Why would Congress have established a bipartisan slush fund designed to pay off victims of sexual abuse in Congress?
When you realize George Carlin was correct: that people in Congress belong to a club…and you aren’t in that club, you’ll be able to think much clearer about US politics.
Look at the rage and passion that this case has evoked. Now imagine if Americans actually got wind of what their elected leaders were doing to enrich themselves, say, by accepting loads of cash from lobbyists from foreign nations–some of them adversarial?
If Americans understood that the real linkage between why they’ve not seen a pay raise in years directly relates to the fact that Congress refuses to allow for tighter immigration laws and stricter trade agreements?
Ever hear of the Chamber of Commerce?
It’s basic function is to ensure that Congress passes laws that keeps borders open and maintains “free” trade at all costs.
Do you want to know why so many elected officials appear content to accept Chinese propaganda as fact? Check their campaign contributions. You’ll likely find businesspeople and corporate entities that have business relations with entities and individuals in China.
How’s this for a great story? When China took down the US Navy E-3 spy plane over international waters in April 2001 and held the sailors hostage for 12 days on Hainan Island, the American lobbying community came marching into the Oval Office to insist that then-President George W. Bush–the supposed “cowboy president”–back down from China’s aggression, publicly apologize, and effectively beg for the return of the sailors and their stricken aircraft–all while paying an indemnity to Beijing.
The US lobbying community did not do this out of some misplaced sense of pacifism. No, they behaved as gelds before their Chinese masters because they were bought-and-paid-for by Beijing. And the Bush administration inevitably did precisely what K Street and the wider American business community and what most of US Congress wanted him to do: he backed down.
If you were to dig deep enough, I’d guarantee you’d find that most of the members of Congress who were demanding Bush back down in the face of flagrant Chinese aggression were supported by moneyed interests who were heavily exposed to China. It would usually be two-or-three degrees of separation, but inevitably, you’d discover the link was real and had serious influence over the way we were governed.
The recent scandal involving these four senators is not an aberration. It was just the most obscene, public display of a system of wanton corruption and favoritism that has come to define Washington, D.C. It explains why such mediocrities gain power–and why such bad legislation is often made into law. These people use the law as a shield to protect them from justice while they engage in blatant corruption and cronyism.
These four are not the last and they are not the only ones to benefit from classified information presented to them at briefings. It happens all of the time. This is a great moment for concerned citizens to start pushing for a more complete accounting of their elected officials’ public stances coupled with their personal finances. Failing that, for the American people to demand an end to corporate money in politics (fat chance).
Even if these four senators were publicly punished for their actions, the larger culture of corruption would remain. It is a threat not only to our republic but also to our economy and national security, as any entity can buy these officials off. Deeper, systemic changes must be made before it is too late.