Anger “building” in DC over Burr coronavirus investing

 

Some people are dismissing the hubbub as pro-Trump forces paying our senior senator back for giving the Democrats so much help during the Russian collusion hoax.   Some are dismissing it as liberals and Democrats trying to score points on a hapless GOP incumbent.  Regardless,  the story about Richard Burr’s coronavirus-inspired Wall Street windfall  is not going away any time soon:

 

In the aftermath of the current pandemic, there are likely to be two central questions: Who knew what when? And what did they do about it? One who knew early was Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. By early February, senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Burr chairs, were receiving daily briefings about the threat posed by the novel coronavirus. On February 7, he coauthored an op-ed that emphasized America’s preparedness for the coming wave: “The United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus,” he wrote. At the time it was hardly an unusual opinion among public officials.

 

What was unusual was what was happening out of the public eye. He told a group of high-dollar donors on February 27 that the novel coronavirus was no ordinary ailment: “It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” he said, according to a recording of Burr’s talk that was obtained by NPR. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.” And Burr, one of the less wealthy senators, unloaded between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his stock holdings in mid-February. First reported by ProPublica, Burr’s stock dump occurred well before the stock market plummeted.

 

The wide outrage in Congress over his actions hasn’t died down, and is liable to have consequences for both Senator Burr and how congresspeople can manage their financial assets while holding office, possibly leading to stricter rules. In Congress, after all, inside information is ubiquitous.

 

“There’s a temptation for anyone if you know that you’re holding on to an asset that is going to go down steeply in value and you have a chance to change that by selling it off, or if you get a piece of information that you know is going to be very valuable and could increase the value of an asset that you’re holding on to,” Texas congressman Joaquin Castro, who hasn’t owned stocks since he joined Congress, explained. “In the regular course of the job in Congress, you’re being tipped off all the time in your meetings, in your discussions, about things that are going to impact sectors and stocks.

 

“In the case of Senator Burr, what was especially alarming, is that he seemed to be projecting confidence about the economy and the outlook for dealing with the coronavirus and at the same time was taking actions that suggested the exact opposite, which was to dump stocks that were negatively impacted by what’s been going on,” Castro, who stressed the importance of the ethics investigation into Burr’s trades, told me. “That just reeks of complete self-interest.”

 

[…]

Burr is not alone in Congress in regard to coming under fire for playing the market before its free fall. Senators Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, Dianne Feinstein of California, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma engaged in a series of trades that—to varying degrees—have prompted public outcry. But Burr’s transactions have eclipsed those of his colleagues due to their magnitude, but also because of the gap between his public statements and private actions.

 

Republican congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida has emerged as Burr’s chief critic on Capitol Hill. “Burr has failed to give an adequate explanation for his conduct, and that’s because the explanation is obvious. He had information that informed on the future of markets before other people did, and he capitalized on that information for his benefit,” Gaetz told me animatedly. “His statement was very damning.… Other members have suggested that the trades were made without their knowledge, without their direction. I don’t know if those claims are true or false. They should be investigated. However, no such defense exists for Senator Burr because he admitted that he directed the trades.”

 

Gaetz has called for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to remove Burr as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee while the ethics investigation into the transactions is ongoing—a position Castro has also taken. “With the information available about an investigation into him, it raises the obvious question: How can someone be the intelligence committee chairman, with oversight over the FBI, when they are being investigated by the FBI?” Gaetz said of his thinking.

 

Some Gaetz detractors have suggested that the firebrand Florida lawmaker, a top Donald Trump ally, is targeting Burr because of his actions in the Russia investigation, where the senator became something of a hero to Democrats for being more evenhanded than some of his colleagues. Gaetz dismissed this premise. “I am critical of some of the decisions that Senator Burr made in the Russian investigation, but that is not the reason why he is drawing my ire on this matter,” he said. “The reason why I am so animated in my critique of Burr is that it really reinforces what people hate about Washington and Congress. People believe that too many folks in D.C. are just looking out for their own bottom line and their own self-interest. And so when we see instances arise that reinforce that view with the public, I think it’s important for us to clean our own house and to disclaim that conduct is not associated with the work that we do.”

[…]

 

Of course, passing a ban on members of Congress owning individual stocks is far from likely, at least at the moment. “Ideally, yes, you would be able to say, ‘Hey, if you’re a member of Congress, you can’t own any stocks.’ Right?” one lawmaker told me. “But I’m also cognizant of the fact that you don’t want to bake into the job so many things that would discourage somebody from deciding that they’re just never going to run for Congress.

 

“I think at a minimum, the way I would say [is] that you’d have to have it in a blind trust with a verifiable way of showing that you’re not communicating at all with the person or persons that are in charge of that trust,” this member added.

 

But in the meantime, the perception that anyone in Congress profited off the coronavirus crisis is a blow to the institution. “Congress has to be more scrupulous about the conduct of its members when it comes to buying and selling stock and other assets,” Castro said. “Hopefully this will start a new chapter in that effort.”

10 thoughts on “Anger “building” in DC over Burr coronavirus investing

  1. In a way, Burr is on the ballot this year. And Trump, Forest and yes, even that Tillis guy, do not need that. Trump has bent over backwards for McConnell where Tillis is concerned. He and Tillis both need to make clear to McConnell that this lame duck should be put down now, not in 2022. State Law precludes Cooper from appointing whomever he wants as a replacement so there’s no excuse there either.

  2. Not only is anger building DC, but it’s also building back home. Think about this–since Jesse Helms retired from the Senate, has any Republican politician in the Tarheel state since been recognized as a consistent and stalwart conservative leader? You can’t name one. We know what Burr and Tillis are–fake conservatives and consummate DC RINOs. You never hear a peep out of our congressional delegation. Two of them just plain quit rather than defend their seats. I never see any of them on Fox News or any other TV channel defending our cause. Hapless Pat McCrory portrayed himself as a moderate, and the poor man didn’t know whether he was coming or going, no matter the issue. The hard-working and loyal Republican base watches all this and weeps. We saw our NC Supreme Court justices hand the court over to a Democrat majority. We’ve watched the Republican UNC Board of Governors give the leftists everything they want–including the destroyed Boy Soldier Monument. Our once super-majority GOP legislature, which seemed so full of promise ten years ago, now seems leaderless and politically adrift. I’ve never seen base enthusiasm so low at the grassroots level in this state. Maybe Trump will save the NC GOP, but that’s going to be a tall order to say the least.

    1. Ellis, your comment is one of the best I have ever read on the Daily Haymaker. Well said! I’m sorry you wasted your time on an aide. They’re trained to protect the member from constituents.

  3. I gave Dr Murphy aide an earful on Thurs. YOU ARE SO CORRECT. They ALL run as these so-called conservatives (Renee…??) and as soon as their feet hit the DC ground, they moderate to moderates, at best and worst. Are Tillis or Burr any diff than Hagan? Not really. If Jesse were living and in the Senate, can you imagine the H*** he would be raising right now? And NOT with the Dems, but his own Party. Don’t know if many missed it; the Gen Assembly dining hall remained OPEN while every other dining restaurant was closed. Remained closed until a cafeteria worker tested positive this week. When exposed, the answer was 3 branches of govt and we aren’t governed by others and exempt. WHY CAN’T WE THE PEOPLE be exempt? My local rep, when contacted, oh yes, defended the action. The poor souls had no where else to eat ‘while working’………Are you worrying about where I can eat, while actually working?

    Disgusted with closure, disgusted with govt, disgusted with governor, disgusted that most small biz will never open their doors again and that is a reality.

    1. Every two years, the NC GOP congressional delegation and the GOP NC House and Senate caucuses go to the nth degree to make sure “their man” gets elected State Chairman, working at all costs to keep a movement conservative from being elected. Why? Because this is how they keep their own Party from holding them accountable. The irony of it is that without conservatives in the rank and file, they wouldn’t be in power. For that reason, conservatives are actually blocking themselves from holding these people accountable. Were we all to defect en masse to the NC Constitution Party, which DOES believe in holding it’s officeholders accountable to the Party, the NC GOP officeholders would be forced to quit, or resort to offering conservative concessions to the NCCP rank and file in order to keep control of the General Assembly. Once Trump exits office, true NC conservatives are running out of good reasons to stay in the NCGOP.

      1. There’s some real valid points being made here. Up until 1999 N.C. had Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth as our Senators. In 1999 Faircloth was followed by John Edwards and then Richard Burr. Jesse Helms retired in 2002 and was followed by Elizabeth Dole and then Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis. Yeah, it’s a lot like falling off a cliff. Many of us in the ranks of conservative grassroots have observed this phenomena with dismay.

        We in the grassroots have worked real hard to accomplish our N.C. legislative majorities and for what. Republican UNC BOG may as well be Democrats. We won the governorship but frittered it away after toll road misadventures, stupid anti commercial fisherman betrayals and attacks on native southern ancestry – add in the voter fraud and there’s not much path to re-election. We watched our N.C. court majorities surrendered. We experienced the results of a legitimate N.C. Republican Party convention overcome by a hostile coup. We watched our state party being run by a clown while the official chairman is being hauled off by the feds for bribery. I attended our last crooked a$$ state convention where I felt more like a stage prop than a delegate, and paid good money for the sorry experience.

        In North Carolina we in the conservative grassroots are increasingly viewed by the establishment GOP as enemy number one. This is happening at all levels. For example, ask a Beaufort County conservative what a Yellow Sheeter is.

        I agree. Some accommodation is going to have to be made within the NC GOP between the folks running things now and conservative grassroots in order to avert total political disaster in our state. As things are now, what’s in it for us.

        The truth is many people have already left the GOP. Others are reluctantly hanging around. For instance, at this point I’m only here to vote for a couple of conservative local commissioners in the Republican primary. Other than that, my hearts just not in it anymore.

      2. Good point, Troxler. We have NO means to make a diff. We would not vote for a Dem (look at last state office election disaster). The NC GOP, very similar to the national GOP, typically runs the worst candidates and expects we the conservatives to hold our nose and vote, i.e., Romney, Dole, McCain. NC has become an expert in said practice.

  4. I absolutely agree with Charles Raefield’s points. The NC GOP establishment has absolutely blown it–big time. The conservative grass roots are hanging on simply to vote for Trump. Nobody is happy with Burr or Tillis–unless you are a special interest lobbyist. Raefield is also right that the UNC BOG might as well be Democrats. Mark Martin and Bob Edmunds sacrificed the Supreme Court to the Democrat Party. The RINO state chairman got indicted. Our incumbent Education Superintendent gave up his position to make a stupid, fruitless run for Lt. Governor. Two of our congressmen quit rather than run in tougher districts. The Wake County GOP chairman just quit–our second largest county. The GOP state executive director just quit. There are no conservative stars remaining in the legislature. The “opportunity for me” RINO Republicans are all jumping ship or hoping for a Trump miracle at the polls to save their buts. Their buts don’t deserve saving! We’re sick of them all.

  5. Pray GOD will give us a few to help and get behind them with our own hard earned money. I just started watching the haymaker to find out who to vote for. Not as informed as some, but trying to learn….
    Someone is out there, May GOD help us to find them

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