Our Opinion: Timing is everything

Millions of dollars in stock transactions on behalf of five U.S. senators have raised serious questions about their ethics — and whether they broke laws against insider trading. Clearly, the matter needs to be investigated, but not as a witch hunt with the preconceived notion that someone must be guilty of wrongdoing.

If the senators did what they are being accused by some of doing — using information about COVID-19 they received because of their positions to profit or avoid stock market losses — the very minimum punishment ought to be removal from office. Much preferred would be prosecution.

And if these five in the U.S. Senate engaged in insider trading, it has to be supposed there are others in government, perhaps in both the legislative and executive branches, who did the same thing. That, too, needs to be investigated as soon as possible.

Details of the five situations vary greatly. They involve Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; James Inhofe, R-Okla.; Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga.; and David Perdue, R-Ga.

Burr and Loeffler were the first to be accused after reporters examined Senate financial reports. They found that Burr sold as much as $1.7 million in stocks in late January and mid-February — just before stock markets around the world began steep dives. Burr insists he made decisions based solely on “public news reports.”

Loeffler tells a different story, that she has no involvement in how investments on behalf of her and her husband are handled. They are “made by multiple third-party advisers without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement,” she insisted in a statement released via Twitter.

Inhofe and Perdue have made similar statements. Feinstein says her husband makes investment decisions, in which she takes no part.

Where it can be proven lawmakers had nothing to do with stock market decisions, they are blameless. But where they and/or family members handle investments, timing is everything. If beneficial stock sales or purchases were made before there was public knowledge of what the senators knew, there may well be culpability. Again, if that is established, the lawmakers — and any others who engaged in insider trading — must be punished.


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