Senator David Perdue (R-GA) is fighting for his political life. It was probably unimaginable until recently that he---or most anyone else---would have thought that he could possibly lose his reelection bid to a 33 year old Democrat with zero political experience, never mind much life experience. But that’s where Perdue is right now, and it’s anyone’s guess how this will turn out on January 5th, the runoff election date.
Perdue was first elected to the Senate in 2013. Already a millionaire and successful businessman, he ran on a platform that included the urgency of getting control of spending. He railed against deficits and the growing national debt, fair political positions and arguments. Yet his voting record was at odds with those concerns, and under President Donald Trump deficits and the national debt have exploded. Part of that can be laid off on the 2017 tax cuts that have not generated the revenue Perdue and other Republicans all but guaranteed would occur.
Recently the New York Times did an analysis of Perdue’s stock trading. Since taking office Perdue has conducted 2,596 trades and is the “most prolific stock trader by far, sometimes reporting 20 or more transactions in a single day.” “…Perdue’s transactions accounted for nearly a third of all senator’s trades reported in the past six years.”
By itself, all things being equal, this would not be a story. But a number of the stocks Perdue bought and sold were companies that had financial stakes related to committees and subcommittees Perdue served on. Some were defense contracts worth millions of dollars. Others were financial concerns in which Perdue’s committees had oversight.
Perdue, like Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), also bought and sold shares of stock earlier this year when the coronavirus pandemic was identified as a potential health and economic crisis. Loeffler is the wealthiest member of the Senate. Both had access to private briefings concerning the threat, yet despite trades in businesses related to the health industry or those that stood to gain with people working from home, both senators defended themselves arguing that outside advisers, without input from them, handled the transactions.
Perdue’s trades are the more egregious because of the number and variety of them related to his work in the Senate. It’s easy to make an argument that Perdue profited from inside trading in violation of SEC laws and the Stock Act, passed in 2013 to specifically deal with elected representatives prospering from information they receive in their official capacity. But these cases are difficult to prosecute because of the possibility information could have come from other sources.
One has to ask, though, why Perdue---or any elected representative with a handsome portfolio---wouldn’t put their assets into a blind trust? Having outside advisers who purportedly trade on their behalf is a fig leaf. How easy would it be for a senator or representative to have a sotto voce conversation with a close adviser who also stands to benefit? I think it’s safe to say that if you are pristine, if you don’t want to create even the appearance of impropriety, you wouldn’t hesitate for a millisecond to create a blind trust.
The SEC and FBI investigated some of the trades to determine if there were violations of federal law and ultimately did not bring any charges. When confronted with allegations of wrongdoing, Perdue has responded that he was “totally exonerated.” Loeffler has also stated that she was exonerated. But exoneration implies total innocence, not just being cleared, which could be the result of insufficient evidence, not no evidence of misconduct. An example of someone being exonerated is Richard Jewell, who was for months believed to be the Olympic bomber.
Perdue has repeated all sorts of lies, innuendos, smears, and calumnies against his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, calling him a communist and a terrorist sympathizer among the many pejoratives. Perdue proved to care less about government deficits than deficits in his personal integrity. His campaign sort of reminds me of the one for Louisiana governor in 1991 between Edwin Edwards, a politician with a sordid history, and David Duke, the infamous Ku Klux Klan leader. A bumper sticker was commonly displayed that said, “Vote for the crook: it’s important.” Perhaps Perdue should revive the slogan for his campaign. It worked for Edwards; he was elected.