Republican senate candidate U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) speaks during a campaign event at Pot Luck Cafe on October 31, 2020 in Monroe, Georgia. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
First Kelly Loeffler, now David Perdue—this has not been a good year for Republican senators from Georgia concerned with avoiding the appearance of financial corruption.
Perdue was reportedly investigated by the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading earlier this year while he was running for re-election to the U.S. Senate, according to the New York Times. Eventually, the Justice Department decided not to pursue charges against Perdue, but details of the investigation have dropped at the worst possible moment for Perdue, as he fights to keep his Senate seat—and the Republicans’ majority in the chamber—in a runoff set for early next year.
The investigation stemmed from Perdue selling between $1 million and $5 million in stock in Cardlytics, a financial company for which he used to serve as a board member, just weeks before the company offered a grim outlook of future sales, its CEO stepped down, and its stock proceeded to crater.
Perdue sold the stocks at $86 a share, and then bought it back weeks later at $30 a share, according to congressional disclosures reported by the Associated Press; Cardlytics was trading at more than $123 as of Wednesday. Two days before the stock sale, then-Cardlytics CEO Scott Grimes emailed Perdue, himself a former CEO at Dollar General, and mentioned “upcoming changes.”
Perdue’s office denied wrongdoing. “The bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee, DOJ and SEC all independently and swiftly cleared Senator Perdue months ago, which was reported on,” spokesperson John Burke told the AP. Perdue’s Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, called Perdue a “crook” in a Wednesday tweet.
Georgia’s senior senator is far from the only member of the body to have made questionable trades at the start of the pandemic. GOP Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina’s cell phone was seized by the FBI during an ongoing investigation into his stock trades, and he resigned his Senate Intelligence committee chairmanship.
Loeffler, who was appointed to fulfill the term of former Sen. Johnny Isakson, made nearly 30 stock trades along with her husband, New York Stock Exchange chairman Jeffrey Sprecher, between January and mid-February after she received a confidential briefing from top health officials about the coronavirus well before the public knew how bad it would get.
One of the stocks Loeffler and Sprecher bought was in Citrix, which makes the online meeting software GoToMeeting. Loeffler denied wrongdoing, and the DOJ and Senate Ethics Committee eventually dropped their investigations into Loeffler’s trades.
In November, Perdue ran for re-election and just barely fell short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff election. Perdue will face Ossoff in the runoff on January 5, and fellow GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face Democratic pastor Raphael Warnock in the other race.
The races will determine the balance of the Senate. If both Ossoff and Warnock win, the Senate will be split exactly down the middle, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a tie breaking vote. If Republicans win at least one of the two races, they will control the chamber. And while Georgia has trended to the right in recent years, President-elect Joe Biden this year became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.
Both Perdue and Loeffler called for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, to step down after Biden pulled ahead in the state. Raffensperger called the demand “laughable,” and after a hand recount of more than five million votes, Biden was certified last week as the winner.