Perdue’s Democratic rivals race to link him with Loeffler

U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans from Georgia. File photos.

U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans from Georgia. File photos.

The three leading Democrats competing to challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue are racing to link him to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler as she tries to tamp down an uproar over her stock transactions during the coronavirus pandemic.

At a virtual forum late Thursday, the trio of contenders repeatedly mentioned Perdue and Loeffler in the same breath as they accused both Republicans of profiting from a disease that’s killed hundreds of Georgians and sickened more than 10,000.

Their calls for stronger ethics rules underscored the challenges both Republicans face as Democrats seize on their financial records to energize voters whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.

Sarah Riggs Amico, Jon Ossoff and Teresa Tomlinson face a June 9 primary in the race for Perdue’s seat, while Loeffler is on a November special election ballot against 20 other candidates.

Loeffler has attracted most of the national attention for trades dating from Jan. 24, the day that she and other senators attended a private briefing on the illness. She said financial advisers made those decisions without her input, and announced this week she'll no longer invest in individual stocks.

But the three contenders have tried to tie Loeffler with Perdue, whose financial transactions from late January through mid-February do not indicate the same sell-off as Loeffler.

They highlighted a spate of trading from the month of March, however, and purchases of stock from DuPont and other firms that are involved in the coronavirus response.

“They went and adjusted their stock portfolios so they could profit from an epidemic that’s killing thousands and thousands of Americans,” said Amico, who was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018. “This is blatantly profiting off of a pandemic.”

Perdue’s spokeswoman, Casey Black, said the Republican has complied with federal law and Senate ethics requirements. She said he has an outside adviser managing personal finances and is not involved in day-to-day decisions.

“David did not attend the January 24th meeting, nor did he direct any transactions, dump stocks or profit from this pandemic,” said Black, who added that the economic turmoil has resulted in “severe losses like most Americans.”

At the forum, which was hosted by the Fulton County Democratic Party, the contenders called for more stringent rules guiding how U.S. senators can manage their financial portfolios.

Ossoff invoked U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's preference for blind trusts, which put a lawmaker's investments in the hands of a trustee that makes decisions on their behalf and without their direct knowledge.

“Anything but putting their assets in a blind trust – it’s not real. It’s smoke and mirrors,” said Ossoff, a former congressional candidate who runs an investigative journalism firm.

“They’ve not demonstrated any independence from their stock trading. Unless their assets are in a blind trust like Isakson’s were when he was in the Senate, the excuses mean nothing.”

And Tomlinson said she'd support legislation that would outlaw senators from owning individual stocks, or require them to adopt blind trusts. She invoked her background as a corporate litigator as she portrayed herself as the most formidable contender to take on Perdue.

“As I spent my time in the federal court system, this is exactly the kind of work I did,” said Tomlinson, a former Columbus mayor.

“I didn’t just look at it, I didn’t just think about it or expose it. I actually used the laws and regulations of the United States of America to bring these types of corporate wrongdoers and fraudulent wrongdoers to justice.”