“Major Strategic Miscalculation”: GOP Panics About Loeffler’s “Down-Ticket Damage” After Report Reveals She Dumped Stocks During Coronavirus Outbreak

March 22, 2020

Loeffler’s ongoing scandal of selling potentially millions of dollars worth of stocks following a private Senate briefing puts Republicans at risk as outside group goes off the air

ATLANTA — After spending Friday refusing to clearly answer questions and dodging local press, unelected Senator Kelly Loeffler is now facing doubts from leaders in her own party after the breaking news that both her and her NYSE chairman husband sold off up to “seven figures worth of stock holdings” following a private Senate briefing. 

New reports detail Republican leaders’ fears of “down-ticket damage” from Loeffler while one candidate openly called for her resignation as “picking Loeffler now looks like a major strategic miscalculation for Republicans.” With Loeffler already behind her intraparty opponent in recent polling, even Republican operatives are admitting Loeffler’s new scandal “obviously looks very bad for her” considering “voters tend to be hard on people they see as profiteering from a crisis.” Another GOP operative: Loeffler’s in “a really dangerous place to be.”

Now, Loeffler is facing a dire scenario as a Mitch McConnell-backed super PAC that had previously poured millions into Georgia “lambasting [her opponent Congressman Doug] Collins on television and radio ads” goes off the air — even as that same group’s dark money arm continues to run ads on behalf of vulnerable Republican Senators in other states.

Losing both support from the GOP base and the confidence of her party’s leadership, Loeffler is set to enter a brutal new phase of the “Republican civil war” between her and Collins as the “political mega-donor” gets ready to learn a tough lesson: “Money can’t buy you political love.”

Read more about Loeffler’s ongoing stock sell-off scandal and intraparty woes:

National Journal: Money can’t buy you love in politics

  • That lesson that money can’t buy you political love is relevant yet again in the wake of a scandal involving several senators selling stock after receiving a private briefing in January over the looming threat of the coronavirus.
  • One of those senators is appointed Georgia GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the wealthiest member of Congress, whose husband is a primary stakeholder in the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange.
  • In the weeks after attending the briefing, Loeffler sold over a million dollars in stock while purchasing shares of a teleconferencing company that has seen its stock price increase.
  • Picking Loeffler now looks like a major strategic miscalculation for Republicans, who badly need to hold onto her seat in order to keep their Senate majority.
  • Even before the accusations of self-dealing emerged, there were signs of trouble for Loeffler’s campaign. Rep. Doug Collins, a conservative favorite of President Trump, ignored party leaders and entered the race to challenge Loeffler.
  • His candidacy fueled a Republican civil war, with outside GOP groups spending millions on ads attacking one of their own.
  • All this has limited her ability to reach out to Trump-skeptical independents in the suburbs—which was the whole point of picking Loeffler in the first place.
  • Now she’s facing a firestorm that all the money in the world can’t fix. She’ll need to quickly prove that the timing of her stock sales were coincidental, perhaps under the auspices of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.
  • “Even if we’re well past coronavirus by November, this is a ready-made TV ad for the Democrats to use, and voters tend to be hard on people they see as profiteering from a crisis,” said one veteran GOP pollster uninvolved in the race.

POLITICO: Loeffler stock trades roil Georgia special election

  • One of Kelly Loeffler’s most appealing traits to Republicans who embraced her for a coveted Senate appointment — her ability to self-fund a competitive election this fall through immense wealth — is suddenly looking like a serious liability for her and the GOP.
  • Loeffler’s rivals in a special election pounced on revelations that the recently appointed senator dumped millions of dollars in stocks after a classified Covid-19 briefing in January — damaging her bid against a formidable GOP opponent in Rep. Doug Collins, a close ally of President Donald Trump.
  • Collins is seizing on the stock trades by Loeffler, who’s married to the head of the New York Stock Exchange.
  • The Georgia special election is already perilous for Republicans, given that it is an all-party contest that will go to a January runoff if no candidate receives a majority in November — a likely outcome given the crowd of contenders.
  • One Georgia Republican operative, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said Loeffler was in a “perilous” political situation caused by the revelations about her stocks specifically because, in the all-party November contest, another Republican was on the ballot.
  • “They can’t just appeal to partisan loyalties and say, ‘Don’t believe these storylines. This is a media attack,’” the operative said. “People have somewhere else to go if they’re uncertain about her, and that’s a really dangerous place to be.”

AJC: Loeffler faces backlash over stock trades after coronavirus briefing

  • U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler faced immediate political backlash after the disclosure that she sold up to $3.1 million in stocks shortly after attending a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Republican allies of her top conservative adversary, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, openly worried about the fallout of her stock sales.
  • House Speaker David Ralston, a longtime Collins friend, said in an interview Friday that he’s heard from “upset” House candidates concerned that the Republican ticket will get tainted in November by Loeffler’s financial dealings.
  • “I’m absolutely worried about the down-ticket damage,” said Ralston. “A lot of people are going to associate these activities with some very fine candidates running for the Georgia House and are going to hold that against us.”
  • At least one Republican candidate went a step further. Mark Gonsalves, a Republican candidate running for Georgia’s 7th District, said “with a heavy heart” he was forced to call for Loeffler’s resignation.
  • The fallout could be heightened because she faces tough competition from within her party, making it more difficult for Republicans to rally around Loeffler.
  • Collins, a four-term Gainesville congressman, has long painted Loeffler as a flimsy conservative intent on using her deep personal wealth to secure her Senate seat. He seemed certain to use stock trades to further that narrative through November.
  • “People are losing their jobs, their businesses, their retirements, and even their lives and Kelly Loeffler is profiting off their pain?” said Collins. “I’m sickened just thinking about it.”

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