NEW: AJC Reports on Loeffler’s “Super Swampy” Ethical Conflicts

February 8, 2020

Conflicts of interest between “the company that made her rich” and her Senate committee oversight duties put Loeffler under scrutiny

Ethics watchdog: Loeffler’s committee appointment “utterly irresponsible…given her conflicts of interest.”

ATLANTA — Today, another report from the AJC highlights “one of the trickiest ethical dilemmas in recent congressional history” facing temporary senator and “political mega-donor” Kelly Loeffler as a result of the numerous conflicts of interest between her and her husband’s firm and her Senate duties.

Loeffler’s assignment to the Senate Agriculture Committee allows her to be “an overseer of the overseers of the company that made her rich,” with jurisdiction over the regulators of her own business interests. Watchdog groups are saying that there are “few, if any, recent precedents in Congress” for Loeffler’s conflicts of interest and one ethics expert even called her Senate assignments “utterly irresponsible.”

Loeffler has already repeatedly come “under scrutiny” for her “‘minefield’ of potential ethical issues” — including her and her husband’s firm’s extensive history of influence peddling and making key lobbyist hires from DC. That same firm has poured a staggering $17 million into its Washington lobbying efforts since 2002. 

Loeffler herself reportedly publicly argued against greater regulation of her business interests, and after buying herself a Senate appointment, she’s now in a prime position to cash in on her investment to further enrich herself and her husband.

“Kelly Loeffler promised to spend up to $20 million to buy herself a temporary Senate seat, and it’s clear that she’s just looking for a return on that investment instead of working for Georgians,” said Alex Floyd, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Loeffler’s unprecedented conflicts of interest show that she’s part of the same Washington swamp that Georgians are sick and tired of and are ready to vote out in November.”

AJC: ‘Super-swampy’: Kelly Loeffler faces tricky ethical dilemma as senator

  • It is Loeffler’s big-city career in finance, mostly at the Atlanta-based owner of the New York Stock Exchange, that propelled her to the Senate – and into one of the trickiest ethical dilemmas in recent congressional history.
  • When she joined the Senate Agriculture Committee, Loeffler became an overseer of the overseers of the company that made her rich: Intercontinental Exchange, or ICE.
  • Loeffler will help write laws that govern those regulators, help approve appointments to their boards and vote on government policies that affect the company’s — and her own — bottom line.
  • In recent interviews, nearly a dozen ethics experts in Washington said the entanglement of Loeffler’s public and private interests has few, if any, recent precedents in Congress.
  • When she was ICE’s senior vice president for corporate communications, Loeffler herself publicly criticized the company’s primary regulator, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, for proposing “excess regulation” during the financial crisis of the late 2000s.
  • That commission answers directly to the Agriculture Committee’s commodities subcommittee, of which Loeffler is now a member.
  • “This gives Kelly Loeffler a direct position in overseeing her and her husband’s financial enterprises,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen. “I find it utterly irresponsible the Senate would choose to put Loeffler on that committee, given her conflicts of interest.”
  • Loeffler’s situation, [Marcus Stanley of Americans for Financial Reform] said, is “super-swampy.”
  • ICE’s success, its public filings show, depends to a large degree on federal regulators — a dependence that now poses ethical challenges for Loeffler.
  • The company’s most recent annual report, covering 2018, listed numerous “risk factors” from federal regulation and oversight, far more than in previous years.
  • Ethics experts say, [Loeffler] can exert significant influence on behalf of ICE and its subsidiaries.
  • She is one of 11 senators on the commodities subcommittee, which is working on legislation that could determine how closely regulators control trading exchanges like ICE’s and whether they continue to oversee cryptocurrency trading markets like Bakkt’s.
  • Loeffler could be called on to vote on appointments to the commodity trading commission, as well as to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees trading in public companies.
  • [Loeffler] can pressure regulators by asking pointed questions at committee hearings or by threatening to convene hearings to put them on the defense.
  • [Donald Sherman of CREW said]: “I think it’s fair to scrutinize how Senator Loeffler chooses to utilize the power she now has.”

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