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Corruption: Insider-trading senators should be prosecuted

Members of Congress and federal officials who dragged their feet at the end of last week in developing and presenting language for an economic relief package should be ashamed of themselves. If nothing else, it shows how little they care about seeming absurdly out of touch with ordinary Americans.

But that was nothing in comparison with the apparent disdain for the rest of us felt by the likes of Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. Those senators dumped massive amounts of stock in the weeks before stock indexes plummeted amid coronavirus fears.

Burr — and yes, Mid-Ohio Valley residents, he IS related to Aaron Burr — is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He and Loeffler both attended private briefings about the COVID-19 outbreak and then publicly tried to downplay their constituents’ fears and deflect questions, while at the same time pulling a LOT of money out of the stock market.

Loeffler recorded a large stock sale Jan. 24, the day after one of the briefings, and made 29 more transactions through mid-February. Feinstein and Inhofe sold as much as $6.4 million in stock weeks before the market tanked. Burr sold off as much as $1.72 million in stock on Feb. 13, just a few days after he wrote an opinion piece in which he said the U.S. was “better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.”

Some hardworking voters and taxpayers might still be shocked simply by the amount of money these elected officials had to play with, in the first place. It is not always easy for someone who can move around millions of dollars in one day to understand what the rest of us are going through.

But the level of their wealth is not the problem here. It is the appearance that their priority was to protect it, rather than being honest with the American people about what they knew, and the monster we were facing.

Burr was one of only three senators foolish enough, in 2012, to oppose a bill that barred lawmakers and their staff from using nonpublic information for trades, and required regular disclosure of those trades.

While millions of the rest of us watched our stock portfolios and 401(k)s crumble in front of our very eyes, it certainly seems as though these senators chose to use information they knew we did not have to protect their own wealth. If it is proven that is the case, calls for their resignation are not harsh enough. They must face the strictest penalties available by law.

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