In the Georgia Senate Elections There Is No Winning With Your Reputation Intact 

John Lothian

John Lothian

Executive Chairman and CEO

Kelly Loeffler began 2020 by becoming Sen. Kelly Loeffler. When she aspired to be a Georgia U.S. Senator, I am sure she never imagined she would be in the midst of a national fight for political control of the U.S. Senate. But that is where she has found herself.

Because of the high stakes for Senate control, she is in the eye of a storm turning over Georgia. Amidst the twirling, swirling of the campaign, there is mud flying everywhere. Some of this mud sticks, some of it washes right off with a little rain and some sunlight.

Sometimes it seems like there are two twisters over Georgia, one is her fight with Rev. Raphael Warnock and the other is the fight of incumbent Sen. David Perdue with challenger Jon Ossoff.

Some of the mud that has been thrown at Perdue is criticism of his penchant for trading stocks related to his role as U.S. Senator. The New York Times on December 2 reported that during one term, “his 2,596 trades, mostly in stocks, but also in bonds and funds, roughly equal the combined trading volume of the next five most active traders in the Senate.” Sen. Perdue’s trades could be a conflict of interest. They look suspect and are controversial because of his role as a member of various committees, including the Senate Banking Committee.

And because of this criticism of Perdue, right or wrong, it becomes journalistically responsible to note controversy with Sen. Loeffler’s own stock trading. Chalk that up to Journalism 101, not media bias.

The same accusation is thrown at both of these Senators, but these are two different cases. One is a U.S. Senator that has a penchant for trading stocks, though I would say overtrading.  The other is a respected former financial executive who led investor relations for Intercontinental Exchange and its New York Stock Exchange subsidiary.

When ICE bought NYSE, that was a game changer for the Atlanta exchange operator. As a result of that acquisition, the stock investing of Jeff Sprecher and his wife, Kelly Loeffler, needed to be reputationally bulletproof. The best practices of best practices were what was called for, and I have great trust that they were followed. 

Why do I have great trust that was followed? Because I have great trust in Jeff Sprecher and Kelly Loeffler, having known them since 2002, and I have watched them build Intercontinental Exchange into an industry leader. And I trust the people at ICE around them that they are doing the right things. There is too much at stake for each of them to trip over something small and trivial, though when you are worth $800 million, small and trivial are big numbers for most normal people. 

Am I surprised that Jeff Sprecher and Kelly Loeffler’s financial advisors had some of their money actively invested? No. Am I surprised that the advisors were paying attention to what was going on in the world and moved and traded accordingly? No. I would fully expect they would hire smart advisors who do things the right way. Am I concerned by the timing of the trades that occurred after Sen. Loeffler was briefed on the virus? I will only say that the timing was unfortunate. 

And I would say that they made the correct decision to stop trading or holding individual shares of stock while Sen. Loeffler is in office. That would be the best practice I would wish on all government officials and office holders.

It is easy for people to think that I am biased against Sen. Loeffler because of the stories I include in JLN or tweet out. The fact is that only one person in this Senate race is a former executive from our industry. Thus, the stories relating to her are relevant to my readers and our industry. The news around her opponent is not as relevant, as this is not a religious news publication. 

Now, I have stood up for the values of my faith or life generally where I think they have been abused in this election. And that may make me seem biased, given the partisan divide we are currently experiencing. But that is what I do, stand up for my values. I stand up for the values I believe, like market-based solutions, where appropriate. And I stand up for First Amendment rights, like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom to petition the government and freedom of religion. I also stand up for people I believe in. That does not mean I can’t be disappointed in some of the choices they make from a political standpoint.

My political beliefs and those of Sen. Loeffler’s are very different, particularly as she and her campaign have expressed them during this election. This much is very true.

But she is welcome to hers and I am welcome to mine. That is what makes for elections, a battle of beliefs and values shared in the open forum of a free exchange of ideas.

The unfortunate part of election battles like the one we are seeing in Georgia is although someone will prevail in the election, both candidates come out the worse for it. You have to expect that when you run for office, but this election has such high stakes and so much money being thrown at it that no stone is unturned and no story untold in the election process.

You have to have or develop a thick skin to be a public figure or elected official. That way the mud slides off easier and the impact of it does not leave a mark. Or so you hope.

 

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