Calls For Investigation, Resignation Mount After Inhofe Caught In Potential Insider Trading Scandal
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) faced widespread criticism, including calls for a formal investigation, Friday after federal reporting revealed Oklahoma’s senior senator sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock in the days after private meetings about COVID-19.
According to filings with the Senate Ethics Committee, Inhofe sold between $230,000 and $500,000 in stocks. The bulk of that coming three days after a group of senators met with the White House on January 24.
Among the stocks sold were Apple, PayPal and a diagnostics company, all of which have seen a significant drop in value as the market tanked in the days after the novel coronavirus began to spread rapidly across the country.
The sell-off report, has raised questions about what the Senator knew about the potential spread of the virus before the public and whether the selling of his shares was linked to his privileged knowledge. If he used privileged information to sell stock at a higher price, it could have broken federal ethics rules or possibly federal law.
Senators are bound by the STOCK Act, which prevents them from using non-public information for personal gain. At the time of the sales, the spread of the novel coronavirus in other countries was already widely reported.
In a statement to reporters Friday morning, Inhofe called the allegations of impropriety “baseless and 100% false.” Inhofe said he was meeting with a group of anti-abortion kids from Oklahoma and the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania and not at the Jan. 24 closed-door meeting.
“Shortly after becoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I instructed my financial advisor to move me out of all stocks and into mutual funds to avoid any appearance of controversy. My advisor has been doing so faithfully since that time and I am not aware of or consulted about any transactions,” Inhofe said in a statement.
“Investigation is needed to find out if laws were broken by Senatorial stock dumps,” Former office of Governmental Ethics Direct Walter Shaub said on Twitter. Shaub served as chief of the federal watchdog agency under the Trump administration until he resigned in 2017. “But whether or not they were, we have politicians in the government’s inner circle protecting their interests as the storm closed in on regular Americans who will do the suffering and the dying.”
Inhofe wasn’t alone in his stock sales. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) all made significant amounts of money, some in the amount of millions, after selling stocks in the weeks leading up to the designation of the novel coronavirus’ label as a pandemic. Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. Burr and Loeffler faced calls to resign Thursday night. By Friday morning those same calls on social media expanded to include Feinstein and Inhofe.
During the weeks he was selling stocks in companies that would likely be damaged in an economic crash, Inhofe was supportive of President Donald Trump’s downplaying of the virus.
In at least one instance, Inhofe mocked the growing concern of the spread of the virus when asked how the octogenarian was protecting himself the morning before the president addressed the severity of the virus in a national Oval Office address.