It’s been reported that Rand Paul’s wife Kelley Paul bought stock in Gilead Sciences, a research-based biopharmaceutical company, in February of last year. A seemingly innocuous news story until you connect a few dots: Gilead Sciences makes an antiviral drug that was used to treat COVID-19, Rand Paul is on the Senate health committee, and February 2020 was pre-COVID headlines.
The Senator also took his sweet time disclosing the investment.
According to The Washington Post, “The disclosure…came 16 months after the 45-day reporting deadline set forth in the Stock Act, which is designed to combat insider trading.”
So were the Senator and his wife trying to benefit from an imminent health crisis? It’s Unclear.
A spokesperson for Senator Paul insists his late filing was due to an oversight and he never attended a briefing on COVID-19. But then there’s this curious nugget reported by the Post:
“Eight days after his wife invested in the company behind the antiviral drug thought to be effective against covid-19, Paul cast the lone vote in the Senate against $8.3 billion in emergency spending to combat the emerging outbreak.”
Okay, the optics on that are pretty ugly. But the reality remains: wrongdoing, specifically that Paul’s position was leveraged for personal gain, cannot be proven. It’s still unclear.
Situations like these are exactly why we need to restore the original version of the STOCK Act. More transparency and accountability – that’s how to keep Congress on the straight and narrow.
The STOCK Act was originally signed into law by President Obama with near unanimous support in Congress following an appearance on 60 Minutes by The Drill Down’s own Peter Schweizer, who exposed the prevalence of insider trading in Washington. The act established much-needed boundaries and accountability around financial investments for elected officials.
But then a modification was passed, gutting a crucial part of the legislation.
“The new law scraps a provision that had been hotly contested by federal employees, as well as found to be problematic and even dangerous for high-ranking government workers. Congress twice had passed legislation to delay its implementation. Under that provision, high-ranking government workers would have been required to post their financial information on a publicly available online database,” The Hill reported at the time.
The amended version of the STOCK Act is not nearly as successful as the original could have been in preventing corruption. The Drill Down staff recently made a case for resurrecting the original bill (Killing the Stock Act in 24 Hours and How to Resurrect It) but, with so many politicians making a killing – including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi – don’t count on it.