There were several memorable moments from Senate campaign debates this year, but arguably the most brutal came in Georgia about a month ago, when Jon Ossoff (D) called Sen. David Perdue (R) a "crook."
The line of attack didn't come out of nowhere. Way back in January, when most Americans were unconcerned about the coronavirus, Perdue received a classified briefing on the viral threat. [Update: see below.] The same day, he bought stock in a company that sells personal protective equipment. Earlier this year, the incumbent senator also picked up shares of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, whose value has also grown significantly during the pandemic.
In fact, the wealthy Georgia Republican has sparked quite a few questions with his active investment strategy while in the Senate, including transactions involving industries he's responsible for helping oversee. Perdue has denied any wrongdoing, pointing to financial advisers who've made most of his trades.
Nevertheless, the questions keep multiplying. The Associated Press reported this morning on Perdue seeing a financial opportunity in March, as markets collapsed, millions lost their jobs, and businesses closed their doors.
[F]or the second time in less than two months, Perdue's timing was impeccable. He avoided a sharp loss and reaped a stunning gain by selling and then buying the same stock: Cardlytics, an Atlanta-based financial technology company on whose board of directors he once served.
All of this, incidentally, comes just a week after the New York Times reported that Perdue also "began making large and ultimately profitable purchases of shares in a Navy contractor in 2018 just before taking over as chair of a Senate subcommittee overseeing the Navy fleet."
The AP's report added that there's no evidence of Perdue, already a multi-millionaire, acting on "information gained as a member of Congress or through his long-standing relationship with company officials.... But legal experts say the timing of his sale, the fact that he quickly bought Cardlytics stock back when it had lost two-thirds of its market value and his close ties to company officials all warrant scrutiny."
That said, the AP quoted John C. Coffee Jr., a Columbia University law school professor who specializes in corporate and securities issues, saying in reference to the GOP senator, "This does seem suspicious."
It's tempting to think Perdue might face some difficult questions about this at his next debate, but the Georgia Republican refused to participate in the final scheduled debate before the Nov. 3 elections, and he's continuing to refuse to debate Ossoff ahead of their runoff election.
The Perdue-Ossoff race will be decided on Jan. 5, which is just 41 days away. The winner will help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate for the first two years of the Biden administration.
* Update: The New York Times reports today that the federal investigators examined Perdue's Cardlytics stock trades, and the matter generated attention from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Bill Barr's Justice Department dropped the investigation over the summer.
* Second Update: A spokesperson for the senator's campaign pointed to this article in The Hill, which said Perdue was not at the briefing in question.