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Stock controversy generates difficult questions for Rand Paul

When it comes to the pandemic, Rand Paul was already a controversial figure. A new stock controversy makes matters worse.


Last spring, a handful of senators faced awkward questions about their private investments and alleged efforts to profit off the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), in particular, faced FBI scrutiny following some well-timed stock sales.

Those controversies largely faded from view, right up until the Washington Post published this report on Wednesday night:

Sen. Rand Paul revealed Wednesday that his wife bought stock in Gilead Sciences — which makes an antiviral drug used to treat covid-19 — on Feb. 26, 2020, before the threat from the coronavirus was fully understood by the public and before it was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The disclosure, in a filing with the Senate, came 16 months after the 45-day reporting deadline set forth in the Stock Act, which is designed to combat insider trading.

At face value, it's a story with two key angles. First, there's Rand Paul, a member of the Senate committee that oversees health policy, which received a coronavirus briefing from Trump administration officials in January. Though the Kentucky Republican's spokesperson claims Paul did not attend any COVID-related briefings, it was a month later when his wife bought stock in a drug company that makes an antiviral drug known as remdesivir.

Second, there's the lengthy delay to consider: Paul was required to disclose the transaction within 45 days. It instead came 16 months later.

The senator's office said there was an inadvertent error in transmitting the information. Paul's spokesperson also said the senator's wife, author Kelley Paul, used her own earnings and ended up losing money on the investment.

Not surprisingly, after the article ran, talk of an investigation soon followed. Dan Goldman, a former federal prosecutor, among others, noted, "Delayed disclosure can be powerful evidence of consciousness of guilt."

But it was last night when the story took another turn. CNBC reported:

Republican Sen. Rand Paul and his wife had not bought or sold stock in an individual company in at least 10 years when Kelley Paul purchased shares of the drug company Gilead Sciences in early 2020. The purchase came early in the novel coronavirus' initial wave through the United States — and one day after the first U.S. clinical trial began for Gilead's remdesivir as a treatment for Covid-19, according to records reviewed by CNBC.

Or put another way, this isn't a situation in which the GOP senator and his wife routinely make stock-related transactions. According to CNBC's reporting, this was the first and only such transaction in at least a decade.

To be sure, when it comes to the pandemic, Rand Paul was already a controversial figure, clashing with Dr. Anthony Fauci in embarrassing ways, and peddling highly dubious ideas about mitigation efforts that ended up being removed from YouTube for violating the site's policies against COVID misinformation.

But these new questions put the Kentucky Republican -- who's up for re-election next year -- in an even more difficult position.