WASHINGTON – Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul waited more than a year to disclose that his wife purchased stock in a company that makes a COVID-19 treatment, an investment made after Congress was briefed on the threat of the virus but before the public was largely aware of its danger.
The Republican filed a mandatory disclosure Wednesday revealing on Feb. 26, 2020 that Kelley Paul purchased somewhere between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of stock in Gilead, which makes the antiviral drug remdesivir. Under a 2012 law called the Stock Act, which was enacted to stop lawmakers from trading on insider information, any such sale should have been reported within 45 days.
Word of the looming danger posed by the coronavirus began to spread through Congress in late January 2020, after members received the first of several briefings on the economic and public health threat that it posed.
The disclosure, made 16 months late, adds Paul to a growing list of lawmakers from both parties who have drawn scrutiny for their stock trading during the outbreak, which was declared a pandemic in March 2020.
In a statement, a Paul spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper said Kelley Paul used her own earnings to make the investment, which she lost money on. She said the failure by the senator, who is an eye surgeon, to disclose the trade was an oversight.
“Last year Dr. Paul completed the reporting form for an investment made by his wife using her own earnings, an investment which she has lost money on,” Cooper said. “In the process of preparing to file his annual financial disclosure for last year, he learned that the form was not transmitted and promptly alerted the filing office and requested their guidance. In accordance with that guidance he filed both reports yesterday.”
Gilead stock traded for about $75 a share on the day Kelley Paul made her purchase. It rose to about $84 a share in April 2020, before dropping. Shares now trade at about $70 apiece.
The Kentucky senator is not the first member of Congress to disclose trades that critics have suggested were timed to benefit from the pandemic. He's also not the first who has failed to disclose trades in the required period of time.
Yet the $1,001 to $15,000 invested by his wife is also miniscule compared to some other lawmakers, who have bought or sold hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of dollars worth of stock during the pandemic. (Congressional financial disclosures give dollar ranges for the value of assets, not specific dollar figures.)
The Associated Press previously reported that Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey repeatedly failed to disclose trades worth as much as $1 million in medical and tech companies that had a stake in the virus response.
Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, of Georgia, both lost their runoff bids for the Senate in January after their own stock trades became a major campaign issue. Both were investigated by the Justice Department, and ultimately cleared.
Perdue had dumped between $1 million and $5 million worth of stock in a company where he was formerly a board member. After markets crashed, he bought it back and earned a windfall after its price skyrocketed.
Loeffler and her husband, the CEO and chairman of the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, dumped millions of dollars in stock following a briefing on the virus.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina drew perhaps the most scrutiny for his trades. He stepped aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after the FBI obtained a search warrant to seize a cellphone.
Burr and his wife sold between $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to dive and government health officials began to sound alarms about the virus. Burr was captured in a recording privately warning a group of influential constituents in early 2020 to prepare for economic devastation.
The Justice Department investigated Burr’s actions, but did not file charges and closed the case.
Paul, however, is unique in some respects. The first senator to catch COVID-19, he has repeatedly railed against mask mandates and other public health tools to stop the spread of the virus.
YouTube suspended Paul for seven days on Tuesday and removed a video he posted that claimed cloth masks don’t prevent infection, saying it violated policies on COVID-19 misinformation.
It’s the second time this month that one of Paul’s videos has been taken down by YouTube for breaking its rules about misleading content. Paul called YouTube’s decision a “badge of honor” in a tweet.
Paul's filing of the mandatory disclosure was first reported by The Washington Post.