Sen. David Perdue traded stocks from a Navy contractor right about the time he was taking over as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee.
The Georgia Republican, who faces a runoff next month in a bid to keep his seat, began purchasing stocks from BWX Technologies in 2018, shortly before becoming chairman of the subcommittee. He insisted that in using an outside adviser to manage his portfolio, he was not involved in the day-to-day decisions about trading his stocks.
Between February and July 2019, after he became chairman, Perdue reported selling those shares, which earned him between $15,000 and $50,000, according to his 2019 financial disclosure form. Because of the way lawmakers are required to report filings, the precise amount he garnered from these transactions is not publicly known, the Daily Beast reported on Thursday.
The report said Perdue never invested in BWX before these transactions took place. The company had contracts with the Navy to develop components for its submarines. Perdue’s state is home to Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. The senator played a significant role in the development of that year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which deals with funding for the Defense Department. In June, he bragged that he had secured $4.7 billion for Virginia-class submarines. The Daily Beast reported that BWX is one of only two or three companies that contracts with the Pentagon to “design and make key parts for Virginia-class submarines.”
The question of whether there was any wrongdoing aside, experts said there is at least an appearance of impropriety.
“This is just a perfect example of why many members of Congress have decided on their own to not trade individual stocks, even though there is no evidence of insider trading,” Kedric Payne, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group, told the New York Times. “It still begs the question of whether his official actions are somehow motivated by personal interest.”
In May, the senator announced that his advisers would stop trading in the stocks of individual companies. Perdue faced blowback for purchasing Pfizer stock in February after senators were briefed on the dangers of the coronavirus. Pfizer is one of the companies developing a coronavirus vaccine.
“This has been asked and answered — Sen. Perdue doesn’t manage his trades. They are handled by outside financial advisers without his prior input or approval,” a spokesperson for Perdue told the Daily Beast when contacted about the BWX purchases. “No amount of lies from liberal media outlets or Democratic political groups will change that fact.”
“The conflict of interest situation is heightened when the member of Congress sits on a particular committee that is so pervasively affecting the company whose stock is in question,” Donna Nagy, a law professor at Indiana University who studies lawmaker stock trading, told the outlet. “I think that the question raised here — and we don’t know the answer, is did personal stock holdings influence his legislative activity?”
“A lawmaker can hold on to stock or hold on to the public’s trust,” Payne said, “but it is hard to do both.”
Purdue will be defending his seat in a January runoff election, facing off against Democrat Jon Ossoff. That race will help determine whether Republicans or Democrats will have control of the Senate during the upcoming session.