The novel coronavirus has been a huge political albatross for Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA). Now she’s doing everything she can to turn it into an asset—with an assist from President Donald Trump.
The Georgia Republican is taking every chance she gets to plug her presidential appointment to a White House task force on “reopening America.” She’s using the appointment to attempt to court campaign supporters, taking out paid ads promoting it, and has even set up a stand-alone campaign website offering coronavirus information to constituents—a site that also happens to help her build her campaign’s voter contact list.
Those moves come as controversy continues to rage over the sale of millions of dollars of stock owned by Loeffler and her husband, the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, in the immediate wake of a closed-door Senate briefing on the novel coronavirus. Loeffler has insisted that those trades were all executed by a third-party broker, that no information from that briefing informed her stock sales, and that criticism of those stock trades amounts to “a socialist attack.”
But the timing was impeccable: She shed assets right before coronavirus tanked the stock market and purchased shares in a select few companies that seemed well positioned for an economy that would be based largely on online commerce and communications. Loeffler announced last week that she and her husband, Jeff Sprecher, would liquidate their individual stock holdings in order to try to tamp down the controversy.
Under fire, Loeffler appears to have been thrown a bit of a political lifeline from Trump. Her appointment to his coronavirus task force may have been exceedingly insignificant, as the president tapped every Republican senator except Mitt Romney for the task. But her Republican primary opponent, Rep. Doug Collins, was notably absent from the White House’s list of 32 House members appointed to the panel.
Though she’s just one of 52 senators who did get the White House nod, Loeffler has done her best to make it appear like she was given the president’s implicit endorsement. “President Trump tapped me to help re-open the American economy. While the fight against COVID-19 continues, we must provide relief to those in need and get Georgians back to work safely!” Loeffler’s campaign wrote in a Facebook ad that began running on Monday.
The ad links to a sign-up form on the Republican fundraising platform WinRed, where visitors are greeted with a large photo of Loeffler and Trump and the message, “President Trump just tapped Kelly to help re-open America.”
The page also attempts to parlay Loeffler’s background in finance into a unique coronavirus-era qualification. “She will bring years of experience and knowledge to the [White House task force] from her time as a Fortune 500 executive who created jobs and opportunities in Georgia and across the county,” the page boasts.
The Facebook ad promoting that page came just a few days after the Loeffler campaign unveiled a new website, GArelief.com, ostensibly designed to provide coronavirus recovery resources to Georgia residents. Much of the page directs visitors to the same federal and state government information as her official Senate campaign website.
But the campaign page also beckons visitors to sign up to receive additional information via email and text message. “By providing your cell phone or mobile phone number,” the page advises, “you are consenting to receive calls and texts, including autodialed and automated calls and texts, to that number with campaign notifications from the Georgians for Kelly Loeffler.”
An hour after The Daily Beast signed up for email updates on the site, the Loeffler campaign sent an email asking for a campaign contribution. Loeffler has pledged to spend $20 million of her own wealth on her campaign.
Loeffler appears to be unique, as of now, in her willingness to utilize her appointment to the presidential task force for political gain. While other vulnerable Republican incumbent senators such as Iowa’s Joni Ersnt and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis have made sure to point out their appointments to the White House task force, Loeffler appears to be the only one so far to do so through paid media.
Asked about Loeffler’s appointment on Sunday, Trump said he was unaware of the congressional insider trading allegations against Loeffler. “I really don’t know about that,” the president said. She was included “because she’s the senator from a great state, a state that I love: Georgia.”