If proven guilty, parties should be punished severely

Nearly every American has suffered financially from the COVID-19 epidemic. At least 36 million of us were laid off from our workplaces. Even those still on the job have seen their retirement savings decimated.

But a few people — those who had some forewarning of the economic havoc to come — may have profited from the epidemic, or at least avoided the investment losses most suffered.

Good for those who did so by paying close attention to the pandemic as it was building in China, in preparation for spreading globally, then thought carefully about investments. They deserve to have benefited financially from their perceptiveness.

Inside traders in Congress are another story.

Weeks ago, there were reports that at least three members of Congress engaged in millions of dollars in stock trades after being briefed earlier this year on what then was the potential for a COVID-19 outbreak here. Public knowledge of the concern came later.

Accusations of insider trading by lawmakers were made against Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga. All have denied they did anything nefarious.

But last week, the FBI stepped up its investigation of the allegations. Agents went to Burr’s home with a warrant to search his cellphone. Burr, still insisting he had done nothing wrong, stepped down from his position as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In Burr’s case, records indicate he and his wife sold as much as $1.7 million in stocks during late January and mid-February. Some of those shares were in companies such as hotel chains that suffered badly from shutdowns linked to COVID-19.

Any allegation of wrongdoing by members of Congress should be investigated thoroughly, of course. But this one, coming as tens of millions of Americans have had their finances wrecked by COVID-19, is particularly upsetting.

Burr, Feinstein and Loeffler are innocent until proven guilty, of course. But if they did what they have been accused of informally, they should be charged, convicted and punished severely.


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