Sixteen months after Congress' 45-day reporting deadline, Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday disclosed that his wife bought stock in the pharmaceutical company that makes remdesivir, an antiviral drug used to treat Covid-19, on February 26, 2020—weeks after the Trump administration briefed the Senate Health Committee, of which the Kentucky Republican is a member, on the coronavirus but before the public had been made fully aware of its danger.
A spokesperson for Paul told the Washington Post that "the senator attended no briefings on Covid-19... [and] completed a reporting form for his wife's investment last year but learned only recently, while preparing an annual disclosure, that the form had not been transmitted."
That defense, however, wasn't enough to prevent critics from suggesting the Kentucky Republican ran afoul of ethical practices.
One of Paul's biggest critics was Charles Booker, a former Kentucky state lawmaker and progressive U.S. Senate candidate who is campaigning to unseat Paul in 2022.
"Rand Paul must resign," Booker said in a video shared late Wednesday night. "We have learned that Senator Rand Paul has used this pandemic to put money in his pocket. We've lost over 600,000 of our loved ones across this country. Rand Paul knew how bad it would be, and he decided to choose profits instead of protecting you."
Paul "told you, 'Don't wear a mask,' and told you, 'Don't get the vaccine,'" Booker continued. "Is this why he didn't want you to wear a mask? Is this why he didn't want you to get a vaccine? Did he want you to get Covid? Did he want you to suffer?"
"We have to really ask these questions now," said Booker, "because how do you explain a member of the United States Senate having this information, knowing how deadly this virus would be, and instead of helping you—he voted against relief, continues to block it, continues to be in the way—bought stock in an antiviral drug that's supposed to treat people once they get Covid?"
"I'm blown away, y'all," Booker added. "There's the crime and then there's the cover-up. And the fact of the matter is, this is egregious and it speaks to exactly who Rand Paul is... he does not care whether we live or die, literally."
Booker was far from alone in questioning Paul's motives. As the Post noted:
Experts in corporate and securities law said the investment, and especially the delayed reporting of it, undermined trust in government and raised questions about whether the Kentucky Republican's family had sought to profit from nonpublic information about the looming health emergency and plans by the U.S. government to combat it. Several senators sold large amounts of stocks in January or February of last year, prompting a handful of insider-trading probes.
One of last spring's most high-profile investigations of potential insider trading among members of Congress involved Kelly Loeffler, a former Republican senator from Georgia.
Noting that "getting suspended from YouTube [for one week for spreading misinformation about the effectiveness of masks in preventing the transmission of Covid-19] is the least of Rand's worries," Booker on Wednesday compared Paul's situation to that of Loeffler, who lost her election months later to Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).
On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted that "it is absolutely wild that members of Congress are still allowed to buy and sell individual stock."
"It shouldn't be legal," she said, adding that she and Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) have introduced the Ban Conflicted Trading Act "to end the practice."
Krishnamoorthi also pointed to the proposed legislation in response to the revelations about Paul's stock purchase. "Americans need to know their representatives are governing to help their constituents—not their own portfolios," he tweeted.
Like Loeffler and others, Paul probably would have faced scrutiny last year had he turned in his paperwork on time. Citing Paul's aide, the Post reported that the GOP lawmaker "sought guidance from the Senate Ethics Committee... and filed the supplemental report Wednesday along with the annual disclosure, which was due in May and submitted three months late."
According to the filing, Kelley Paul used her own savings to buy between $1,000 and $15,000 of stock in Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of remdesivir.
The antiviral drug—which was invented a decade ago to treat hepatitis C and has been tested for possible use against Ebola and other infectious diseases—received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration last May and was given to then-President Donald Trump during his bout with Covid-19 in October, before it obtained full approval.
A World Health Organization-backed study published last October "raised doubts about the drug's effectiveness, prompting the international agency to recommend against its use as a treatment for Covid-19," the Post reported. "That marked a reversal from its original position, laid out on February 24, 2020—two days before Kelley Paul's purchase—by a WHO assistant director general, who described remdesivir as the only known drug that 'may have real efficacy' in treating the novel virus."
"This is gross."
—Charles Booker, U.S. Senate candidate
When Kelley Paul purchased stock in the company on February 26, 2020, it was worth $74.70 per share and climbed to more than $80 last March, which is when the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. The price has since fallen to $70.14 as of Thursday.
Despite the fact that Paul's wife lost money on the investment, Booker argued the behavior reflects an unprincipled commitment to self-enrichment at the expense of the public good.
"This news," said Booker, "reminds me of exactly why these types of politicians fight to keep us fighting amongst ourselves. To keep us sick, blocking healthcare. To keep us poor. To keep us struggling while they put more money in their pockets."
"This is gross," he added. "This is so egregious that I am telling you right now—for the safety of our country, this commonwealth, our future—Rand Paul needs to resign immediately."
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Kenny Stancil.