Is Sen. Rand Paul an inside trader? That’s yet another question being lobbed at the pandemic conspiracy-slash-misinformation crank after a very belated disclosure of a stock move by Paul’s wife, Kelley Paul, that happened in the earliest days of the pandemic. On February 24, 2020, the drug remdesivir was hailed as a drug that might have “real efficacy” in treating COVID-19 infections. Two days later, The Washington Post now reports, Kelley Paul purchased up to $15,000 of stock in the drug’s maker, Gilead.
Having the spouse of a sitting senator looking to make a bit of coin on a deadly national pandemic is a bit gross, but it’s not insider trading. What moves it from merely “gross” to something that might require more examination is that Rand Paul is, and was, on the Senate Health Committee. If there are people in the Senate who might have more knowledge about the details of the pandemic than others, he’d be among them.
The whole thing looks especially sketchy because it came during the same early period that Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Sen. David Perdue, Sen. Richard Burr, and other senators made significant stock trades after being briefed on the scope of the pandemic. Nobody was punished for any of it, because it’s still not illegal for sitting senators to make stock bets predicting how the markets will react to a large number of Americans dying. The only bit a senator can get in trouble for is if they make those bets based on inside information that the rest of the public doesn’t know.
That’s why senators running out to make stock trades after being given government briefings about the approaching pandemic got so much attention, but if you can’t prove they acted based on that private information, it’s just an everyday, run-of-the-mill exploitation of an American disaster that nobody bats an eye at.
In the end, the Pauls didn’t make a dime off their own investment. Remdesivir was later declared to be ineffective against the virus, though not until after Donald Trump had been pumped full of it himself in his doctors’ throw-everything-at-the-wall attempts to cure him, when Trump himself had to be carted off to the hospital with a raging infection. There would be no windfall drug profits.
While it’s not likely Rand Paul will be getting in much trouble for this, barring something we don’t yet know, there’s another detail in all this that’s … hmm. You might most know Sen. Rand Paul at this point for his many, many attempts to spread sketchy pandemic conspiracy theories, downplay the severity of the pandemic, and speak out against public safety measures like mask mandates. He’s been especially focused on attacking government pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, but was even suspended from social media platform YouTube earlier this week for a video falsely claiming masks “don’t prevent infection.” They most certainly do, and N95 masks are the very best means of preventing infection aside from vaccine-based immunity or, of course, social distancing so that you don’t come into contact with the virus at all.
Is it a bit odd that a guy whose family owns stock in a drug company is among the louder voices in giving Americans false information suggesting they don’t need to take pandemic precautions so seriously, everything will work out fine, just go about your business? Yeah, it kind of is. A little.
Again, though, Paul has a fairly ironclad defense for all of this behavior. He simply does whatever he thinks will bring in the most fundraising dollars from the Republican base; right now, that happens to be attacking experts and pooh-poohing their opinions on how to claw our way out of this pandemic. He doesn’t need a stock market reason to do it—it’s what he’s done since he began his first campaign. There’s no reason to think Rand Paul is a criminal when the far simpler explanation is that Rand Paul is just a gawdawful, self-serving, sociopathic ass.