Kelly Loeffler

Kelly Lynn Loeffler (/ˈlɛflər/; born November 27, 1970) is an American businesswoman and politician, who served as a United States senator from Georgia from 2020 to 2021. A Republican and political supporter of former US President Donald Trump, Loeffler was previously chief executive officer (CEO) of Bakkt, a subsidiary of commodity and financial service provider Intercontinental Exchange, of which her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is CEO. Until February 2021, she co-owned the Atlanta Dream of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).[2]

Kelly Loeffler
Kelly Loeffler.jpg
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
January 6, 2020 – January 20, 2021
Appointed byBrian Kemp
Preceded byJohnny Isakson
Succeeded byRaphael Warnock
Personal details
Born
Kelly Lynn Loeffler

(1970-11-27) November 27, 1970 (age 50)
Bloomington, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
(m. 2004)
EducationUniversity of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (BS)
DePaul University (MBA)
Net worthDecrease US $500 million[1]

Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia, appointed Loeffler to the Senate in December 2019 after Republican senator Johnny Isakson resigned for health reasons. Loeffler ran in the 2020 Georgia U.S. Senate special election, seeking to hold the Senate seat until January 3, 2023. She finished second in the November 3 election, advancing to a runoff with Democrat Raphael Warnock held on January 5, 2021.[3] She lost the runoff election to Warnock. She has been floated as a candidate to run against him in the 2022 United States Senate election in Georgia.[4] In the same election, her fellow Georgia senator, David Perdue, also lost. When Perdue's term ended on January 3, 2021, Loeffler ascended to be the "senior senator" from Georgia, an honor she held for just under three weeks, until Warnock was sworn in.

Loeffler strongly aligned herself to President Trump and touted her "100 percent Trump voting record" during the campaign.[5][6] She was investigated in connection with the 2020 congressional insider trading scandal after selling stock in companies vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic valued at several million dollars the same day she attended a private briefing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions on the disease, before the public had been alerted to its severity. Both the Department of Justice and the Senate Ethics Committee eventually dropped their probes of Loeffler, with the Senate Ethics Committee not finding any evidence of her violating federal law, Senate rules or standards of conduct.[7][8]

After the November 2020 election, Loeffler and fellow Georgia senator David Perdue claimed without evidence that there had been "failures" in the election, and called for the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who rejected the accusations. She later supported a lawsuit by Trump allies seeking to overturn the election results,[9] and also announced her intention to object to the certification of the Electoral College results in Congress.[10] After the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Loeffler announced that she would withdraw her objection to the certification of the electoral votes and later voted to certify.

Early life and educationEdit

Loeffler was born in Bloomington, Illinois, to Don and Lynda (née Munsell) Loeffler, and raised on her family's corn and soybean farm in Stanford, Illinois.[11][12] She has a brother, Brian; their parents married in 1969.[13] In 1988, she graduated from Olympia High School in Stanford, where she was in marching band, ran cross-country and track, and played varsity basketball.[14]

In 1992, Loeffler graduated with a Bachelor of Science in marketing from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign's Gies College of Business, where she was a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.[15] After college, she worked for Toyota as a District Account Manager.[16][17] In 1999, Loeffler graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in international finance and marketing from DePaul University's Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.[12][15] She financed her graduate school tuition by mortgaging land inherited from her grandparents.[12]

Early careerEdit

After earning her MBA, Loeffler worked for Citibank, William Blair & Company, and the Crossroads Group.[18] In 2002, she joined Intercontinental Exchange, a commodity and financial service provider, in investor relations.[19] She married the firm's CEO, Jeffrey Sprecher, in 2004.[12][20] Loeffler was eventually promoted to senior vice president of investor relations and corporate communications.[21] In 2018, she became the chief executive officer (CEO) of Bakkt, a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange.[22]

According to Salon, in 2009 Loeffler helped Intercontinental Exchange to establish and market a credit default swap clearinghouse in the Cayman Islands, an offshore tax haven. It allowed some of the biggest banks to avoid paying taxes on repatriation of income.[23] This allowed International Exchange to use Ugland House as a registration address in the tax haven without having a physical presence there.[24][unreliable source?]

In 2010, Loeffler bought a minority stake in the Atlanta Dream of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).[12] In 2011, she and Mary Brock bought the team from Kathy Betty.[21][25] Loeffler took an active role in the team, arranging her travel schedule to attend all games and often meeting with head coach Michael Cooper during halftime to analyze the first half of the game.[26] In February 2021, Loeffler sold her stake in the team.[27]

When Loeffler left Intercontinental Exchange to join the Senate, the company awarded her over $9 million of financial assets. A spokesperson for Loeffler said Loeffler "left millions in equity compensation behind" by joining the Senate.[28]

Political donationsEdit

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Loeffler and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, have donated $3.2 million to political committees. Ninety-seven percent of these donations went to Republicans, and three percent to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Debbie Stabenow,[29] and Georgia Congressman David Scott (GA–13), who received $10,200.[29][30] Loeffler donated $750,000 to Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting former Governor Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.[11] The National Republican Senatorial Committee received $247,500 from Loeffler and Sprecher.[30] In May 2020, Loeffler's husband gave $1 million to a Trump 2020 reelection super PAC, his largest federal political donation to date.[31][32]

U.S. SenateEdit

AppointmentEdit

 
Loeffler meeting with Mitch McConnell in December 2019
 
Loeffler after being sworn in as Senator by Vice President Mike Pence

Loeffler considered seeking the Republican nomination in the 2014 United States Senate election in Georgia but ultimately passed on the race because of Intercontinental Exchange's pending acquisition of the New York Stock Exchange.[33]

On August 28, 2019, sitting Georgia senator Johnny Isakson announced that he would resign at the end of the year, citing health reasons.[34] On December 4, 2019, in accordance with Georgia law, Governor Kemp appointed Loeffler to fill Isakson's unexpired term until the next regularly scheduled statewide election in November 2020.[35] Kemp traveled to Washington to explain why he wanted to appoint Loeffler instead of Trump's choice, Representative Doug Collins, who helped lead the House opposition to Trump's impeachment. The choice of Loeffler angered many Georgia conservatives who had supported Collins.[11][36][37][38]

On January 6, 2020, Loeffler was sworn into the Senate.[39] She became the second female to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate. The first was Rebecca Latimer Felton, also the first female U.S. Senator, who served a symbolic one-day term in 1922.[40] The appointment was valid until the runoff election scheduled for January 5, because no candidate in the November 2020 election received a majority of the vote.[3]

Tenure and political positionsEdit

Loeffler called herself the most conservative Republican in the Senate.[41][42] During her tenure, Loeffler sponsored 42 bills and cosponsored 187.[43] She was a staunch Trump ally.[41][44] As of July 2020, Loeffler always voted in line with Trump's position. She was the only sitting senator with a record of voting 100% of the time with Trump, according to FiveThirtyEight.[45] Loeffler frequently cited her voting record on the 2020 campaign trail.[5] During the 2020 campaign, Loeffler declared that she had never disagreed with Trump. When she was asked about the Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump discusses groping women, Loeffler replied that she was "not familiar with that".[46] When she was separately asked about a recording of Trump telling Bob Woodward that he was intentionally downplaying COVID-19 in public, she responded that it was "fake news".[47]

Loeffler supports Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.[48] Loeffler opposes abortion and supports anti-abortion legislation.[49][50][51] The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List initially opposed Loeffler's appointment, but endorsed her in the 2020 election.[52][53][50] Loeffler donated portions of her Senate salary to anti-abortion pregnancy centers and an anti-LGBTQ adoption agency.[54]

On gun issues, Loeffler has received "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America.[55] She cosponsored the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act and opposed the assault weapons ban and red flag law proposals. Loeffler supports constructing a border wall along the Mexico–United States border,[56] and the appointment of conservative judges to federal courts.[57] In September 2020, she introduced legislation to the Senate floor that would bar transgender girls and women from participating in girls' and women's sports.[58] The bill states "sex shall be recognized based solely on a person's reproductive biology and genetics at birth".[59]

In late February 2020, Loeffler stated that "Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness".[60] She went on to say that regarding COVID-19, "Americans are in good hands with" the Trump administration.[60] In mid-March 2020, Loeffler addressed those who were "concerned" about COVID-19, stating that the country is "in the best economic position" to handle COVID-19.[60] She again criticized Democrats, writing that they "continue to play politics with" COVID-19.[60]

In October 2020, shortly after Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with COVID-19 after attending events where they closely interacted with other individuals while maskless, Loeffler, who often appeared at rallies and gatherings without wearing a mask,[61] blamed their contraction of the disease on the People's Republic of China, tweeting, "China gave this virus to our President @realDonaldTrump and First Lady @FLOTUS. WE MUST HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE."[62]

During the 2021 United States Electoral College vote count in January 2021, Loeffler was slated to vote against the measure, but after the storming of the U.S. Capitol, which Loeffler witnessed, she changed her mind, saying, "The events that transpired have forced me to reconsider. I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of the votes."[63]

CommitteesEdit

COVID-19 insider trading investigationEdit

On March 19, 2020, the release of federal financial disclosure documents showed that Loeffler and her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman and CEO of the Intercontinental Exchange (a corporation that owns the New York Stock Exchange), had sold stock in companies vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic with an aggregate value of several million dollars. They began selling stocks on January 24, the same day Loeffler attended a private briefing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions on the spread of the disease, before the public had been alerted to its severity.[64] Loeffler denied any wrongdoing, saying the trades were made by a third-party advisor and that she learned about them only after they occurred.[65] Between January 24 and February 14, the couple sold between $1.275 and $3.1 million worth of stock in 27 companies, while buying stocks worth between $450,000 and $1 million, including in Citrix, which develops remote collaboration software.[7][66]

The government watchdog group Common Cause filed complaints with the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee, alleging possible violations of the STOCK Act and insider trading laws in the matter of stock sales by Loeffler and three other senators, Richard Burr, Jim Inhofe, and Dianne Feinstein.[67] Loeffler and Sprecher had sold at least $18.7 million in Intercontinental Exchange stock before the 2020 stock market crash.[68] After being criticized for the trades, Loeffler and Sprecher sold their individual stocks in an effort "to move beyond the distraction" caused by trades they made before and during the market decline caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.[69] On May 26, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had closed its inquiry into Loeffler.[70] On June 16, 2020, the Senate Ethics Committee dismissed Common Cause's complaint, writing to Loeffler, "Based on all the information before it, the Committee did not find evidence that your actions violated federal law, Senate Rules or standards of conduct."[8]

2020–21 U.S. Senate special electionEdit

Loeffler ran to serve the remaining two years of the Senate term. She planned to spend $20 million of her own money on her campaign.[71] Under Georgia's election law, all candidates for the seat (regardless of political party) compete in a nonpartisan blanket primary;[72] in addition to Democratic candidates, Loeffler, backed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was challenged by fellow Republican Doug Collins, who represents Georgia's 9th congressional district.[73]

In July 2020, Loeffler, who co-owned the Atlanta Dream, wrote the WNBA a public letter objecting to players wearing shirts with "Black Lives Matter" and "Say Her Name" printed on them, and suggesting they wear American flags instead.[74][75][76] She stated her opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement, saying it "advocates things like defunding and abolishing the police, abolishing our military, emptying our prisons, destroying the nuclear family" and "promotes violence and antisemitism".[77][76] Her comments led some WNBA players to call for her removal from ownership.[78] Loeffler later said that the movement was "based on Marxist principles" and threatens to "destroy" America.[79] In August 2020, players from the Dream and several other teams wore "Vote Warnock" T-shirts in support of one of Loeffler's Democratic challengers in the special election.[80][81]

During the 2020 campaign, Loeffler touted that she had been endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene, a controversial Republican who won the election for Georgia's 14th congressional district. Greene had a history of promotion of the QAnon conspiracy theory and of commentary that has been considered racist.[82][83][84] Asked whether she accepted Greene's endorsement given Greene's history of remarks, Loeffler said she knew nothing about QAnon and criticized the media for misrepresenting or faking events.[47]

As no candidate received over 50% of the vote in the election, Loeffler, who came in second, participated in a runoff election on January 5, 2021 against the primary's first-place finisher, Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock.[3][85][86] The other senate race from the state between David Perdue and Jon Ossoff also went to a runoff. This meant if Democrats won both seats, which they ultimately did, they would take control of the senate in a 50-50 tie, because of the Vice President Kamala Harris having a tie breaking vote. After the November election, Loeffler and the other U.S. Senator from Georgia, David Perdue, claimed without evidence that there had been "failures" in the election, and called for the resignation of the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican. Their rhetoric fed into falsehoods and conspiracy theories among segments of the right, including Trump, who lost the presidential election to Joe Biden.[86][87][85] There was no evidence of wrongdoing in connection with the election.[86] Raffensperger rejected the calls for his resignation.[85] According to Politico, Loeffler repeated Trump's baseless claims of fraud because she wanted the support of Trump and his core voters in the January runoff.[88] In December 2020, Loeffler supported a lawsuit by Trump allies seeking to overturn the election results.[9]

In mid-November, Loeffler solicited donations to her campaign during a television interview at the U.S. Capitol; it is illegal under American federal law to ask for campaign donations in federal buildings.[89][90]

On November 20, 2020, Loeffler spoke without a mask at a rally in Canton, Georgia, 46 days before the runoff. Later that day, she tested positive for COVID-19; the result of a subsequent test the following day was inconclusive. She had intermittently worn a mask while campaigning.[61] Attendees at her rallies were mostly maskless.[91] As a consequence of the initial positive test result, Loeffler canceled future appearances at rallies, entering quarantine for the recommended time period.[61] On January 1, 2021, Loeffler absented herself from the successful override of Trump's veto of the defense spending bill.[92]

Throughout the campaign she sought to win the support of pro-Trump voters.[93] She touted her endorsement from Trump; he held a rally in the state shortly before the election.[94] At the rally, he asked his supporters to vote for Loeffler, also repeating debunked voter fraud allegations. Her campaign tried to paint her opponent Raphael Warnock as a socialist in a series of campaign ads, calling for people to vote for her to "hold the line" against what she called socialism. In a December 6, 2020, debate she repeatedly accused her opponent of being a "radical liberal" and refused to admit Joe Biden was the winner of the 2020 United States presidential election.[95] With Democrats in the race calling for $2000 COVID-19 stimulus payments if they won and Donald Trump backing the policy, she announced she would back the payments late in the campaign.[96]

The Associated Press called the race for Warnock in the early morning hours of January 6.[97] His win was attributed to a large black voter turnout in the runoff.[97] That same day, Loeffler planned to object to the certified election results, but after the storming of the United States Capitol, she withdrew her objection and accepted the results. The next day, Loeffler conceded to Warnock.[98]

Greater GeorgiaEdit

Following the special election, Loeffler founded Greater Georgia, an organization that plans to register likely conservative voters in Georgia, expand conservative messaging infrastructure, and advocate for more restrictive voting laws.[99] Loeffler has personally invested at least $1 million in the organization.[100]

Personal lifeEdit

Loeffler is Catholic.[50]

In 2004, Loeffler married Jeffrey Sprecher, the founder and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange and Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.[19] They live in Tuxedo Park, Atlanta,[101] in a $10.5 million, 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) estate named Descante, bought in 2013 in what was then the most expensive residential real estate transaction ever recorded in Atlanta.[17] They have four additional homes and a condo.[102] In November 2020, Newsweek reported Loeffler's and Sprecher's combined net worth at $800 million, making her the wealthiest U.S. Senator.[103][26] Days before the terms of the CARES Act were announced, Sprecher bought up to $1 million in stocks in companies that stood to gain from the bill.[104]

Loeffler used a Bombardier Challenger 300 private jet for her Senate work and political campaigning; such planes typically cost from $7 million to over $20 million.[105]

Electoral historyEdit

United States Senate special election in Georgia, November 3, 2020[106]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Raphael Warnock 1,617,035 32.9%
Republican Kelly Loeffler (incumbent) 1,273,214 25.9%
Republican Doug Collins 980,454 20.0%
Democratic Deborah Jackson 324,118 6.6%
Democratic Matt Lieberman 136,021 2.8%
Democratic Tamara Johnson-Shealey 106,767 2.2%
Democratic Jamesia James 94,406 1.9%
Republican Derrick Grayson 51,592 1.0%
Democratic Joy Felicia Slade 44,945 0.9%
Republican Annette Davis Jackson 44,335 0.9%
Republican Kandiss Taylor 40,349 0.8%
Republican A. Wayne Johnson 36,176 0.7%
Libertarian Brian Slowinski 35,431 0.7%
Democratic Richard Dien Winfield 28,687 0.6%
Democratic Ed Tarver 26,333 0.5%
Independent Allen Buckley 17,954 0.4%
Green John Fortuin 15,293 0.3%
Independent Elbert Bartell 14,640 0.3%
Independent Valencia Stovall 13,318 0.3%
Independent Michael Todd Greene 13,293 0.3%
Write-in Rod Mack 7 0.0%
Total votes 4,914,368 100.0%
United States Senate special election runoff in Georgia, January 5, 2021[107]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Raphael Warnock 2,288,923 51.0%
Republican Kelly Loeffler (incumbent) 2,195,373 49.0%
Total votes 4,484,296 100.0%
Democratic gain from Republican

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Johnny Isakson
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
2020–2021
Served alongside: David Perdue
Succeeded by
Raphael Warnock