Inhofe in the clear on questionable timing of stock sales?

Oklahoma’s senior senator appears to have been cleared of any improprieties in connection with the sale of thousands of dollars of stock in January and February shortly before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.


Oklahoma activists had raised questions about the sales by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) suggesting that a full investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee was warranted. 


“Everything has been resolved in terms of the fact that I did not make any decisions to put any money in… No one has even — well, except people who are adversaries — no one is even suggesting that I have done anything wrong,” Inhofe said Wednesday.


Inhofe released a letter dated March 20 from his financial adviser confirming the financial advising company, Capital Advisors, was given full discretion on the management of his portfolio and have made all investment decisions without Inhofe’s input. 


The letter also states Inhofe has had nothing to do with the timing of the transition to mutual funds. 


The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington or CREW filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee asking for an investigation of Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga). 


But CREW did not include Inhofe in the complaint because they could not prove he was at the meeting as he claimed he wasn’t and did not know of any other nonpublic information was available to him. 


CREW’s accusations came in the wake of a closed-door meeting on the soon-to-be Covid-19 pandemic. 


The New York Times released a story reporting multiple senators had dumped significant amounts of stock directly following the briefing discussing Covid-19 on January 24, 2020 including Inhofe. 


Required financial disclosures confirmed Inhofe sold upwards of $500,000 of stock on January 27 and then February 20.


Using inside information not available to the public, as the New York Times claimed happened,  is in direct violation of the STOCK Act. 


The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act or STOCK ACT was passed in 2012. Under this act, members of Congress must disclose stock sales and investment actions with the intention of ensuring lawmakers do not use information not available to the public for profit. Violation of the STOCK Act could incite an Ethics Committee investigation. 


In an interview with News 9 on Friday, March 20, Inhofe said he would be willing to comply with an Ethics Committee investigation. However, he made it clear on Wednesday he would not be submitting himself to an investigation as Burr did. 


In the letter, Burr said, “While I relied solely on public reporting to guide my decision to sell the stock, it is my belief that an independent review is warranted to ensure full and complete transparency.” 


He went on to ask for an investigation. 


“I am sending this letter to request a full and expedited investigation of these sales by the Ethics Committee. I stand ready to be fully transparent with you and your Committee as you do your work.”


Inhofe now believes there is no need for him to do the same as no one believes he did anything wrong. 


Photos released by Inhofe show he was not in attendance at the briefing on Jan. 24 where people claim information was given to Senators that compelled them to dump hundreds of thousands — and in some cases millions — in stocks just weeks and even days before the stock market plummeted. 


He went on to tweet those photos with timestamps and the caption, “Flashback Friday- less than two months ago I met with the OKC March for Life students on Jan 23 and the Tulsa March for Life students on Jan 24. I’m so proud of these kids for standing up for the lives of the unborn.” 


His office reported his portfolio in Feb. 2020 has transitioned to 60% mutual funds, leaving 40% in equities within his Revocable Living Trust. 


This is different from a Blind Trust where the client has no say and no idea what they have invested in; everything is left up to the financial advisor, giving them full discretion while the client has none. 


Inhofe’s Revocable Living Trust is run by a financial advisor who has full discretion on investment actions. 


According to financial disclosure forms, Inhofe’s investments have been slowly but steadily moving toward a majority of mutual funds. 


Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.