For over 20 years now, Richard Burr has managed to enrich himself through unethical means, mislead the American people about a deadly virus, oppose letting Americans buy cheaper drugs from Canada, take money from industries he was supposed to regulate (then push for tax breaks for them), and vote against the creation of a job corps that would employ veterans. And after all that, the only rebuke he’s ever received was from the State Republican Party, who, earlier this month, censured Burr for voting to convict Donald Trump of behavior which Burr had enabled for four years. This would be funny if it weren’t so serious.
Burr is being hailed by Democrats and the media alike for “voting his conscience,” but if that’s the case, then it may be the only time the Senator has ever done so. Let’s begin with Burr’s vote against the passage of The Stock Act. In 2012, members of the United States Senate overwhelmingly decided to take action to make it illegal for a member of their body to profit financially from insider information derived from Senate briefings. Only two Senators voted against The Stock Act, and Richard Burr was one of them. Burr’s vote should tell you something about his priorities and his proclivity for making money the easy way. According to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, when he entered Congress in 1994, Burr’s net worth was under $190,000. By 2018, opensecrets.org reports that his net worth rose to over $7.4 million. That’s an increase of 3,600% at a time when, according to Ballotpedia, the average American’s income rose by less than 1%.
Of course, that 7.4 million dollars could now be approaching $9 million after Burr’s controversial stock trades of 2020, and that brings me to the second example of the Senator’s so-called conscience. On January 24th of last year, Dr. Anthony Fauci briefed Burr and other Senators about the seriousness of the spreading COVID-19 virus. According to Reuters, three days later, Burr as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, began receiving daily COVID updates. Then, coincidentally Burr began to liquidate his stocks, including all of those in the hotel and hospitality industry. On three separate days, January 31, February 4, and February 13, he made a total of 33 stock trades worth an estimated 1.7 million dollars. But what makes these suspicious transactions even more odious is that several days prior to the stock dump, Burr penned an Op-Ed for FOX News in which he assured the public that America was “better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats.” And you’d think that Burr knew what he was talking about. After all, he wrote the Federal Pandemic All-Hazards Preparedness Act in 2006. But Burr knew what he’d written in the Op-Ed was at best misleading and, at worst, a lie. Still, he had to protect the value of his stocks before he could unload them. After doing so, Burr came clean when speaking to the Tar Heel Circle, a private group of high rollers. Having just profited from the 33 trades, Burr told the group that COVID-19 “is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything we have seen in recent history.”
When news of Burr’s stock trades was made public, democrats and republicans alike started calling for him to resign. Some said that if Burr had been straight with the American people right after his first briefing, he could have helped to save lives. Even FOX’s Tucker Carlson excoriated Burr, saying, “There is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis, and that appears to be what happened.” The FBI investigated Burr’s stock transactions to see if he had traded on insider information. However, Burr claimed he only used public information to make the trades, and the FBI bought his story.
The point is that Burr could have been censured long ago, not just for his stock trades or for taking money from industries he was supposed to be regulating, but the Republican Party chose to look the other way. Now, with plenty of money in the bank and nothing to lose, Burr is retiring from the Senate, so he took no risk in voting to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection. On the flip side, if Burr were running for re-election, you can bet your portfolio that he would have voted to acquit the former President. Thus, Burr didn’t cast a vote of conscience. He cast a vote of circumstance. That’s why I have two problems with the GOP censure. It was issued for the wrong reason, and it came 20 years too late.