By Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga (CNT)
China has emerged as the latest dividing line in the special election for U.S. Senate in Georgia after Republican Kelly Loeffler blamed the Asian nation – and not lax adherence to safety protocols – for President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.
After that provocative tweet on Friday demanding that China be held “accountable” for Trump’s positive test, which led to loud criticism from Democrats, Loeffler faced a new round of scrutiny on Monday.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, her top Republican adversary in the 21-candidate contest, called on Loeffler to urge her husband to oust companies owned by the Chinese government from the New York Stock Exchange, which his Atlanta-based company owns.
“Mashing caps-lock to get retweets isn’t getting tough on China,” said Collins, whose campaign pointed to data that show 10 Chinese state-owned companies listed on the exchange.
“You want to actually ‘hold China accountable?’ Delist every company owned by the Chinese Communist Party from you and your husband’s exchange immediately.”
Loeffler voted for a Senate bill that would impose stricter requirements on publicly-traded companies with ties to the Chinese government, a measure that’s pending in the U.S. House.
“Maybe if Doug showed up to work instead of being a hypocrite, the bill might actually pass,” said Loeffler spokesman Stephen Lawson. Loeffler tweeted later: “Why are they covering up for China?”
In the past, Intercontinental Exchange has had a more specific tie to China. In 2010, Intercontinental Exchange bought a 25% stake in a climate exchange firm based in Tianjin, China.
The majority owner of the company was controlled by a state-run energy conglomerate run by Jiang Jiemen, a senior member of the Communist Party with close ties to Chinese leaders.
Sprecher told investors in August 2010 the company is “very, very excited about that particular footprint” because it was a joint venture with a Chinese oil company that offered a foothold in China.
It proved to be a short-lived venture. By late 2011, Intercontinental Exchange reported it had “sold our minority stake in an exchange located in China.”
Loeffler at the time was a vice president of investor relations of the firm, which only later gobbled up the New York Stock Exchange.
In a statement, Lawson said ICE sold off its minority stake in the climate exchange after the extent of its ties with the Chinese government became clear. Any attack on the venture, he said, would be a “swing and miss.”
“No matter how hard they try, they aren’t going to silence Kelly Loeffler for speaking out and holding China accountable,” he said of her critics.
Georgia Democrats aren’t buying it. State party spokesman Alex Floyd linked her comments to scrutiny of Loeffler’s stock transactions after a private Jan. 24 briefing on the coronavirus outbreak. She was cleared of accusations of insider trading by a Senate ethics panel, though her opponents have used it to cast her as a greedy insider.
“Claiming you didn’t realize that a state-owned Chinese oil company was close to the Chinese government is about as believable as saying you had nothing to do with your seven-figure stock dump after attending a private Senate briefing on a growing pandemic,” he said.