On January 6, 2020, Loeffler was sworn into the Senate. 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. 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.
Kelly Lynn Loeffler (/ˈlɛflər/; born November 27, 1970) is an American politician and businesswoman who served as a United States senator from Georgia from 2020 to 2021. A Republican, 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. She co-owns the Atlanta Dream of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).
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. 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.
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. After college, she worked for Toyota as a District Account Manager. 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. She financed her graduate school tuition by mortgaging land inherited from her grandparents.
After earning her MBA, Loeffler worked for Citibank, William Blair & Company, and the Crossroads Group. In 2002, she joined Intercontinental Exchange, a commodity and financial service provider, in investor relations. She married the firm's CEO, Jeffrey Sprecher, in 2004. Loeffler was eventually promoted to senior vice president of investor relations and corporate communications. In 2018, she became the chief executive officer (CEO) of Bakkt, a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange.
In 2004, she married Jeffrey Sprecher, the founder and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange and Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. They live in Tuxedo Park, Atlanta, in a $10.5 million, 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m ) estate named Descante, bought in 2013 in what was then the most expensive residential real estate transaction ever recorded in Atlanta. They have four additional homes and a condo. In November 2020, Newsweek reported Loeffler's and Sprecher's combined net worth at $800 million, making her the wealthiest U.S. Senator. Days before the terms of the CARES Act was announced, Sprecher bought up to $1 million in stocks in companies that stood to gain from the bill.
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 the biggest banks to avoid paying taxes on repatriation of income. This allowed International Exchange to use Ugland House as a registration address in the tax haven without having a physical presence there.
In 2010, Loeffler bought a minority stake in the Atlanta Dream of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). In 2011, she and Mary Brock bought the team from Kathy Betty. 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.
On August 28, 2019, sitting Georgia senator Johnny Isakson announced that he would resign at the end of the year, citing health reasons. 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. 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.
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. She lost the runoff election to Warnock. 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 about three weeks, until Warnock was sworn in.
In late February 2020, Loeffler stated that "Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness". She went on to say that regarding COVID-19, "Americans are in good hands with" the Trump administration. 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. She again criticized Democrats, writing that they "continue to play politics with" COVID-19.
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. Loeffler denied any wrongdoing, saying the trades were made by a third-party advisor and that she learned about them only after they occurred. 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.
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, and Georgia Congressman David Scott (GA–13), who received $10,200. Loeffler donated $750,000 to Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting former Governor Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign. The National Republican Senatorial Committee received $247,500 from Loeffler and Sprecher. In May 2020, Loeffler's husband gave $1 million to a Trump 2020 reelection super PAC, his largest federal political donation to date.
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. Loeffler and Sprecher had sold at least $18.7 million in Intercontinental Exchange stock before the 2020 stock market crash. 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. On May 26, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had closed its inquiry into Loeffler. 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."
In July 2020, Loeffler, who co-owns 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. 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". Her comments led some WNBA players to call for her removal from ownership. Loeffler later said that the movement was "based on Marxist principles" and threatens to "destroy" America. 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.
Loeffler called herself the most conservative Republican in the Senate. During her tenure, Loeffler sponsored 42 bills and cosponsored 187. She was a staunch Trump ally. 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. Loeffler frequently cited her voting record on the 2020 campaign trail. 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". 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".
On gun issues, Loeffler has received "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America. 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, and the appointment of conservative judges to federal courts. 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. The bill states "sex shall be recognized based solely on a person's reproductive biology and genetics at birth".
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, 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."
After the November 2020 election, Loeffler and fellow 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, and also announced her intention to object to the certification of the Electoral College results in Congress. After the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Loeffler announced that she would vote to certify the election after all, and did so that evening.
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 test she took the next day was inconclusive. She had intermittently worn a mask while campaigning. Attendees at her rallies tended to go mostly maskless. As a consequence of the initial test result, Loeffler canceled future appearances at rallies, entering quarantine until her status was resolved. On January 1, 2021, Loeffler absented herself from the successful override of Trump's veto of the defense spending bill.
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. 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. There was no evidence of wrongdoing in connection with the election. Raffensperger rejected the calls for his resignation. 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. In December 2020, Loeffler supported a lawsuit by Trump allies seeking to overturn the election results.
Loeffler was slated to vote against the 2021 United States Electoral College count in January 2021, 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."