Congress lifts debt-ceiling on same day as deadline that risked plunging country into economic chaos

Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

  • The House voted 221 to 209 to pass a $2.5 trillion increase to the debt ceiling early Wednesday.
  • The hike pushes the next debt-limit battle to 2023 and averts a possible default mere hours before the deadline.
  • Hitting the debt ceiling risked erasing months of progress in the continuing pandemic recovery.

The House passed a $2.5 trillion increase to the debt ceiling early Wednesday morning, staving off an economic disaster just ahead of an urgent deadline.

The body voted 221 to 209 at around midnight eastern time to lift the limit on how much the government can borrow. Only one Republican joined Democrats in backing the measure. The vote comes after the Senate passed it earlier in the day along party lines.

The late-night vote marks the final step for Congress to pass the increase and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature. It also saves the US economy from crisis just hours before a dire cutoff. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen previously warned the government would hit the debt ceiling on December 15, and that breaching the deadline risked a default on federal debt.

The $2.5 trillion hike is expected to push the next debt-ceiling battle past next year’s midterm elections and into 2023. Although the Build Back Better plan making its way through Congress would add roughly $1.75 trillion to the deficit, only some of the related borrowing would happen before 2022. Expectations for Republicans to take control of the House could tee up an even more intense fight over the limit when it approaches next, as the GOP has been extremely critical of Biden’s spending agenda.

The debt ceiling limits how much the government can borrow to cover its bills for past spending. Congress came close to hitting the limit in October as Republicans pushed Democrats to raise the ceiling on their own through the time-consuming reconciliation process. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered Democrats a 2-month extension in early October to dodge default, punting the problem into December.

The latest fix involved an even more novel process. Congress approved a one-time rule change last week to carve out the filibuster and allow Senate Democrats to raise the ceiling with a simple majority. The measure opened the door for Democrats to avoid catastrophe while letting Republicans say they didn’t directly vote to raise the ceiling.

Sen. Dick Durbin told reporters on Tuesday that the $2.5 trillion sum was agreed to in negotiations with Republicans on the rule change.

Fourteen Senate Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the one-off reform, but other GOP members raised concerns over the deal striking a new precedent. The agreement struck by McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to lift the limit “was a mistake,” and it was “cynical” to connect the measure to Medicare funding, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri told Insider on Thursday.

Letting the House vote to change Senate procedure “on something this contentious” was “not the way to go,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Insider.

For now, the country can rest easy knowing the debt ceiling isn’t looming over the pandemic recovery. A self-imposed default would be disastrous for the still-healing economy. Hitting the ceiling could quickly freeze payments to government workers and service members, halt Social Security payouts, and immediately destroy trust in the US dollar. Without the last-minute votes, the country could’ve plunged into a wholly new and unprecedented recession.

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Trump-appointed judge says former president is ‘wrong on the law’ and rules Congress can obtain his tax returns

Trump
President Donald Trump.

  • The House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit in 2019 to obtain former President Trump’s taxes.
  • Trump’s attorneys argued the committee had no legitimate reason for seeking his tax returns.
  • A Trump-appointed judge dismissed that argument on Tuesday.

Writing that former President Donald Trump was “wrong on the law,” a federal judge on Tuesday ruled that the Treasury Department should not be prevented from handing over his tax returns to Congress.

Democrats have been seeking the returns since 2019, soon after they regained control of the House of Representatives, claiming that they could show conflicts of interests or tax evasion, as well as reveal flaws in the IRS’s auditing methods. Under Trump, the Treasury Department refused.

But that changed once President Joe Biden took office, with the department agreeing this past summer to comply with the request from the House Ways and Means Committee and hand over returns from 2015 to 2020.

Trump’s attorneys had argued the request served no legitimate legislative purpose and that Congress can not require a president “to disclose particular information or divest from certain businesses.”

But in his 45-page ruling, US District Judge Trevor N. McFadden wrote that his court “cannot accept these conclusory legal statements as true.” Indeed, “Everyone agrees that Congress can compel some information from the Executive.”

McFadden was appointed by former President Trump in 2017 to the US District Court for the District of Colombia. McFadden had donated $1,000 to Trump’s 2016 campaign, records show.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts, welcomed the court’s decision.

“This ruling is no surprise, the law is clearly on the committee’s side,” Neal said in a statement Tuesday night. “I am pleased that we’re now one step closer to being able to conduct more thorough oversight of the IRS’s mandatory presidential audit program.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Senate Democrats pass debt-ceiling hike of $2.5 trillion just in time to avoid catastrophe — and without any Republicans

Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference about climate change outside the U.S. Capitol on July 28, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • Senate Democrats voted to lift the debt ceiling on Tuesday to save the US from economic catastrophe.
  • The vote fell along party lines and sends the ceiling hike to the House for final approval.
  • The ceiling is expected to be hit on Dec. 15, making the Tuesday vote key to avoiding recession.

The Senate voted to raise the debt ceiling on Tuesday, advancing a crucial measure just before the US government risks defaulting on debt it has already incurred.

Senate Democrats approved the hike unanimously Tuesday afternoon, without any Republican voting in support. The body voted 50 to 49, with Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming not voting. The legislation now goes to the House, where Democrats have said they will act Tuesday night to approve it.

Republicans did, however, lift their filibuster on a one-time basis so the Senate could pass this on a majority alone, paradoxically preserving their right to filibuster future votes. The measure was made possible by a deal between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The hike will lift the limit by $2.5 trillion and is expected to cover all government bills set to come due by 2023, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday. Though this vote comes amidst Democrats’ push to approve the $2 trillion Build Back Better package, the new debt ceiling would only cover some of that spending, as much of the plan’s debt won’t be due until after 2022 if it is passed.

The vote comes mere hours ahead of a projected Wednesday deadline. The debt ceiling serves as a limit for how much the government can borrow to pay its bills for past spending. Failure to lift the limit risks default, a freeze to federal government payments, and economic disaster as trust in the dollar plummets. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned in November that the government is expected to hit the borrowing limit on December 15, giving lawmakers just a few weeks to reach a compromise.

It sets the stage for what could be another high-stakes showdown sometime in 2023 under very different circumstances: Republicans may control one or even both chambers of Congress, putting them in a stronger position to demand spending cuts or other concessions in exchange for their support to avert economic chaos.

“My view has consistently been that we should use the debt ceiling as leverage to enact meaningful structural reforms to address the out-of-control spending and debt that we have,” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told Insider, referring to a fiscal deal struck between Republicans and President Barack Obama to slash $900 billion in discretionary spending in 2011.

Then Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told Insider that the federal debt is hitting “historic levels,” adding it was “a deep concern” for him and Republicans should “do something about it” if they retake Congress.

The Senate vote represents a necessary step toward concluding a months-long battle over the debt limit. The body first stared down a potential default in October as each party blamed the other for failing to raise the limit. Republicans argued Democrats could go it alone through the reconciliation process, and that they wouldn’t open the door to any more of President Joe Biden’s spending agenda. Democrats fired back by noting debt ceiling deals are historically bipartisan, and that much of the debt was incurred under President Donald Trump.

The one-time rule change helped each party meet in the middle. It opened the door for Senate Democrats to lift the limit on their own, and for Republicans to say they voted against directly raising the ceiling. It also forced Democrats to peg a dollar amount to the hike, something the GOP had pushed for in recent months.

Some Republicans balked at the plan, arguing it lets Democrats off too easy and paved the way for more spending. Sens. Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley, among others, voted against the rule change last week, though their opposition wasn’t enough to block the plan. The one-time change erodes the power of the Senate filibuster, and letting House Democrats alter Senate procedure sets a dangerous precedent, Graham told Insider on Thursday.

“For four months we said [Democrats] were going to use the process of reconciliation to raise the debt ceiling,” Graham added. “We took that burden away by doing this.”

A debt-ceiling recession is all but certain to be avoided, but Tuesday’s vote sets a new standard for just how late Congress will act to stave off default.

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Democrats’ Build Back Better plan could boost inflation, BofA says. It’s exactly what Joe Manchin is worried about.

Joe manchin
Senator Joe Manchin seen at the US Capitol on June 8, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • The Build Back Better plan does pose an inflation risk, Bank of America Research economists said.
  • Even if BBB leaves inflation high a little while longer, its investments are still worth making, BofA said. 
  • Joe Manchin has withheld his support so far, in part on fears that it would further stoke inflation.

Sen. Joe Manchin has a lot of reasons for opposing Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. Inflation is a big one.

He’s right to be concerned, but only so far, Bank of America Research says.

As Democrats push forward with plans to pass the social spending package before Christmas, the West Virginia senator remains the party’s biggest hurdle. Manchin’s vote is crucial to passing BBB, yet he has repeatedly raised concern around the $1.75 trillion bill driving inflation even higher. Democrats have argued the plan is fully paid for, and that its spending is spread out over 10 years. Yet Manchin continues to waver on whether the package should be approved while inflation runs at the fastest pace since 1982.

New research from BofA suggests Manchin’s concerns aren’t unfounded. Analysis of the package shows it adding roughly $260 billion to the government deficit over the next 10 years. Yet the plan’s spending is “front-loaded” and revenue from new taxes is “back-loaded,” economist Aditya Bhave said in a Friday note to clients. As such, the plan’s approval could quickly flood the US with new spending and keep price growth at worrying highs before the revenue from increased taxes on the wealthy and corporations begins flowing.

“We see it as a major near-term fiscal expansion,” he said, adding the legislation will “create upside risks to inflation.”

The package’s pros outweigh its cons, even if it keeps prices soaring a little while longer, according to BofA. The risk of higher inflation “does not mean the investments are not worth making,” Bhave said, adding elements like universal pre-school can be “very beneficial for the economy” in the long run.

BofA expects the spending plan to eventually pass in 2022, but only after some significant changes. The price tag will drop to $1.5 billion after trimming increases to Medicare and Medicaid spending, as well as offering a smaller increase to the SALT cap, the researchers predict. The tweaks will pull the package’s deficit impact as low as $100 billion after accounting for enhanced IRS tax enforcement, the bank said.

Still, investments made in the bill “stimulate demand more than supply” and risk lifting inflation, Bhave said. The bank sees price growth peaking in the fourth quarter of 2021, and while inflation is expected to cool in 2022, rates will hover between 2.5% and 4% through the year. That’s well above the 2% average the Fed plans to hold inflation at over the long term.

It also represents the biggest worry Manchin has toward BBB. The senator said earlier in December that the “unknown we’re facing” on whether inflation cools off “is much greater” than the need to quickly pass the bill. Data out on Friday confirmed Manchin’s fears, with a government report showing inflation accelerating again in November. Though Manchin kept the door open to passing BBB after a Monday talk with President Joe Biden, he’s yet to join the rest of his party in supporting the plan.

The plan’s passage would also give the recovery a small boost next year. Funding in BBB could offset the winding down of Democrats’ March stimulus, Bhave said. The bank sees the plan helping drive 4% GDP growth in the first half of 2022 and 2.5% growth in the second half.

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The 2nd-ranked Senate Democrat is daring Joe Manchin to sink Biden’s agenda: ‘It’s time to put up or shut up’

Richard Durbin Joe Manchin
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Capitol Hill.

  • Some Senate Democrats want to put Manchin on the spot about Biden’s $2 trillion bill.
  • “It comes a time we’ve got to say.. it’s time to put up or shut up,” Sen. Richard Durbin said.
  • But pressuring Manchin in a high-stakes vote could blow up in Democrats’ faces.

Some Senate Democrats are growing frustrated that Sen. Joe Manchin has not given their $2 trillion social climate and spending bill a green-light — and they’re ready to put him on the spot before the holidays.

“Many people will sit on the fence as long as possible,” Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranked Democrat in the upper chamber, told reporters on Tuesday. “It comes a time we’ve got to say, ‘All right, we’ve done the negotiating. We’ve made the accommodations, it’s time to put up or shut up.'”

The remarks are a clear reference to Manchin, who seems to be the only Senate Democrat who still hasn’t thrown his support behind Biden’s big spending bill. All 50 Senate Democrats must give it a thumbs-up for it to clear the 50-50 chamber, given strong GOP opposition. Senate Democrats are scrambling to iron out remaining disagreements and put it to a vote before their self-imposed Christmas deadline — only 11 days away.

Manchin has waffled on the bill and declined to state whether he’d vote for it. Instead, he’s raised concern about inflation, the price tag of the package, and whether the US can afford another burst of government spending on top of federal pandemic aid.

“Anything is possible,” he told reporters on Monday on whether passing it by Christmas was feasible. Biden spoke with Manchin that same day, and the pair are set to speak more in the coming days.

Final passage of the plan still seems far off. Democrats are still fighting on the state and local tax deduction (known as SALT), Medicare expansion, certain climate change provisions and immigration as well. They’re racing to avert a sudden lapse in President Joe Biden’s monthly child tax credit.

Still, such a high-stakes maneuver from Democrats to pressure Manchin may blow up in their face. It’s possible the West Virginia Democrat could vote to kick off a marathon series of amendment votes — and join Republicans to modify large chunks of the bill before the Senate ultimately votes on it.

“Nightmare for Ds isn’t that Manchin shoots down the motion to proceed, it’s that he allows debate to begin and then sides with Rs on amendments that alter the product in ways they have zero control over,” Republican lobbyist Liam Donovan wrote on Twitter. “Not a great plan.”

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Some of the same members of Congress pushing to restrict cigarettes and vapes are quietly investing in tobacco giants

The Capitol building with a rainbow gradient on top of it and cigarettes instead of columns on the building.
  • Smoking remains the largest preventable cause of death.
  • Members of Congress have nevertheless invested in tobacco companies.
  • Some lawmakers who have invested in such companies often speak out against tobacco.

Weeks before the coronavirus pandemic became a public-health crisis in America, Congress was fixated on another respiratory calamity.

A mysterious lung illness was killing dozens of people and sickening thousands more. It seemed to be linked to counterfeit vapes — particularly those containing THC, the high-inducing compound in marijuana.

That drove Congress to action. The Democratic-led House passed a bill to ban all flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes and all kinds of e-cigarettes meant to offer smokers tasty alternatives.

The author of that bill was Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who held particular influence over public-health policy as the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. 

 

But while Pallone was shepherding the bill through Congress and accusing Big Tobacco of preying on children, his wife, Sarah Pallone, held up to $15,000 worth of shares in the tobacco giant Philip Morris International. The anti-tobacco legislation would have banned Philip Morris products such as Marlboro menthol cigarettes but benefited the company’s new Iqos brand of heated flavorless tobacco, which had recently received approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

 

Mary Werden, Pallone’s spokeswoman, did not answer questions about whether the investment presented a conflict of interest but said only that Sarah Pallone no longer owned stock in Philip Morris after selling off her shares in August. The stock appeared to be held as part of a trust and paid up to $1,000 in dividends in 2020. Annual filings show that Sarah Pallone also sold up to $15,000 worth of shares in Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, in 2019. 

It’s not clear when she first purchased shares in the companies, but both Altria and Philip Morris stock appear in the congressman’s annual financial-disclosure forms from 2012 to 2019. 

 

Pallone’s situation illustrates how federal lawmakers’ personal finances can clash with their political persona and public policy positions.

Federal disclosures that Insider reviewed indicated that at least 16 members of Congress or their families had invested in tobacco companies from the start of 2020 through 2021. The tally is part of the exhaustive Conflicted Congress project, in which Insider reviewed nearly 9,000 financial-disclosure reports for every sitting lawmaker and their top-ranking staffers.

Pallone isn’t the only anti-tobacco champion in Congress with personal financial ties to tobacco giants, who together spend millions of dollars annually lobbying the federal government and whose shares have largely risen this year.

Rep. Ed Case, a Democrat of Hawaii, has cosponsored a bill to raise tobacco taxes. In May he sold up to $100,000 worth of stock in Altria. Case’s office did not respond to a request for comment. 

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat of New Jersey who has declared a “war on youth vaping” and cosponsored Pallone’s bill, sold up to $50,000 worth of shares in Philip Morris International and as much as $50,000 worth of Altria shares in February. CQ Roll Call first reported the sales

Altria owns 35% of Juul Labs, which has cornered the vaping market and often gets blamed for the rise in teen vaping. 

Gottheimer’s spokeswoman, Alexandra Caffrey, said that a third party managed his portfolio and that he received only statements of transactions. She did not name the third party or say whether he’d given any direction to the money manager about which stocks to avoid. 

“All decisions related to buying and selling of securities are done so without Josh’s approval,” Caffrey said. 

The American Vaping Association, an advocacy group, panned the lawmakers’ investments. Smaller e-cigarette companies have complained that severe restrictions on their products benefit corporate tobacco giants trying to push them out of the market. Philip Morris, Altria, and British American Tobacco have all expanded into smokeless tobacco.

“Investments in tobacco companies should not per se be viewed with hostility,” said Gregory Conley, the group’s president. “What is worthy of derision is members of Congress profiting off of incumbent tobacco manufacturers while cheering on measures to ban smoke-free nicotine products that directly compete with these corporate behemoths, as both Rep. Pallone and Rep. Gottheimer have done.” 

Roy Blunt
Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, is married to a lobbyist who holds stock in Philip Morris International.

Tuberville and Upton among tobacco investors

Members of Congress must disclose all their stock trades in a public database within no more than 45 days of the transaction. But they’re still allowed to sit on congressional committees, write legislation, and vote on bills that might affect them financially.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a freshman Republican of Alabama who sits on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which has authority over healthcare regulations and health agencies, holds up to $100,000 worth of Philip Morris International stock when counting both an account for himself and a joint account, his latest annual disclosures show.

 

His spokeswoman, Ryann DuRant, previously told Insider that her boss did not personally make his own stock trades and had “long had financial advisors who actively manage his portfolio without his day-to-day involvement.” But DuRant has not said whether Tuberville gives any direction to his advisors about which stocks to avoid, and when Insider followed up with her she said she didn’t have anything new to add to her previous statement. 

Another senator with financial family ties to tobacco giants is Roy Blunt, a Republican of Missouri who’s set to retire when his term expires in 2022. Blunt’s wife, Abigail Perlman Blunt, is a lobbyist for the food giant Kraft Heinz, but when they got married in 2003 she was a lobbyist for Altria. (Altria used to own Kraft Foods but severed ties in 2007.)

Blunt’s latest annual financial disclosures show that Perlman Blunt holds up to $250,000 worth of Philip Morris International stock that in 2020 paid between $5,001 and $15,000 in dividends. (Members of Congress are required to report such holdings only in broad ranges.) Blunt has been one of the most effective proponents of expanding federal funding for medical research; his office did not respond to questions about whether that work was out of step with his wife’s tobacco investments. Lobbying disclosures show that Perlman Blunt does not lobby the Senate. 

 

A 2020 annual disclosure showed that Amey Miller, the wife of Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican of Michigan, held shares in Philip Morris, but it didn’t specify which division. Upton, who is on the Energy and Commerce Committee and previously chaired the powerful panel from 2011 to 2017, has voted to ban smoking on airplanes. His communications director, Billy Fuerst, described him as the “decisive swing vote to ban smoking in the workplace.” 

Fuerst said that Upton hadn’t personally invested in Philip Morris but that the shares were transferred to Miller when her mother died years ago.

“He also supported the STOCK Act and lists all of his transactions pursuant to federal law,” Fuerst said. 

Despite huge strides in reducing tobacco use in the US over the past five decades, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death, responsible for more than 480,000 deaths a year in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization has said people who smoke are also more likely than nonsmokers to develop a serious case of COVID-19. 

In 2020, tobacco companies together spent more than $28 million to lobby the federal government, including Congress, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in politics. But overall, Congress has moved toward stronger tobacco restrictions. In late 2019, President Donald Trump signed a law that raised the legal smoking age to 21 from 18. 

virginia.foxx
Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, is among the lawmakers who have invested in large tobacco companies.

Supporters of e-cigarettes also invest in tobacco giants

Some members of Congress who’ve invested in large tobacco companies have cosponsored legislation to prevent the FDA from banning most e-cigarettes, such as Republican Reps. Virginia Foxx and Rep. David Rouzer, both of North Carolina, and Rep. John Rutherford, a Republican of Florida. 

Rutherford holds shares of Philip Morris International, Altria, and British American Tobacco. Each investment is worth between $1,000 and $15,000, his latest annual disclosure showed.

Last year, Rouzer praised the Department of Agriculture for allowing tobacco growers to receive COVID-19 relief funds under Trump. During the 2020 election cycle, Rouzer was among the largest House recipients of tobacco-linked campaign cash, receiving $30,600 from PACs and individuals who work in the industry. 

The tobacco industry spent more than $8 million to support various candidates for Congress and the White House, 69% of whom were Republicans, according to OpenSecrets. Large tobacco companies such as Altria also have political action committees — OpenSecrets data shows that in the 2020 election cycle Altria’s PAC gave $485,500 to Republican committees and $241,000 to Democratic ones.

Rep. Rob Wittman, a Republican of Virginia, has also been supportive of the vaping industry while investing up to $15,000 in Philip Morris International. Through his spokeswoman, Sarah Newsome, Wittman said a financial advisor managed his stocks using a third-party investment manager “who implement trades at their own discretion without consulting with or getting input from their clients.” 

“Mr. Wittman believes members of Congress should not improperly benefit from their role,” Newsome said. “He supports measures to avoid conflicts of interest. He has placed his investments in the care of a brokerage to avoid any perceived ethical issues. He remains committed to accountability and transparency in government.”

Wittman, like all members of the House and the Senate, has the option to place his financial assets in a “qualified blind trust,” which Congress describes as the “most comprehensive approach” to “eliminate conflicts of interests and the appearance of them.” But such blind trusts can be costly and time-consuming to formalize, and Wittman — along with most other members of Congress — has not established one.

Only 10 lawmakers have taken the option to use a qualified blind trust, Insider found.

The financial arrangement allows members to invest their money without any knowledge of or power to make decisions about stock trades. Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat of Minnesota, held up to $15,000 worth of Philip Morris International shares but placed all his investments into a blind trust after an ethics complaint accused him of making timely investments before the pandemic. 

The other tobacco investors in Congress include Republican Reps. Pat Fallon, Pete Sessions, and August Pfluger, all of Texas, and Republican Reps. Diana Harshbarger of Tennessee and Carol Devine Miller of West Virginia. None responded to a request for comment.

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Some federal lawmakers and their staffers are all in on cryptocurrency speculation as Congress mulls how (or how not) to regulate the coins

US Senator from Wyoming, Cynthia Lummis.
Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming has invested in cryptocurrency.

  • At least five lawmakers invested in brokerage firms involved in crypto or other digital assets in 2020 and 2021.
  • At least 21 congressional staffers have also invested in the market.
  • Crypto experts predicted that the number of federal lawmakers investing in crypto would grow.

Lawmakers are torn about how to regulate cryptocurrency. But that hasn’t stopped some members of Congress and their senior staffers from investing in it.

At least one senator and four US House representatives have bought stock in cryptocurrency-related companies or invested with brokerage firms that work with this emerging market, according to an Insider analysis of federal records detailing the lawmakers’ personal finances for 2020.

Meanwhile, Congress has been introducing legislative proposals aimed at better regulating crypto. 

Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican of Wyoming who sits on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, is an outlier among her colleagues. In 2020, she reported investing up to $250,000 in Unchained Capital, a bitcoin-based financial-services company. She’s among a handful of members of Congress who accept cryptocurrency campaign contributions.

 

But Lummis was several days late reporting a purchase in August of up to $100,000 in Bitcoin. Lummis’s spokeswoman Abegail Cave told Insider that the Wyoming senator “has gone above and beyond to comply with federal law and Senate Ethics requirements regarding financial disclosures.”

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a Republican of New Jersey, reported up to $250,000 in “an investment trust” operated by Grayscale, the world’s largest digital-currency asset-management firm. The office of Van Dew did not respond to Insiders comment on what kind of investment trust he has with the firm.

Democratic Rep. Jake Auchincloss, a 33-year-old freshman of Massachusetts, reported up to $15,000 in Flipside Crypto Investor Holdings.

 

Rep. Barry Moore, a Republican of Alabama, reported investing up to $15,000 with a brokerage firm in Coffee, Alabama. The description of the firm on his financial disclosure said “crypto currency.” His office did not respond to Insider’s request for comment on which brokerage firm he was using. His disclosure said the firm paid $2,501 to $5,000 in dividends in 2020.

Jim Newman, the husband of Rep. Marie Newman, a Democrat of Illinois, has traded stock in the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase at least 16 times. The most recent trade, a sale valued at $50,001 to $100,000, occurred in November.

 

Also in November, Newman’s husband purchased up to $50,000 worth of stock in Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.

Congressional ethics officials say that the “most comprehensive approach” for lawmakers to “eliminate conflicts of interests and the appearance of them” is to form what’s known as a qualified blind trust, a financial vehicle the House or Senate ethics committee approves that a trustee manages independently.

Most members of Congress have not established qualified blind trusts, which are often expensive and time-consuming to establish.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the US Capitol on October 07, 2021.
A staff director for the Senate Republican Communications Center under Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell invests in crypto.

Staffers charge into crypto

Lawmakers are not the only ones getting in on the cryptocurrency action.

Insider identified 21 high-ranking congressional staffers or their spouses who in 2020 and 2021 bought or sold cryptocurrencies, including ethereum and dogecoin, a cryptocurrency originally created as a joke among crypto enthusiasts that’s grown in value over the past year.

The tally is part of the exhaustive Conflicted Congress project, in which Insider reviewed nearly 9,000 financial-disclosure reports for every sitting lawmaker and their top-ranking staffers.

Senior staffers and some other aides on Capitol Hill are bound by federal law to file timely reports about all their stock transactions and other outside earnings if they make more than $132,552 annually. That’s generally the salary minimum for chiefs of staff; the staffers and aides also include chief counsels, legislative directors, and staff members who work on committees and advise lawmakers on policy.

The extent to which other Capitol Hill office employees with lower salaries hold cryptocurrency and crypto-related stocks is unknown because they are not required to disclose it.

Kristin Walker, Lummis’ chief of staff, told Insider that she started investing in bitcoin in the summer of 2020, before Lummis was elected and before she came to work on the Hill.

“Wyoming has been at the forefront of digital assets for the past few years, and I learned about it through Wyoming’s efforts,” Walker said.

Another crypto investor was Scott Sloofman, the staff director for the Senate Republican Communications Center under Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He purchased between $1,001 to $15,000-worth of Coinbase shares in April. He did not respond to Insider’s inquiry about his investments. 

More senior staffers than lawmakers have invested in cryptocurrency does not come as a surprise to Ron Hammond, the director of government affairs for the Blockchain Association. 

“There has been a massive uptick in staffers who either have crypto or are really interested in the issue, and I think it’s more of a generational thing,” Hammond, who worked on Capitol Hill as a former congressional staffer for many years.

The average age of members of the House at the beginning of the current 117th Congress was 58.4 years, according to the Library of Congress. The average age for senators was 64.3 years.

The idea of lawmakers and congressional staffers investing in cryptocurrency is exciting, Hammond said. 

“For those who want to get involved in crypto legislation, it’s important to maybe have some foot in it,” he said. “It does help increase your knowledge about how everything is supposed to work or you know what some flaws may be.”

Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat of Massachusetts, is a crypto skeptic.

Congress tries to get a grip on digital assets

Crypto chatter has ratcheted up on Capitol Hill in recent months as supporters and opponents of digital assets sketch out their respective visions about what the future might hold. 

In early June, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri proposed tightening cryptocurrency rules to better trace electronic payments to ransomware attackers

A few weeks later, Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat of California who also chairs the House Committee on Financial Services, told attendees at a subcommittee hearing that she and her colleagues are “committed to providing not only more transparency in this minimally-regulated industry, but to ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place.”

“So we have begun a thorough examination of this marketplace,” the 16-term lawmaker announced during a two-hour discussion weighing whether cryptocurrencies would lead to financial independence or fiscal ruin. 

Along the way, House lawmakers quietly passed a bipartisan bill instructing the Federal Trade Commission to provide Congress with recommendations “to further protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the digital token marketplace.” 

Come late July, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat of Michigan who also chairs the House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence and counterterrorism, urged administration officials to lay out their wish list now for stronger cryptocurrency curbs. “If you need changes to legislation, if you need resources, we want to hear more from you, not less,” Slotkin said during a 90-minute discussion tagged “terrorism and digital financing.” 

Earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a crypto skeptic who’s characterized it as “unreliable tech” with “unpredictable fees,” said the industry harmed the planet by necessitating huge, energy-sucking mines, computer facilities designed to solve complex math problems to obtain the digital coins.

 

“Cryptomining has huge environmental costs & is raising energy prices for consumers. Bitcoin alone consumes as much energy as Washington state,” the Massachusetts Democrat tweeted.

A few days later, House lawmakers quizzed the CEOs of a half-dozen crypto-focused companies about their business practices.

The six witnesses, who handle everything from the logistics of mining bitcoin to branching out into other blockchain-based investments, spent four hours answering questions about the pros and cons of cryptocurrencies and their place in the modern economy. 

Daniel Gallagher, the chief legal officer for the financial-services company Robinhood, tried to manage expectations ahead of the hearing, telling CNBC that “it’s a stretch to believe that there will be legislation coming out on crypto anytime soon.”

Representative Tom Emmer sitting down at the House Financial Services Committee meeting
Rep. Tom Emmer, a Republican from Minnesota, is a cryptocurrency advocate whose re-election campaign committee accepts bitcoin. His personal financial records indicate that he personally does not invest in crypto.

Crypto associations bulk up lobbying efforts

The flurry of talks surrounding regulation has prompted more cryptocurrency associations to strengthen their lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

By August, cryptocurrency interests had collectively spent $2.4 million lobbying the federal government, including Congress, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan research organization that tracks money in politics.

The interests lobbied against portions of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that would impose new tax-reporting requirements on crypto brokers that could pave the way for stronger regulations.

The lobbying efforts were unsuccessful. President Joe Biden signed the infrastructure bill into law in November. The crypto-broker policy is expected to raise $28 billion over 10 years to help fund infrastructure projects, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Five years ago, the House created the bipartisan Congressional Blockchain Caucus to consider policymaking. One of the leaders of the group was Mick Mulvaney, a Republican congressman from South Carolina who later became President Donald Trump’s chief of staff. 

The current chairmen of the caucus are GOP Reps. Tom Emmer of Minnesota and David Schweikert of Arizona and Democratic Reps. Bill Foster of Illinois and Darren Soto of Florida. None reported holding any cryptocurrencies in their 2020 financial disclosures.

Emmer told MinnPost in October that he started reading about crypto after one of his staffers left the book “The Age of Cryptocurrency” on his desk back in 2015 or 2016. He has introduced several crypto-related bills, including the Securities Clarity Act, which would allow regulators to categorize cryptocurrencies as either a commodity, a security, or a currency. 

But overall, lawmakers have been slow to embrace cryptocurrency because it hasn’t been around for a long time, Najah Roberts, the founder of Crypto Blockchain Plug, a brick-and-mortar cryptocurrency exchange and education center, told Insider.

“They are afraid of that technology,” she said.

Roberts said she hoped more lawmakers would invest in the market.

“It will be great if they do because then that will give them a better understanding on how to acquire the asset, how they feel about securing the asset,” she said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Meet the 25 wealthiest members of Congress

Rick Scott, Michael McCaul, Darrell Issa, Vern Buchanan, and Dianne Feinstein with dollar signs in the background
From Left: Rick Scott, Michael McCaul, Darrell Issa, Vern Buchanan, Dianne Feinstein

  • We estimated the net worth of members of Congress by analyzing financial-disclosure reports.
  • The reports cover 2020 and provide the most up-to-date estimate of members’ net worth.
  • The wealthiest 15 members were worth at least $1.3 billion, half of Congress’ wealth.

Each year, every member of Congress is required to file a detailed report disclosing their financial holdings. Designed for transparency, the disclosures provide insight into each member of Congress’ wealth and assets — and occasionally reveal potential conflicts of interest and violations of federal law.

Insider compiled members’ annual disclosures filed this year, analyzing thousands of pages of documents to estimate the minimum and maximum net worth of members of the US Senate and the US House of Representatives, including nonvoting delegates. Members disclose the value of their assets in broad ranges.

The documents cover 2020, a year in which the world’s richest people grew their fortunes by trillions of dollars. The 2020 financial disclosures are the most up-to-date financial documentation from Congress — disclosures from 2021 are not required to be filed until mid-May. Filers for the 2020 fiscal year were allotted an extra three months to submit their disclosures because of the pandemic.

Three newer members of Congress — Reps. Troy Carter, Melanie Stansbury, and Jake Ellzey — have not filed their official financial-disclosure reports. Insider used these members’ “candidate reports,” some of which include financial data from 2021.

Members of Congress come from a wide range of backgrounds — from local politics to business and entrepreneurship to professional sports — and their fortunes vary greatly. The wealthiest 15 members together had an estimated net worth of at least $1.3 billion, accounting for half of Congress’ total estimated wealth.

Read more about Insider’s methodology.

Starting at number 25, here are the wealthiest members of Congress based on their minimum estimated net worth:

25. Rep. Sara Jacobs, a Democrat from California: $21,428,125

Rep. Sara Jacobs
Rep. Sara Jacobs

A newcomer to Congress in 2021, nearly all of Jacobs’ wealth is stored in a trust that was created in 2009. The trust contains government securities, mutual funds, and more than $6 million in stock of Qualcomm, a semiconductor company co-founded by her grandfather, Irwin M. Jacobs. 

Other notable stocks owned by Jacobs includes more than $100,000 invested in stocks of Apple, Microsoft, and Mastercard.

Jacobs listed one liability in her financial disclosure: a mortgage on a Washington, DC, property worth at least $500,000.

24. Rep. John Rose, a Republican from Tennessee: $23,362,065

Rep John Rose
Rep. John Rose.

Rose, who joined Congress in 2019, reported an ownership stake in several residential buildings across the country. Rose also owned at least $500,000 worth of stock in Citizens Bank and more than $100,000 worth of Alphabet stock, and he reported 100% ownership of Rose Farm, worth between $5 million and $25 million.

Rose submitted information for one liability: a monthly balance on his credit card amounting to at least $15,001.

23. Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan: $24,692,218

Rep. Fred Upton
Rep. Fred Upton.

Upton’s fortune mainly derives from an appliance company that his grandfather founded, Whirlpool, which the congressman reported holding at least $1 million of stock in. Upton also reported having at least $1 million in Pepsi stock. Other notable holdings of Upton’s include Apple, Raytheon, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook, and Texas Instruments.

The representative reported one liability: a mortgage worth at least $15,001 through JPMorgan Chase.

22. Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat from Minnesota: $24,778,495

Rep. Dean Phillips
Rep. Dean Phillips.

Phillips has an ownership stake in several businesses, various stock holdings, mutual funds, government securities, various life insurance policies, and hedge funds. He is a cofounder of Penny’s Coffee, a Minnesota-based coffee shop chain, a former chairman for Talenti Gelato, and the former CEO of Phillips Distilling Company.

Phillips held more than $250,000 worth of Apple stock, at least $50,000 worth of Facebook stock, and over $1 million in the SPDR S&P 500 Trust ETF.

Phillips, who joined Congress in 2019, reported at least $2 million in liabilities in the form of mortgages.

In July, Phillips placed his assets in a qualified blind trust approved by the House Committee on Ethics, meaning he’ll retain little control over his assets while he’s a member of Congress.

21. Rep. Kevin Hern, a Republican from Oklahoma: $26,761,380

Rep. Kevin Hern, a Republican of Oklahoma, speaks during a Republican Study Committee press conference on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.
Rep. Kevin Hern.

Hern’s wealth is split between trusts and IRAs belonging to him and his immediate family. The trusts contain a combination of mutual funds, stocks, and electronic funds. Notable stocks held by Hern and his family included more than $250,000 worth of Amazon, at least $100,000 worth of Alphabet, and more than $530,000 worth of Microsoft.

Hern disclosed two liabilities: at least $500,000 used to purchase a McDonald’s restaurant, and at least $1 million that his spouse used to buy a separate company.

In 2021, Hern violated the STOCK Act by failing to properly disclose stock trades worth at least $1.06 million and as much as $2.7 million. Hern joined the House of Representatives in 2018.

20. Rep. Kathy Manning, a Democrat from Michigan: $27,202,287

Rep. Kathy Manning
Rep. Kathy Manning.

Manning’s fortune is split among government securities, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, real property, and stocks. Notable stocks that Manning or her spouse held included Alphabet, Apple, Starbucks, Disney, Microsoft, Nike, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer.

Manning also reported an ownership interest in Stonefield Cellars Winery in North Carolina. 

The congresswoman reported two liabilities owned by her spouse: lines of credit amounting to more than $1.5 million.

She is a newcomer to Congress, joining the ranks in 2021.

19. Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia: $29,805,092

Don Beyer
Rep. Don Beyer.

All of Beyer’s assets were jointly owned, in a combination of stocks, government securities, and real property.

Beyer reported at least $8.6 million in liabilities, almost all of which were mortgages on various properties he owned.

18. Rep. David Trone, a Democrat from Maryland: $32,927,094

David Trone
Rep. David Trone.

Trone’s wealth is divvied up among mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and ownership of several shops across the country specializing in wine, beer, and spirits: Total Wine & More.

Trone’s wife independently owned stock in Alphabet, Apple, and Pepsi, among others. He reported one liability in his financial filings: a business loan worth at least $5 million from PNC Bank.

Trone is a relatively new member of Congress — he assumed office in 2019.

17. Rep. Jay Obernolte, a Republican from California: $39,250,014

Jay Obernolte
Rep. Jay Obernolte.

The bulk of Obernolte’s fortune stems from his ownership of FarSight Studios, a video-game company in Big Bear Lake, California, that he launched in 1988. Obernolte, who joined Congress in 2019, also reported several investments worth millions in Vanguard tax-managed mutual funds.

Obernolte did not report any liabilities or debts.

16. Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat from California: $39,738,062

Rep. Scott Peters
Rep. Scott Peters.

Peters’ wealth is mostly in government securities, though he and his spouse have also invested in several mutual funds. The congressman’s wife, Lynn Gorguze, is the president and CEO of a private equity firm, Cameron Holdings. 

Peters reported two liabilities worth at least $30,000 in total, for “revolving credit.”

15. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California: $46,123,051

House speaker nancy pelosi
Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi, the speaker of the House, reported personal wealth spread out among property holdings, mutual funds, and stocks owned by her husband. The only assets that Pelosi reported owning or joint-owning were her home in Napa, California, and a Wells Fargo bank account containing less than $15,000.

Pelosi’s husband had holdings in corporations such as Slack, Tesla, Disney, Visa, Salesforce, PayPal, Alphabet, Facebook, and Netflix — companies that together spend tens of millions of dollars each year lobbying the federal government.

Pelosi reported at least $20 million in liabilities that mostly involved mortgages on properties in California and Washington, DC.

14. Rep. Frank Mrvan, a Democrat from Indiana: $49,848,004

Frank Mrvan
Rep. Frank Mrvan.

Before going to Washington, DC, Mrvan worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative and a mortgage broker.

Much of Mrvan’s wealth — estimated at about $50 million at minimum — is contained in an Indiana public employees’ retirement fund. Mrvan’s next-largest asset was his wife’s 401(k), valued at $100,000 to $250,000.

Mrvan, a newcomer to Congress, reported three liabilities in his financial filings worth at least $270,000 in total: his home mortgage, an auto loan, and credit-card debt.

13. Rep. Suzan DelBene, a Democrat from Washington: $52,156,097

Rep. Suzan DelBene, a Democrat from Washington, speaks in front of the US Capitol.
Rep. Suzan DelBene.

Before joining Congress, DelBene was an executive at Microsoft. DelBene and her husband reported at least $1.1 million worth of shares in her former company.

DelBene’s wealth is spread out among mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and real-estate funds.

In late 2021, DelBene appeared to violate the STOCK Act by improperly disclosing her husband’s massive sale of Microsoft stock days before President Joe Biden nominated him for an administration post. DelBene’s office denied that the congresswoman violated the law, citing an email from the Committee on House Ethics.

12. Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan: $60,514,285

Peter Meijer
Rep. Peter Meijer.

A part of the family behind the eponymous Midwestern grocery chain, Meijer reported that the bulk of his wealth was held in a “generation-skipping trust” that contained, among other assets, stock in Johnson & Johnson, Home Depot, Tesla, and Visa.

Meijer reported at least $1.95 million in liabilities in the forms of a mortgage, lines of credit, and promissory notes. He joined Congress in 2021.

11. Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican from Texas: $67,438,045

roger williams
Rep. Roger Williams.

Williams’ wealth is primarily split among mutual funds, a few select stocks, real property, and the ownership of several car dealerships in Texas worth more than $5 million. Williams also reported a stake in two aircraft-leasing companies.

The congressman reported $4 million in liabilities in the forms of lines of credit, mortgages, notes payable, and a loan. Williams recently violated the STOCK Act by failing to properly file three stock transactions by his wife. 

10. Rep. Doris Matsui, a Democrat from California: $73,872,062

Doris Matsui
Rep. Doris Matsui.

Matsui’s husband, Roger Sant, is the founder of the AES Corporation, a Fortune 500 holding company specializing in electricity generation and distribution.

Matsui’s listed holdings were spread out among exchange-traded funds, money-market funds, limited liability companies, and trusts. She reported at least $165,000 in liabilities in the form of credit-card debt through various banks.

9. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, a Republican from Indiana: $74,629,062

Trey Hollingsworth
Rep. Trey Hollingsworth.

Hollingsworth’s wealth primarily comes from his involvement with Hollingsworth Capital Partners, a Tennessee group that builds and markets industrial facilities in 17 states, according to his financial disclosure.

 

8. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut: $85,231,232

Sen. Richard Blumenthal
Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Blumenthal’s fortune is held almost entirely by his wife, Cynthia Malkin, with millions of dollars reported in various hedge funds, stocks, and real estate and property partnerships. Malkin’s father, Peter L. Malkin, is the chairman emeritus of Empire State Realty Trust — a commercial office and retail leasing agency for units across Manhattan including the Empire State Building —  and the chairman of Malkin Holdings.

Blumenthal’s only liability listed in his financial filings was a 30-year mortgage on his home that his wife took out in 2011.

7. Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah: $85,269,083

Mitt Romney
Sen. Mitt Romney.

The bulk of Romney’s wealth derives from his success at Bain Capital, a private-equity investment firm where he rose to CEO. And much of Romney’s fortune is in Goldman Sachs mutual funds.

Romney’s wife, Ann, also boasts an extensive portfolio that includes millions invested in private-equity and hedge funds.

Romney reported at least $4.5 million in liabilities from his wife; each liability was listed as a “capital commitment.”

6. Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia: $93,534,098

Mark Warner
Sen. Mark Warner.

Before venturing into politics, the 3-term senator and former Virginia governor ran a venture-capital firm, Columbia Capital, and a telecom company, Capital Cellular Corporation. Warner’s wealth is divvied up among mutual funds, private-equity funds, and hedge funds.

 

5. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California: $96,518,036

Dianne Feinstein
Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The majority of Feinstein’s wealth is from her husband, Richard Blum, according to her financial filings. Blum is an investor and the president and chairman of Blum Capital, a private equity company. Feinstein herself reported over $1 million in a deposit account, while a considerable portion of her wealth — at least $25 million — was held in a blind trust.

Feinstein listed three liabilities, each of which belonged to her husband, for a combined amount of at least $3 million.

Feinstein was one of 48 members of Congress who Insider and other media organizations found in 2021 to have violated the STOCK Act.

4. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican from Florida: $113,384,088

UNITED STATES - JUNE 18: Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., arrives for the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Buchanan’s wealth primarily comes from his ownership of several car dealerships, in addition to a limited liability company that was labeled as “Aircraft Holding & Leasing” and valued at $25 million to $50 million. Buchanan also founded a printing company, American Speedy Printing, in the late 1970s.

Buchanan listed several liabilities in his financial filings worth at least $14 million, including loans for a plane and a yacht connected with the LLC.

Buchanan may have the authority to write American tax policy in coming years, as the congressman is likely to become the leading GOP member of the Ways and Means Committee after Rep. Devin Nunes announced his resignation to become the CEO of a new social media company founded by former President Donald Trump.

3. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California: $115,850,012

Darrell Issa
Rep. Darrell Issa.

Much of Issa’s fortune comes from a car-alarm system called Steal Stopper and his time as the CEO of Directed Electronics. His financial filings indicated that each of Issa’s assets is jointly owned. Issa did not report owning any individual stocks — his wealth is largely held in diversified stock funds and his ownership of properties in California and Ohio.

Issa listed one liability: a margin account holding him liable for over $50 million.

The congressman served for 18 years in Congress before briefly leaving and becoming President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the US Trade and Development Agency. He rejoined Congress in 2021.

2. Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas: $125,880,292

Rep. Michael McCaul
Rep. Michael McCaul.

McCaul is thought to be the second-richest person in Congress, though none of the assets or holdings reported in his 65-page financial disclosure were his alone, belonging to his wife or dependent children. The bulk of his fortune is from his wife, Linda, the daughter of the founder of the media giant iHeartRadio.

The McCaul family notably reported millions in limited liability companies and iShares funds, and at least $250,000 worth of Netflix stock.

McCaul did not list any liabilities or debts in his financial disclosure.

1. Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida: $200,327,223

DJT and Rick Scott
Sen. Rick Scott.

Scott, who assumed office in 2019, cemented his No. 1 spot on the list through his extensive holdings in stocks, bonds, LLCs, private-equity funds, gold trusts, and treasury notes. Scott holds relatively few individual stocks.

The senator is the cofounder of two healthcare companies: Columbia Hospital Corporation (now HCA Healthcare) and Solantic. He also worked as a venture capitalist, investing in several technology and healthcare companies.

Scott did not list any liabilities or debts in his filings.

The five least-wealthy members of Congress

August Pfluger
Rep. August Pfluger.

A few members of Congress’ minimum sum of liabilities far surpassed the minimum sum of their disclosed assets.

These five members’ negative estimated wealth stemmed from high-priced mortgages:

  • Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democrat from California: -$1,008,000
  • Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat from Nevada: -$1,047,992
  • Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming: -$1,401,991
  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois: -$1,877,936
  • Rep. August Pfluger, a Republican from Texas: -$2,000,002
Methodology

Computer graphics of dollar banknotes stream flying around United States Capitol. Colorful twilight sky with clouds in backgrounds

Members of Congress are required to disclose the value of their assets only in broad ranges, such as $15,000 to $50,000. Insider’s calculations are conservative estimates based on the minimum values disclosed by members. Each member of Congress’ wealth was calculated by subtracting the sum of their minimum reported liabilities from the sum of their minimum asset values.

Lawmakers are not required to disclose certain classes of personal assets, such as the value of their personal residence, so these assets are not included in Insider’s calculations.

Insider’s analysis does not include four members of Congress whose disclosures were uniquely complicated and lengthy, comprising hundreds of pages of handwritten or scanned documents: Reps. Ro Khanna of California, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, and Harold Rogers of Kentucky.

Read the original article on Business Insider

These are the 50 top stocks that members of Congress own

Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Sara Jacobs, Van Taylor, and Susie Lee in front of Exxon Mobil, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft lgoos.
  • More than 220 members of Congress held individual stocks in 2020.
  • We analyzed hundreds of congressional financial disclosures to find the most popular investments.
  • Apple was the most popular, with Microsoft, Disney, Alphabet, and Amazon close behind.

More than 40% of members in Congress, or more than 220 representatives and senators, own individual stocks, collectively holding at least $225 million in stock assets, Insider has found.

Those in Congress are prohibited from using insider information to profit from the stock market. But it is legal for them to buy and sell individual stocks — a policy that can result in potential conflicts of interest in legislators’ financial dealings.

Tech stocks were the most popular

Those in Congress favor tech stocks, Insider’s analysis showed. Apple, the top stock and one of the hottest investments in recent years, was held by 72 members, or more than 13% of Congress.

Microsoft, the second-most-popular stock, was held by 64 members, followed by Disney and Alphabet, tied with 45 owners. Close behind was Amazon, owned by 44 members.

Together, the five companies spent $48 million on lobbying in 2020, according to OpenSecrets. PACs linked to the five companies along with the companies’ employees made an estimated $89.9 million in federal political contributions during the 2020 election cycle, which includes the calendar year 2019.

 

Leading investments include big lobbying forces, from pharma to oil to defense

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology giants are also popular investments for elected officials.

Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, the makers of COVID-19 vaccines, were the most-held pharmaceutical stocks in Congress in 2020, owned by 44 and 37 members, respectively.

Congress’ stock trades in particular are worthy of scrutiny. Despite a law requiring members to quickly and publicly disclose when they buy and sell stocks and corporate bonds, Insider found that many have failed to comply, often disclosing trades late, if at all.

Lawmakers’ personal financial interests sometimes intersect with their public duties.

Reps. Robert Wittman, a Republican from Virginia, and Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, owned Exxon Mobil stock. Both lawmakers sit on the House Committee on Natural Resources, which is responsible for overseeing various elements of the fossil-fuels industry. Overall, 36 members of Congress owned Exxon Mobil stock in 2020, making it the 12th-most-owned stock in Congress.

Insider also discovered that some members of Congress held stocks that their committees have direct influence over, such as 15 members sitting on the House and Senate Armed Services committees who are simultaneously invested in defense contractors.

Shares of Alibaba, a multinational Chinese tech firm with ties to the country’s ruling Communist Party, were owned by 20 members of Congress, including Republican Sens. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Roger Marshall of Kansas, two outspoken critics of China’s government. Both senators this year violated the federal Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 by not properly disclosing some of their stock trades.

 

How we analyzed Congress’ financial disclosures 

Insider this autumn collected and analyzed financial disclosures filed by each member of Congress, making them searchable and sortable whereas they previously were not. Covering 2020 — a year in which the world’s richest people witnessed their fortunes grow substantially — the reports provide the most recent comprehensive overview of each member’s financial assets.

They revealed at least $2.6 billion in wealth held by federal legislators.

Senate and House members file their disclosures in different formats. Insider used natural-language-processing software — including an algorithm that analyzes text — to help determine the most commonly traded stocks in the House.

Insider’s analysis did not include four members of Congress whose disclosures were uniquely complicated, incomplete, illegible, or long, comprising hundreds of pages of handwritten or scanned documents. Those members are Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California, Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, and Kurt Schrader of Oregon, and Republican Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky. A cursory review of their filings showed that Khanna, Schrader, and Rogers held extensive stock portfolios, and that they or immediate family members frequently traded individual stocks in 2020.

Read the original article on Business Insider

‘We are all helpless:’ Jan. 6 committee revealed texts from frightened lawmakers begging Mark Meadows to get Trump to stop the violence at the Capitol

The mob at the Capitol riot.
The House panel investigating the January 6 riot has revealed frantic text messages from lawmakers hiding inside the Capitol, who urged then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to get Trump to end the violence.

  • Frightened lawmakers begged Mark Meadows to get Donald Trump to end the violence at the Capitol riot.
  • Texts from lawmakers were revealed at a hearing by the special committee investigating January 6.
  • The frantic messages informed Meadows that lawmakers were “under siege” and “helpless.”

Scared lawmakers seeking refuge when the Capitol building was breached by rioters frantically texted Mark Meadows, begging him to get Trump to end the violence, on Jan. 6.

On Monday, Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney read out several text messages sent by unnamed lawmakers to Meadows during the riot during a vote on whether Meadows should be charged with criminal contempt for not continuing to cooperate with the committee’s investigation.

 

“We are under siege here at the Capitol,” read one text message from an unidentified lawmaker.

Other lawmakers messaged Meadows that rioters had “breached the Capitol” and about an “armed standoff at the House chamber door.” 

“Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol, breaking windows and doors, rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?” said another unnamed lawmaker in a text message Cheney read out during Monday’s committee meeting. 

Cheney also recited a text sent to Meadows from a lawmaker sheltering inside the Capitol, which simply said: “We are all helpless.” 

“Dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials, urged immediate action by the president,” said Cheney. 

The Wyoming lawmaker proceeded to read out more texts from Trump administration officials, one of which said: “POTUS has to come out firmly and tell the protesters to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed.” 

Another text, in capital letters, read: “TELL THEM TO GO HOME.” Another Trump official also texted Meadows: “POTUS needs to calm this shit down.” 

Apart from lawmakers, Meadows also received messages from Fox hosts like Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, and Sean Hannity, urging the chief of staff to get the president to end the violence at the Capitol. Donald Trump Jr. also repeatedly asked Meadows to get the president to make a speech to call off the riot

“He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” Trump Jr. texted. “The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.”

“I’m pushing it hard. I agree,” Meadows responded.

“We need an Oval Office address. He has to leave now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand,” Trump Jr. responded.

Meadows submitted emails, texts, and other information relating to the insurrection to the committee but then withdrew his cooperation with the investigation last week. 

Meadows was held in contempt by the House panel on Monday and could face up to a year in prison if convicted.

There have been detailed accounts of the terror experienced by lawmakers and congressional staffers alike during the Jan. 6 riot. In November, Insider published an oral history of 34 lawmakers, journalists, Trump officials, and Capitol workers who recounted how they are still dealing with the fallout from the insurrection.

At press time, 719 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol riot

Read the original article on Business Insider