- 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.