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  /  News   /  Washington Watch: These U.S. lawmakers rank as the biggest traders of hot stocks like Apple, Tesla and GameStop

Washington Watch: These U.S. lawmakers rank as the biggest traders of hot stocks like Apple, Tesla and GameStop

U.S. lawmakers traded an estimated $355 million in individual stocks last year, but which members of Congress bought and sold the hottest names?

The individual stocks whose tickers drew the most interest on MarketWatch in 2021 were GameStop GME, +1.19% and AMC Entertainment AMC, -3.57% — poster boys for the meme-stocks phenomenon — along with electric-car makers Tesla TSLA, +0.28% and NIO NIO, -0.63%, as well as Apple AAPL, -0.43%.

U.S. Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

At the top of the list of the biggest traders on Capitol Hill by dollar volume of these five stocks is Rep. Pat Fallon. The Texas Republican disclosed an estimated $1.5 million in buys of Apple shares and an estimated $1.6 million in sells of the tech giant’s stock, according to an analysis from 2iQ Research’s Capitol Trades, which values lawmakers’ purchases and sales by using the midpoint of a transaction’s declared range. The congressman’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The table below, based on the Capitol Trades analysis of disclosure filings, shows the members of Congress who were the five biggest traders of Apple stock in 2021 — or had family members who made the trades.

Biggest traders of Apple stock in Congress in 2021

Lawmaker
Party
State
Rep. or sen.
Buys
Sells
Total amount transacted
Buys/sells ratio
Fallon, Pat
R
TX
Rep.
$1,475,000
$1,580,500
$3,055,500
0.93
Schrier, Kim
D
WA
Rep.
$1,125,000
$375,000
$1,500,000
3.00
Khanna, Ro
D
CA
Rep.
$629,500
$264,000
$893,500
2.38
Langevin, Jim
D
RI
Rep.
$191,000
$175,000
$366,000
1.09
Suozzi, Tom
D
NY
Rep.
$150,000
$123,500
$273,500
1.21

Source: Capitol Trades analysis of disclosures filed from early 2021 through mid-January 2022 covering stock trades made in 2021

Disclosures from Democratic Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois put her as the biggest trader on Capitol Hill in Elon Musk’s Tesla, with an estimated $383,000 in buys and $375,000 in sells last year. The congresswoman’s spokesman said the Tesla trading was part of a range of transactions made by Newman’s husband.

U.S. Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL)
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

“As part of an overall college and retirement savings program as well as to help pay for the family’s extensive health care costs, Congresswoman Newman’s husband for years now has conducted the family’s savings accounts to invest in a variety of companies based on public information. These trades are conducted solely by her husband and are regularly disclosed in alignment with the House’s current policy,” Newman’s spokesman said in a statement.

The table below shows the Washington, D.C., lawmakers who were the five biggest traders of Tesla shares in 2021 — or had family members who made the buys and sells.

Related: Banning congressional spouses from stock trading would be ‘unfair,’ Democratic Rep. Khanna says

Biggest traders of Tesla stock in Congress in 2021

Lawmaker
Party
State
Rep. or sen.
Buys
Sells
Total amount transacted
Buys/sells ratio
Newman, Marie
D
IL
Rep.
$383,000
$375,000
$758,000
1.02
Khanna, Ro
D
CA
Rep.
$129,500
$16,000
$145,500
8.09
Suozzi, Tom
D
NY
Rep.
$75,000
$75,000
$150,000
1.00
Garcia, Mike
R
CA
Rep.
$65,000
$65,000
$130,000
1.00
Crenshaw, Dan
R
TX
Rep.
$24,000
$24,000
$48,000
1.00

Source: Capitol Trades analysis of disclosures filed from early 2021 through mid-January 2022 covering stock trades made in 2021

Disclosures from Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York put him as the biggest trader in Chinese EV maker NIO, with an estimated $32,500 in sales of it last year. The congressman’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

As shown in the table below, only one other lawmaker disclosed NIO trades.

Traders of NIO stock in Congress in 2021

Lawmaker
Party
State
Rep. or sen.
Buys
Sells
Total amount transacted
Buys/sells ratio
Suozzi, Tom
D
NY
Rep.
$               32,500.00
$            32,500.00
Sessions, Pete
R
TX
Rep.
$           8,000.00
$              8,000.00

Source: Capitol Trades analysis of disclosures filed from early 2021 through mid-January 2022 covering stock trades made in 2021

Disclosures from GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania put him as the biggest trader in video game retailer GameStop in 2021, with an estimated $8,000 in buys and $8,000 in sells last year. Toomey, who is retiring from the Senate, said the trades were made by an adult son, adding that he would have suggested caution if his son had discussed them with him ahead of time.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Pool/Getty Images

“These perfectly legal and non-controversial transactions were made by my adult son in his investment account that he controls exclusively,” the senator told MarketWatch in a statement. “He used only public information that was widely available at the time. The trades were made without my knowledge. I disclosed these trades in the ordinary, monthly disclosure of my, and my family’s, trading activities, as required by Senate rules. Had my son asked for my advice about these trades, I would have told him the same thing I said in numerous print and television interviews: that it’s a classic bubble that will end badly for most participants.”

As shown in the table below, only one other lawmaker disclosed GameStop trades.

Traders of GameStop stock in Congress in 2021

Lawmaker
Party
State
Rep. or sen.
Buys
Sells
Total amount transacted
Buys/sells ratio
Toomey, Pat
R
PA
Sen.
$       8,000.00
$               8,000.00
$         16,000.00
1
Garcia, Mike
R
CA
Rep.
$       8,000.00
$            8,000.00

Source: Capitol Trades analysis of disclosures filed from early 2021 through mid-January 2022 covering stock trades made in 2021

No members of Congress bought or sold shares of movie theater chain AMC Entertainment last year, according to Capitol Trades. Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are required to file disclosures within 45 days for any transactions involving stocks and other securities due to 2012’s STOCK Act.

Apple’s stock returned 35% in 2021, while Tesla gained 50% and NIO lost 35%. GameStop shares soared 688% last year, and AMC rocketed up 1,183%.

The trading action taking place in both the House and the Senate comes as some lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban congressional buying and selling of individual stocks. Proponents of the ban say the trading of individual stocks by U.S. lawmakers can raise conflict of interest issues. Critics of such efforts say they’re going too far, and that current laws already require regular disclosures and don’t allow trading on inside information.

The spokesman for Newman, the Illinois Democrat who has disclosed sizeable trading activity by her husband, said the congresswoman “fully supports recently proposed legislation to limit and even ban members of Congress, their family members and senior congressional staff from trading stocks.”

A spokeswoman for Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican who disclosed GameStop trades by his son, said the senator has concerns about a potential ban on congressional stock trading.

“Senator Toomey believes that forbidding elected officials from participating in the stock market will discourage qualified individuals from entering public service,” Toomey’s spokeswoman told MarketWatch in a statement. “Moreover, he is not sure the American people want members of Congress deciding policy about the stock market without understanding how it works or what it is like to invest in stocks. That’s like telling senators from an agricultural states that they can’t own a farm if they want to serve in Congress. Would you really want a senator who has no experience in the agricultural industry drafting legislation on agriculture issues?”

The Toomey spokeswoman also said the senator “agrees that the public must have confidence its elected leaders are not using non-public information to personally profit,” and that’s why he voted for the STOCK Act, which “expressly clarified” that members of Congress are barred from insider trading. In addition, she said existing Senate Ethics Committee rules prohibit senators from “knowingly introducing or aiding the passage of legislation in order to further their own financial interests.”

DataKind contributed to this report.

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