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Some lawmakers and their families are betting thousands on crypto


Ranking member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) questions Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Powell during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the CARES Act, at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, September 28, 2021.

Kevin Dietsch | Pool | Reuters

Congress is taking a hard look at crypto — as an investment opportunity.

Eight lawmakers or their immediate family have traded cryptocurrencies over the past year, with bets ranging from about $1,000 to as high as $100,000, a CNBC analysis found.

Seven Republicans bought or sold crypto, including Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, the ranking member of the banking committee. Only one Democrat reported a transaction, Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois, according to the analysis.

The most popular cryptocurrency by far was bitcoin, with trades totaling an estimated $229,000, including through an ETF. Second was ether, with a total of about $40,000. Lawmakers even got into the meme coin trend, trading roughly $32,000 of dogecoin.

Members of Congress also dabbled in some less well-known cryptocurrencies: Cardano, Stellar, Celo, Chainlink, Basic Attention Token and EOS. 

Each trade is reported as a range, rather than a specific value. In its analysis, CNBC used the midpoint of the range to tally total transaction activity. The analysis is based on congressional financial disclosures and information from Capitol Trades, a public database compiled by 2iQ. 

The crypto trades create another wrinkle in the debate over potential conflicts of interest in Congress. The cryptocurrency industry is ramping up its lobbying machine as lawmakers and regulators weigh new rules for the sector. But it’s unclear whether crypto would be covered by proposals to ban lawmakers from trading individual stocks. 

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who has introduced legislation prohibiting stock trading, told CNBC that crypto presents different issues than traditional investing. Brown heads the Senate Banking Committee, which held a hearing on stablecoins Tuesday.

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“Members of Congress shouldn’t buy and sell corporate stocks here. I fought against that practice for a decade,” he said. “Crypto is more complicated than that.”

Toomey has been outspoken against any trading ban, arguing that it could disincentivize public service. He has defended existing laws that mandate financial disclosures and explicitly bar Congress from insider trading. A spokeswoman said his investment in crypto is merely a reflection of broad financial trends.

Toomey bought shares of Grayscale’s bitcoin and ether investment vehicles in June, each purchase valued between $1,000 and $15,000. 

“Given that crypto has become a meaningfully sized asset class, maintaining a well-diversified investment portfolio now means owning some crypto,” Toomey’s spokeswoman said. “To that extent, crypto makes up a very modest portion — less than 1% — of his overall investment…


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