Congress is taking a hard look at crypto — as an investment opportunity.
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.
Members of Congress also dabbled in some less well-known cryptocurrencies: Cardano, Stellar, Celo, Chainlink, Basic Attention Token and EOS.
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.
Kevin Dietsch | Pool | Reuters
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.
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. CNBC Politics
Read more of CNBC’s politics coverage: “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.
Lummis was one of the first lawmakers to invest in crypto. She previously told CNBC she bought five bitcoin in 2013 for about $300 each. In August, she invested between $50,000 to $100,000, according to her financial disclosures. Her office declined to comment for this story. However, two of the lawmakers who traded cryptocurrencies over the past year told CNBC that they support limits on Congress’s financial activity.
Toomey has also been an advocate for the industry, sponsoring a bill last summer that would have allayed concerns about crypto-reporting requirements to the IRS. One of his cosponsors was GOP Sen. Cynthia Lummis, who has embraced the industry as the next frontier for her home state of Wyoming. “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 portfolio.”