Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover could personally benefit these congressional lawmakers


Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest person, is set to purchase Twitter. Several members of Congress have, or have recently had, a financial stake in Twitter.Alex Wong/Getty Images

  • Musk’s Twitter acquisition will have repercussions beyond the stock market.

  • Six Democrats and one Republican in Congress invest, or have recently invested, in Twitter.

  • New ownership will likely change who — and what — is allowed on the far-reaching platform.

Elon Musk’s multibillion-dollar Twitter takeover is a big deal for investors — including 7 members of Congress who’ve recently scooped up the social media site’s stock shares.

Insider has identified at least five Democrats — including Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, and Reps. John Garamendi of California, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Susie Lee of Nevada, and Dean Phillips of Minnesota — that held shares in Twitter at the end of 2020, either themselves or through a spouse, according to congressional financial records.

Democratic Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois and Republican Rep. Pat Fallon of Texas joined the Twitter trading spree more recently, buying and selling up to $60,000 and $310,000 worth of shares, jointly, throughout 2021 and 2022.

Members of Congress routinely introduce and vote on legislation that affects the tech industry broadly and Twitter specifically. Twitter, for its part, has spent more than $1 million lobbying the federal government during each of the past four years, according to federal records compiled by nonpartisan research group OpenSecrets.

Fallon has been a frequent trader of Twitter stocks. According to congressional financial disclosures, Fallon bought up to $215,000 in shares and sold a maximum of $95,000 in Twitter stock between 2021 and 2022. (Members of Congress are only required to report the value of their stock trades in broad ranges.)

Personal financial disclosure from Rep.  Pat Fallon, a Republican from Texas

Personal financial disclosure from Rep. Pat Fallon, a Republican from TexasUS House of Representatives

In his 2020 annual financial disclosure, Gottheimer and his spouse jointly reported having up to $15,000 in Twitter shares. The pair sold at least $1,001 to $15,000 worth of Twitter stock on three different occasions in 2021 in addition to a purchase of up to $15,000 in stock in March 2021. It’s unclear if the couple still owns any stake in Twitter.

“Prior to taking office, I turned over management of my retirement savings and investments to a third party, who has full investment discretion,” Gottheimer told Insider in a statement. “Throughout my time in Congress, decisions related to my managed investments have been made at the direction of that third party.”

Gottheimer also said he’s going a step further, beginning a process to put his assets into what’s known as a “qualified blind trust.” He did not say if he and his wife still hold any shares of Twitter stock.

Lee reported joint-owning shares of the company in her 2020 financial disclosure report. She and her husband reported buying shares of the company in April 2020 before selling some of it just a month later.

Phillips, who represents Minnesota’s 3rd District, reported owning up to $15,000 worth of Twitter stock in his 2020 financial disclosure. Phillips’ assets are now held in a blind trust.

In his 2020 financial disclosure form, Hickenlooper reported that his wife owns up to $50,000 in Twitter stocks. Hickenlooper’s wife appears to still own the stock, as Hickenlooper has not since filed a disclosure indicating any sale of it.

Garamendi reported in his 2020 financial disclosure that his wife owned up to $15,000 in Twitter shares before selling it all in early 2022.

Newman’s husband, Jim Newman, purchased up to $30,000 in Twitter stocks in January 2021. Congressional records indicate he later sold all of his shares of the stock just a few weeks after the initial purchase.

A $44 billion deal

Musk’s roughly $44 billion bid to acquire the pioneering microblogging service could pay dividends for politicians on both sides of the aisle — and that’s what’s most troubling to ethics watchesdogs eyeing the swirling media deal.

Under the terms of Twitter’s agreement with Musk, “Twitter stockholders will receive $54.20 in cash for each share of Twitter common stock that they own upon closing of the proposed transaction,” the company announced Monday. “The purchase price represents a 38% premium to Twitter’s closing stock price on April 1, 2022, which was the last trading day before Mr. Musk disclosed his approximately 9% stake in Twitter.”

Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, government affairs manager at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, called the 11-figure Twitter sale “a case study in why it’s so ethically sketchy” for lawmakers to play the stock market.

“Depending on the day, members might be criticizing Twitter and promising to regulate them out of existence or using Twitter to generate attention and support for their agenda, all the while having a direct financial interest in Twitter’s share price,” he told Insider.

Insider’s “Conflicted Congress” project revealed that tech-curious politicos have pumped serious money into various internet companies, including the nearly three dozen lawmakers trading in Facebook stocks. Some of the higher profile investors tied to Facebook (now Meta) include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — her husband, Paul, trades heavily — and MAGA firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Congress is now actively debating whether to ban federal lawmakers from trading stocks.

Republicans who’ve publicly clashed with Twitter about its content moderation are personally invested in Musk’s take over plans for other reasons.

Twice-impeached former President Donald Trump was banned from the site following his involvement in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. The purge sparked cries of “cancel culture” from conservatives and prompted GOP leaders on Capitol Hill to put “Big Tech” on notice about all the investigations MAGA world plans to launch Republicans flip the House, Senate, or both in the midterm elections.

@elonmusk‘s offer to buy Twitter is a good deal for shareholders and raises the prospect that the platform will be a place where free speech can thrive, not a tool for narrative enforcement,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of the higher profile Republicans testing the waters for a 2024 presidential run, wrote online.

Greene was stripped of her personal account for repeatedly posting misinformation about the global pandemic.

Prepare for blue check mark full scale meltdown after @elonmusk seals the deal and I should get my personal Twitter account restored,” Greene wrote Monday.

No matter which side of the aisle they’re on, ethics watchdog Kedric Payne said all lawmakers should agree to steer clear of obvious financial entanglements.

“The past two years have shown us that when members of Congress trade stocks in individual companies they either trigger claims of insider trading or you have the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the former deputy chief counsel at the Office of Congressional Ethics told Insider . He added that lawmakers “shouldn’t use their official position to influence the value of the stock that they own.”

Read the original article on Business Insider





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