Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) did not buy or sell any stocks in his first 13 months as a congressman. That changed in March 2020, when he made half a dozen buys as the largest economic relief package in history was written and debated.
Five of those purchases came in the three days between March 25 and 27, as the Senate and House voted on the CARES Act and former President Trump signed it into law. Crenshaw, who supported the bill, did not initially disclose the transactions, in violation of the STOCK Act, a law that requires members of Congress to tell the public when they engage in securities trades. Months later he amended his records to reflect the purchases.
The trades, which are listed only in a range of values, add up to a maximum of $120,000, and do not compare in size or volume to the kinds of headline-grabbing transactions executed ahead of the pandemic by Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. They only appeared in December, when Crenshaw amended his annual report, originally submitted in August.
“You’re referencing financial disclosures that use a range to report stock purchases, and you’re choosing the upper end of the range to come up with that $120,000 figure,” Justin Discigil, Crenshaw’s communications director, told the Daily Beast in an email. “The real number is around $30,000 at most,” Discigil said, and “in no way were his purchases unethical or related to official business.”
The timing, however, along with Crenshaw’s own trading history and connections to the industry, raises questions about why he made the purchases and failed, twice, to disclose them.
“Members of Congress should not be actively trading securities in the middle of a crisis. It shows that when the market crashes, that person is thinking about themselves and using the volatility to their own advantage,” said Ben Edwards, a securities law expert and professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Las Vegas Nevada. “We all have a limited amount of attention, and if you’ve got [an] eye on your stock portfolio, then you’re not giving that crisis or the American people the full attention they demand.”
Crenshaw, elected in 2018, had never traded individual stocks in office until that crisis struck, according to public records. Then, when global markets crashed on March 12, Crenshaw bought between $1,001 and $15,000 in Amazon. Two weeks later, while Congress voted on the CARES Act, Crenshaw bought stocks valued at the same price range in Southwest, Boeing, energy infrastructure manfacturer SPX, and Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based company specializing in pipeline construction. He also bought into an index fund tied to the performance of the S&P 500.
While it’s unclear why Crenshaw did not initially disclose the transactions, they came as an increasing number of high-profile lawmakers were getting snared in an insider-trading scandal. Except for the Amazon purchase, all of Crenshaw’s transactions came a week after ProPublica reported that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) had sold up to $1.72 million on the heels of private coronavirus briefings. On March 20, The Daily Beast reported that Loeffler and her husband had sold off seven figures worth of stock following her first confidential briefings on the pandemic. Scrutiny soon fell on trades executed by Sens. David Perdue (R-GA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John Hoeven (R-ND), spurring investigations by the Justice Department, the Senate Ethics Committee and the Securities and Exchange Commission. None of the lawmakers faced criminal charges. Perdue and Loeffler lost their re-election bids to Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock in runoff elections this January.
In response to the scandal, the Campaign Legal Center analyzed all congressional stock trades made between Feb. 2 and April 8, finding that a dozen senators made a combined 127 transactions in the timeframe, and 37 House members made at least 1,358 transactions.
Crenshaw’s name did not make it into those media reports, however, because he hadn’t disclosed his purchases. The STOCK Act, a 2012 law intended to deter federal elected officials from trading on inside knowledge, requires congress to post all transactions within 45 days. Not only did Crenshaw fail to disclose the transactions at the time, he didn’t include them in his annual disclosure, filed in August. And while that filing shows that Crenshaw holds the new assets, the form also requires…