- Rep. Dan Crenshaw recently invested in Tesla and Rivian Automotive stock.
- He's on a key committee that regulates EVs but has voted against expanding access to the vehicles.
- Crenshaw's office says the congressman supports banning stock trades in Congress.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas wanted Americans to know just how "obsessed" liberals are with electric vehicles that are "not all they're hyped up to be."
"EV's are far from an environmentalist panacea," the Texas Republican wrote on Twitter roughly a year ago. "Massive infrastructure is required to support them, range is limited, and large industrial transport still needs gas."
—Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) February 2, 2021
But in recent weeks, Crenshaw has personally sought to profit from electric vehicles. He reported buying or selling between $8,008 and $120,000 worth of stock shares in electric vehicle manufacturers Tesla and Rivian Automotive, according to US House financial disclosure documents. In all, Crenshaw made eight separate trades in Tesla or Rivian Automotive stock between November 9 and December 29, the documents show.
The trades coincide with Crenshaw serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a panel that has jurisdiction over renewable energy, conservation, and electric vehicles. The Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee, on which Crenshaw also sits, directly involves itself in matters involving "greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles."
Crenshaw's investments also come as federal lawmakers on the left and right are questioning whether members of Congress should be allowed to buy and sell individual stocks at all.
In December, Insider released "Conflicted Congress," a five-month investigation which found that dozens of lawmakers and at least 182 senior congressional staffers had failed to comply with the reporting requirements of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act.
It also identified numerous conflicts-of-interest issues as well as discord between lawmakers' personal stock trades and their public responsibilities, such as members who craft anti-tobacco policy but invest in tobacco giants and others who receive plaudits from environmental groups for crafting policy aimed at combating the climate crisis — yet invest in fossil fuel companies.
Crenshaw's office said he invested a total of $17,000 in the electric vehicle stocks, adding that the investments ended up coming at a loss. Some of Crenshaw's trades, the values of which are only required to be disclosed in broad ranges, happened shortly after Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that he was considering dumping some of his company's stock.
"These are incredibly low dollar amounts being invested, especially when you put them in context with other members who invest huge sums of money in the stock market," Crenshaw spokesman Justin Discigil said, taking a swipe at other House members and spouses who have millions of dollars worth of investments.
"All of these trades were made using publicly available, well-reported information," he added. "There is absolutely no conflict of interest and any claim otherwise is ridiculous."
Darien Davis, a government affairs advocate on climate and clean energy issues for the League of Conservation Voters, told Insider that Crenshaw's electric vehicle company investments are "hypocritical."
Last year, Crenshaw voted against a bipartisan infrastructure law that will funnel $7.5 billion toward charging stations for electric vehicles. He also voted alongside his GOP colleagues to oppose the Build Back Better Act, President Joe Biden's climate and social spending bill that would have provided people with tax credits of up to $12,500 for buying electric cars.
"He is investing in these companies," Davis said, "so why does he think that he should benefit from investing in clean energy but the American people — consumers who want to buy these cars — shouldn't?"
Momentum in Congress to change stock-trading rules
Crenshaw's Tesla and Rivian Automotive stock trades are legal under current law, which generally allows members of Congress to buy and sell individual stocks.
The electric vehicle trades also do not violate the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions because Crenshaw reported his transactions before a federally mandated deadline, which is 30- to 45-days, depending on the kind of trade.
But good government groups say such cases, while not illegal, raise ethical questions that illustrate why, in their estimation, changes to investment rules in Congress are long overdue.
"Being a true public servant means reducing both real and perceived conflicts of interest. That's what we expect from all members, including Rep. Crenshaw," said Nick Penniman, CEO and founder of Issue One.
"When members of Congress buy and sell stocks while in office, it creates a perception that they are using their access for personal gain," Penniman added. "And because Rep. Crenshaw sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, his investments in electric car companies could raise ethical questions."
Members of both parties have called for reforms in recent weeks. US House Republicans in particular plan to run 2022 midterm campaigns with promises to deliver on a forthcoming proposal to restrict or ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks, according to multiple reports.
Discigil told Insider that Crenshaw, who the Daily Beast last year reported had violated the STOCK Act with separate — and late — late stock trade disclosures, agrees with the push.
"Congressman Crenshaw has made very minimal investments and fully supports the ban on individual stock trades," he said.
Crenshaw is a former member of the Navy SEALs who has quickly risen in Congress as a GOP star.
But the congressman has experienced a turbulent few months, politically, having endured a theft from his political committees, a controversy over sending mail-in ballot applications to Texas voters, and his star turn in a viral video where he lambasted a young girl for questioning him at a political event. Crenshaw has also said fellow Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — an active stock trader herself — is either a "Democrat" or an "idiot" for criticizing him over his COVID-19 testing ideas.
And despite his electric vehicle investments, Crenshaw hasn't found much appreciation from environmental groups. Crenshaw has only a 14% rating from the League of Conservation Voters.
Political action committees representing oil and gas interests have ranked among his top political contributors, according to the nonpartisan transparency group OpenSecrets that tracks money in politics.
Environmental groups are pushing Congress to expand access to electric vehicles as a way to combat the climate crisis given that the transportation sector plays an outsized role in air pollution.
Biden wants half of all new cars purchased in the US by 2030 to be electric vehicles. Increasing the number of electric charging stations and providing subsidies to help people pay for cars are both seen by environmental groups as a crucial factor toward getting there.
For now, the Build Back Better Act has stalled in Congress because it lacks the votes in the Senate, which has a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.
Despite the policy slowdown, Davis told Insider she saw a positive sign in Crenshaw's investments.
"I'm choosing to see it as a good sign that one of the most outlandish, anti-environment members of Congress understands some of the benefits of moving to a clean energy future," she said.