January 3, 2024 - 6:00pm

The US Congress once again outperformed the stock market in 2023, according to new analysis by financial platform Unusual Whales.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, members from both sides of the political aisle had bumper years, including familiar names such as Nancy Pelosi and Susan Collins, who outperformed the market by 41.7% and 30.7% respectively. It is the third year running that Congress has now beat the market.

The biggest standout was Democratic New York Representative Brian Higgins, who saw the highest returns out of both houses, beating the market by 214% and seeing approximately double the return rate of the runner up (Rep. Mark Green). Higgins has a background in finance and large holdings in Nvidia, a stock in which Pelosi’s husband has also controversially invested. 

The portfolios of Democratic members of Congress outperformed the market by about 10% on average in 2023, while Republicans were about six points below the market. Republicans invested more in financials and oil, which had a lean year, while Democrats preferred tech investments.

Some representatives who have previously expressed support for restrictions on Congressional stock continued to benefit from the practice in 2023. For example, Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna has publicly supported a stock trade ban for members of Congress, but his family disclosed more than 1,500 separate stock market transactions in 2023 worth well over $10 million. 

Several top beneficiaries of the stock trade within Congress have defended the practice in recent years as participation in the free market, including Pelosi and Dan Crenshaw. The latter said in 2022 that he was sceptical of bans on Congresspeople trading stocks because “you have no way to better yourself” as a member without doing so. He added that such a ban could discourage those who aren’t extremely wealthy from running for Congress. Crenshaw’s portfolio saw 38% returns in 2023, beating the market by 15%. 

Unusual Whales caused a storm after publishing its inaugural report on Congressional stock trading in 2021, which showed many members of Congress beating the market by massive margins, in part through investment decisions related to bills that they voted on. The report sparked a national discussion and a bipartisan push to limit the trading abilities of members of Congress and their families. After months of public pressure, even Nancy Pelosi, whose husband has seen prolific success in the stock market, said she was open to banning the practice if her colleagues in the House brought forward legislation on the matter. 

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley and Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand subsequently proposed legislation to ban Congress members from trading stocks in July this year, which was followed by a similar proposal from Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Mark Kelly in September. Neither bill has yet come up for a vote. 

“Elected officials don’t just make policy; they also have access to valuable information that shapes different industries and the entire economy,” Kelly said in September. “Members of Congress should be focused on representing their constituents, not their stock portfolios.”

is UnHerd’s US correspondent.