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Why Nancy Pelosi’s stock trades are so popular on TikTok


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not the most successful member of Congress in the stock market. That’s likely Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., at least according to one viral report. Nor is she the most prolific. That honor probably goes to Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, or fellow Bay Area Rep. Ro Khanna.

Pelosi does not not even technically trade stocks, since her husband Paul owns and runs Financial Leasing Services, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, and is responsible for all of the trades that Pelosi has to file under the STOCK Act of 2012. (More on that later.)

But Nancy Pelosi has become the defining figure of a social media movement for people looking to get ahead in the stock market — or trying to prevent more political figures from getting ahead.

Nowhere is this more evident than on TikTok, where legions of amateur investors and personal finance enthusiasts — with lots of free time on their hands over the pandemic and motivated, in part, by the subreddit Wall Street Bets — share Pelosi’s list of recent call option purchases alongside tips on cryptocurrency or high-yield savings accounts. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of videos if you search “Nancy Pelosi stocks” on TikTok. 

The popularity of these videos hinge on the belief that politicians are getting ahead in the stock market because of access to insider information, if not necessarily insider trading, an idea that proliferated in the past two years with the ongoing investigation of Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. Burr sold $1.6 million in stock on Feb. 13, 2020, a month before the World Health Organization officially declared the pandemic.

Since then, various political stock market trackers emerged to track politicians, among them Capitol Trades, House and Senate Stock Watcher and Twitter account @unusual_whales.


One Twitter account, @NancyTracker, made a killing out of targeting Pelosi — amassing more than 217,000 followers before being suspended last year. (A Twitter spokesperson told SFGATE in December that the account was “permanently suspended for repeated violations of our platform manipulation and spam policy.”)

Many economists have downplayed this idea, noting that in aggregate, politicians are about as successful as the average person on the stock market.

But this idea persists online.

For many of these amateur stock enthusiasts and tracker accounts, Pelosi is the ideal stock bellwether, making lots of investments in well-known technology and media entities. Even if she’s not quite the most successful, she’s perhaps the most accessible — in recent months investing in Disney, Roblox and Salesforce. She’s also the most successful Democrat in the stock markets, according to @unusual_whales.

“I think the reason that there’s so much attention paid to her is that she’s symbolic of older leadership in Congress,” said Chris Kardatzke, the Wisconsin-based founder of the stock tracking app Quiver Quantitative.

But it’s not just that she’s part of the old guard. She is wealthy, valued at about $46 million, according to one estimate; well-connected, having recently officiated the wedding of oil heiress Ivy Getty in San Francisco City Hall; and most importantly, controversial.

Pamela Mearsheimer, or @pamelafinance, is a Chicago-based personal finance guru on TikTok who works in accounting by day. She normally doesn’t post any political content on her account, instead preferring to focus on financial literacy. But she does understand that these videos are entertaining — and for whatever reason, are catnip to TikTok’s algorithm, with people starting debates on her page.

“People were saying, ‘So?’ or ‘What’s wrong with her owning stock?’ kind of thinking that I might be against her, and then other people were saying, ‘Politicians shouldn’t own stock,’” Mearsheimer told SFGATE. “And what’s interesting is all I did was just [state] pure facts. I just said, ‘I want to know the stocks that Nancy Pelosi owns and that is public information.’”

Russ Faigen, a fifth-year student at Drexel University who makes TikToks as @investwithruss, told SFGATE that Pelosi drew further scrutiny in 2021 in light of her and her husband’s stock market successes. (A report from the political stock watchdog FinePrint concluded that the Pelosis beat the stock market by 14% in 2020, despite the pandemic’s dramatic impacts on the economy.)

“For an already controversial Speaker of the House to be looking at million dollars and whose husband owns an investment firm, she just checks off these boxes,” Faigen said. 

Pelosi, herself, has also defended the right of members of Congress to trade stocks.

“We’re a free-market economy,” Pelosi told reporters. “[Members of Congress] should be able to participate in that.”

A month later, following intense bipartisan backlash, she issued a mea culpa of sorts. “To give a blanket attitude of we can’t do this and we can’t do that because we can’t be trusted, I just don’t buy into that,” she said. “But if members want to do that, I’m OK with that.”

(A representative for Pelosi did not respond to multiple requests for comment from SFGATE.)

Her willingness to defend politicians trading stocks is also deeply unpopular across the political spectrum. Two recent polls indicated that between 67% and 76% of all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, don’t think that any politicians should be trading stocks while in office.

“A lot of people look up to anyone in the government,” said Thomas Carvo, a recent Penn State grad who lives in Austin, Texas, and runs a stock tracking TikTok. “They’re struggling and they see that … they’re just tossing around, they’re investing millions of dollars into stocks and they’re making a lot of money.”

Many of the people interviewed also don’t think that Pelosi should be the sole target of anyone looking to track politico stocks.

“Across both sides of the aisle, there’s a lot of people who have made some large stock transactions who I think should be paid attention to,” said Kardatzke. 

Mearsheimer concurred, calling herself an “equal opportunity fact finder.” (She recently released a similar video about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.)

Even among Pelosi’s colleagues, there’s an appetite to limit stock trading. Two separate Senate bills were introduced in January that would ban members of Congress and their families from trading stocks while in office. Progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has spoken out at length against members of Congress owning and selling stock. 

But, at least on TikTok, there’s a significant cohort of people focused on getting the piece of the pie themselves rather than condemning Pelosi for her stock trading.

Some of them have a less cynical view of what goes on behind Capitol doors.

Carvo told SFGATE that members of Congress, including Pelosi, probably do have better information than the general public. But he argues that it’s the job of politicians to keep track of current events and other economic determinants; keeping tabs on that information does not necessarily translate to insider trading, he argues.

“It’s more that, if you’re in tune with the news and you’re all over everything, you probably could figure it out yourself,” he said. “But a lot of people either don’t have the time or they’re not able to keep up with every two seconds of what’s going on in Congress.”

Carvo said that, as a result, getting to see what investments Pelosi and other lawmakers make is an easy, low-risk way to bet on the market. If they’re throwing money at tech stocks, he reasoned, then it’s safe to bet on tech stocks yourself.

A key provision of the STOCK Act, which was passed in 2012 to curtail insider trading in the federal government, is that all officials have to disclose the investments they made within 45 days. This has seemingly been a boon for rookie investors.

But these disclosures should be revealed even sooner, Faigen and Carvo tell SFGATE.

Faigen says that the 45-day cap means that rookie investors who follow her investments may be at a loss.

“By the time you or me hears about it, we’re getting old news,” he said. “And that puts us at threat of getting burned, which is what happens so often [to] novice investors.”

Carvo says doing so would increase transparency — and trust in political officials, especially Pelosi.

“If they’re able to file these reports sooner, I think the general public would be very appreciative of that, because then they can kind of follow along and see exactly what’s going on,” says Carvo. “They don’t feel like there’s something hidden from them, in a sense.”

The tides are already turning, and some form of heightened transparency may be overdue. But no matter the motivation, Pelosi will continue to be a hot target — both for rookie stockbrokers looking to make bank and for activists looking to call the House speaker out. And if she wins re-election later this year, and the bills hoping to ban stock trades are not enacted, these social media accounts will likely live on, Twitter bans be damned. 





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