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Three Members Who Could Question Zuckerberg Hold Facebook Shares

Social media exec faces questions about Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faces a grilling in Congress next week.  Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faces a grilling in Congress next week.  Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Nearly 30 lawmakers hold stock in Facebook — including three who could soon be grilling its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, about a British company that usurped his firm’s data without user consent to possibly help steer elections.

Twenty-eight members listed stock in the social media giant, according to Roll Call’s Wealth of Congress project. Among them, Democratic Reps. Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, while Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island sits on Senate Judiciary.

Both panels, along with Senate Commerce, invited Zuckerberg to appear before them after reports that Cambridge Analytica, a British big data firm, obtained access to private information of millions of Facebook users under questionable circumstances. Cambridge Analytica reportedly incorporated the data in ad-targeting tools used by political campaigns including President Donald Trump’s winning 2016 bid.

House Commerce announced Wednesday that Zuckerberg will testify on April 11 on “the company’s use and protection of user data.”

Kennedy, through various trust funds, has at least $80,000 invested in Facebook, Schrader at least $15,000, and Whitehouse no less than $30,000.

Ten Democratic members, including Kennedy, sent a letter last Thursday to the Federal Trade Commission commending its investigation into Facebook’s data privacy practices.

“Congressman Kennedy’s stock holdings do not influence his work in Congress,” his office said in response to questions from Roll Call about his Facebook shares.

Schrader and Whitehouse did not respond to requests for comment.

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Other notable lawmakers also own a slice of Facebook — including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Through her husband, the California Democrat holds at least $500,000 in the social media stock.

Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul reported at least $1 million in Facebook stock and some $30,000 in 2016 capital gains through his spouse and child.

Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider has at least $200,000 in the company through his wife’s IRA, while Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin, a fellow Democrat, holds stock worth at least $115,000 and had capital gains of more than $5,000, according to his 2016 financial disclosure. Ohio Republican Rep. James B. Renacci also owns at least $150,000 worth of Facebook stock.

Several lawmakers with holdings in the company say they recognize that new policies on social media oversight are needed after the latest developments.

“I have called for regulation on data and an internet bill [of] rights. I have said that self regulation is not sufficient,” Rep. Ro Khanna said in an email. The California Democrat listed Facebook stock worth at least $2,000 through a financial firm that manages his wife’s assets.

“The Facebook assets are held by my wife, not by me,” Khanna wrote in an email. “She has an independent financial management firm manage her assets and does not make decisions on what to buy or sell.”

Pelosi’s office also sought to put distance between the Democratic leader and her husband when asked about Facebook being listed on her disclosure.

“These investments are Mr. Pelosi’s not Leader Pelosi’s. Leader Pelosi plays no role in this investment and has no stock investments of her own,” an aide said.

Likes and dislikes

The “FB” ticker has been a financial boon to shareholders, with the stock price doubling over the last three years (the last two weeks notwithstanding).

Sen. John Hoeven owns more than $50,000 in Facebook stock. The North Dakota Republican’s office issued a statement that was straightforward about his investment, but also called for more accountability.

“Senator Hoeven owns Facebook and a variety of other popular technology stocks. … The senator believes that Facebook must be held accountable for its data privacy practices, including testifying before the relevant Congressional committees,” his office said.

But Rep. John Yarmuth wants nothing more to do with the company. The Kentucky Democrat is selling his shares, according to communications director Christopher Schuler.

And Wisconsin Republican freshman Mike Gallagher wants to entirely separate himself from individually-held stocks altogether.

“Rep. Gallagher hasn’t owned Facebook stock since prior to taking office,” his office said in a statement. “He sold all of his individual stocks in 2016 to avoid any appearance of impropriety (and questions like these).”

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Kentucky GOP Rep. James R. Comer, who owns at least $1,000 in Facebook stock, defended the company.

“I have not had anyone complain about Facebook to me. Facebook is one of the main sources of communication in Kentucky,” he said.

Florida Republican Rep. Tom Rooney told Roll Call in an email sent by his staff that he thought he only owned stock in McDonald’s and suggested Roll Call was confusing him with his Florida colleague, Republican Francis Rooney.  (Tom Rooney holds Facebook shares as part of a family trust, according to Roll Call’s research, as does Francis Rooney through Rooney Family Investments, Ltd.)

“If Facebook and all social media disappeared from the planet, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world,” said Tom Rooney, who is retiring after this term. 

As Zuckerberg’s testimony nears, Roll Call will be monitoring members buying or selling shares in his company.

Here are all the members of Congress who listed Facebook holdings in their 2016 financial disclosures, along with the minimum worth of their stocks and of any capital gains or dividends. 

* $0 in assets likely represents a sale of Facebook stock during the filing year.

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