This Kansas Dem Wants To Ban Congress From Owning Stocks. She Owns Shares of Green Energy Firms That Want Congressional Subsidies.

Rep. Sharice Davids (D., Kan.) / Getty Images
June 20, 2022

Rep. Sharice Davids (D., Kan.) has called for a total ban on members of Congress owning stocks in order to "restore trust" in the government. So it's puzzling that Davids owns shares of three green energy firms that regularly lobby Congress for subsidies.

Her investments in FuelCell Energy, Maxeon Solar Technologies, and SunPower Corporation total up to $17,000. All three companies lobby Congress for green energy tax credits and other incentives, and Davids is in clear position to implement policy that impacts her investments—the Kansas Democrat sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which has helped shape the Biden administration’s green-friendly infrastructure spending initiatives. Davids has said she would use her position on the committee to explore investments in infrastructure projects as "an effective way to combat the effects of climate change."

Davids endorsed a bill in April aimed at ending the kinds of conflicts of interest her investments appear to present. Davids and 18 other members of Congress called for a ban on members, their spouses, and dependents from owning or trading stocks. At the time, Davids and her colleagues said stock ownership creates a "serious conflict of interest" for members conducting oversight of publicly traded companies, with Davids herself arguing that the law was needed in order to "improve transparency and accountability" in the wake of questionable financial conduct by elected officials.

Davids, who due to redistricting is among the most vulnerable incumbents in the House, is not the only member to have apparent conflicts of interest in "green infrastructure" companies. Rep. Sean Casten (D., Ill.) owns up to $500,000 in Greenleaf Power, a privately held green energy company, the Washington Free Beacon has reported. Casten, who serves on the House committee to address climate change, has also endorsed a ban on members of Congress owning individual stocks. Greenleaf Power is not publicly traded so would not be banned under the proposed legislation.

FuelCell Energy, Maxeon Solar Technologies, and SunPower Corporation, the green energy companies in Davids’s portfolio, have lobbied Congress for taxpayer-funded incentives in the administration’s infrastructure projects.

SunPower Corporation, which installs solar power systems, cheered an extension for solar credits in the American Jobs Plan, saying it would "unlock more markets in the United States where we’re just scratching the surface." SunPower has lobbied Congress on a variety of green energy bills, as well as the Build Back Better Act, for investment tax credits for residential and commercial solar projects.

FuelCell Energy has lobbied Congress "to restore fuel cell tax credits" and funding for fuel cell research, according to the company’s lobbying disclosures.

Maxeon, which lobbies Congress on "solar trade issues," said earlier this year it may expand manufacturing of solar panels in the United States depending on the implementation of Build Back Better and other climate-related legislation.

Davids is also invested in Organovo Holdings, a biotech company that lobbies the government regarding the use of human tissue in drug research.

Davids faces a tough re-election bid in November after losing Democrat-leaning portions of her district during the recent redistricting process. She flipped her seat in 2018, and won by 10 points in 2020. Cook Political Report rates the race a toss-up.

Davids’ office did not respond to a request for comment.