House

Ethics panel investigating Cawthorn over crypto, improper staff relationship

The House Ethics Committee has launched a probe into embattled Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) to determine whether he improperly promoted a cryptocurrency without disclosing he had a financial interest in it and whether he had an improper relationship with a staff member employed in his congressional office.

The announcement of the probe came on Monday, after the committee voted to establish an investigative subcommittee on May 11. The committee noted that establishment of an investigative subcommittee does not mean that a violation has occurred.

Cawthorn, a 26-year-old first-term congressman, lost his May 17 primary election to Republican state Sen. Chuck Edwards after a long string of scandals that included the two matters being investigated by the committee.

The outgoing congressman’s office is maintaining that he has done nothing wrong.

“We welcome the opportunity to prove that Congressman Cawthorn committed no wrongdoing and that he was falsely accused by partisan adversaries for political gain,” Blake Harp, Cawthorn’s chief of staff, told The Hill in a statement. “This inquiry is a formality. Our office isn’t deterred in the slightest from completing the job the patriots of Western North Carolina sent us to Washington to accomplish.”

An anti-Cawthorn PAC filed an ethics complaint against Cawthorn on April 29, listing the cryptocurrency matter and his relationship with and alleged gifts to his scheduler, who is also his distant cousin. A video included in the ethics complaint, first reported by the Daily Mail, showed Cawthorn with his scheduler in a car speaking about suggestive topics in an exaggerated accent and his scheduler reaching into Cawthorn’s crotch.

Another video was released by the anti-Cawthorn PAC the following week that showed Cawthorn nude engaging in more suggestive behavior in a bed with another individual. Cawthorn at the time said that he was “being crass with a friend, trying to be funny,” and that it was filmed years ago.

A Washington Examiner report first suggested that Cawthorn may have violated insider trading laws by promoting a cryptocurrency called Let’s Go Brandon. The issue prompted Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who backed Edwards in the primary, to call for an ethics investigation into Cawthorn. Cawthorn has denied having insider knowledge when he promoted the cryptocurrency, calling the claims in the report “shallow.”

Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) will chair the investigative subcommittee looking into Cawthorn, and Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) will be its ranking member.

“Pursuant to the Committee’s action, the Investigative Subcommittee shall have jurisdiction to determine whether Representative Madison Cawthorn may have: improperly promoted a cryptocurrency in which he may have had an undisclosed financial interest, and engaged in an improper relationship with an individual employed on his congressional staff,” the Ethics Committee said in a statement.

The committee also considered an ethics issue relating to Cawthorn being charged with driving with a revoked license and speeding in North Carolina, but voted against further probing that matter with an investigative subcommittee. Cawthorn told the committee that he had paid a fine to resolve one of the charges and intended to do so for the remaining charges, a report said.

Other matters named in the anti-Cawthorn PAC’s ethics complaint, including his bringing a knife onto school property and twice bringing a loaded firearm to airport security checkpoints, were not addressed by the Ethics Committee. 

Last month, Cawthorn appeared to brush off the ethics complaint and release of the salacious video.

“Digging stuff up from my early 20s to smear me is pathetic,” Cawthorn said in a tweet at the time. “At least be consistent with your attack instead of changing the focus every time. A campaign based on nothing but slander and personal attacks is a campaign that lacks a true sense of how to save the country from the leftists.”

Tags House Ethics Committee madison cawthorn Madison Cawthorn

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