Madison Cawthorn Continues to Face Criticism Amid String of Controversies

The 26-year-old Republican has recently been subject to numerous controversies, and at least one member of his party is calling for an ethics investigation into claims regarding his ownership of a "Let's Go Brandon" cryptocurrency

Madison Cawthorn
Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Madison Cawthorn continues to shrug off criticism from those in his own party, even as myriad controversies against him continue to mount.

In the past two months alone, the 26-year-old North Carolina Republican has been the subject of headlines concerning his bringing a loaded gun to a Charlotte airport, his various driving infractions, and his past behaviors (including photos of him wearing lingerie that were published last week by Politico).

This week, he faced more controversy, when a political action committee dedicated to removing him from office filed an ethics complaint alleging that Cawthorn did not properly file House financial disclosures regarding "gifts and loans" given to his scheduler.

"The committee is requested to investigate whether any House Rules or statutes were violated by the relationship between Rep. Cawthorn and his House employee Mr. Stephen L. Smith," the complaint says, claiming that Cawthorn "provides free housing and travel" to Smith.

Leaked video and Venmo comments which have since made the rounds on Twitter appear to show Cawthorn and Smith joking with one another.

The complaint further alleges that Cawthorn should be investigated for alleged past behaviors, including bringing a "'4.45-inch dagger' to North Carolina public educational property on four documented occasions.

Meanwhile, fellow North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis is calling for a bi-partisan ethics investigation of Cawthorn following a report that he may have been involved in insider trading.

"Insider trading by a member of Congress is a serious betrayal of their oath, and Congressman Cawthorn owes North Carolinians an explanation," Tillis wrote on Twitter earlier this week. "There needs to be a thorough and bipartisan inquiry into the matter by the House Ethics Committee."

Tillis' call for an investigation came after The Washington Examiner uncovered a photo posted on Instagram Dec. 29, in which Cawthorn poses with the hedge fund manager who created the "Let's Go Brandon" cryptocurrency.

In a comment below the photo, Cawthorn — who the Examiner reports has publicly said he owns the currency — wrote, "Tomorrow we go to the moon!"

Just one day later, the coin's value spiked some 75% after NASCAR driver Brandon Brown — whose name has become synonymous with the anti-Biden "Let's go Brandon" chant — announced the coin would be his primary sponsor.

Cawthorn, who was elected in 2020 at age 25, has a history of headline-making behavior and sometimes controversial remarks, and has built his national profile both on his personal backstory (he uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed in a car crash) and his penchant for Trump-style provocation.

The lawmaker has previously stirred up controversy for a racist campaign statement about Sen. Cory Booker, for his vote to overturn the 2020 election despite no evidence of widespread fraud and for more recent comments about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which he subsequently clarified.

There have also been allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct made against Cawthorn by women who attended college with him.

Cawthorn has denied ever doing anything sexually inappropriate.

But in recent weeks, the controversy has seemingly reached a crescendo, spurred at least in part by Cawthorn's March appearance on a podcast, in which he suggested other, older lawmakers in Washington, D.C., were doing drugs and engaging in orgies.

That comment caused notable friction between Cawthorn and other members of the GOP, including House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who said the young lawmaker had "lost [his] trust."

Since then, headlines have continued to mount, though Cawthorn has dismissed the most recent criticism as a "coordinated assault" coming from RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).

When asked about the claims that he had provided gifts to his scheduler, or the controversy from within GOP circles, a spokesperson for Cawthorn directed PEOPLE to two tweets. In one, Cawthorn seemingly addresses the controversy stemming from recent leaked footage and photos with: "Many of my colleagues would be nowhere near politics if they had grown up with a cell phone in their hands."

In another, Cawthorn simply says, "We see through it, RINOs."

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Cawthorn is currently running in a crowded GOP primary in North Carolina's 13th District though voters have attempted to challenge his candidacy.

The voters argue that Cawthorn violated Section 3, of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, which prohibits a government official from running if they engaged in an insurrection. The group says Cawthorn did — by promoting former President Trump's baseless election conspiracies.

A federal judge struck down the voter group's challenge to Cawthorn's candidacy, though they are now appealing that decision.

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