Outgoing Rep. Madison Cawthorn Investigated for Improper Relationship with Staffer, Insider Trading

Cawthorn's chief of staff says the controversial congressman, who lost his recent primary, "committed no wrongdoing” and has been “falsely accused by partisan adversaries”

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

Despite losing the Republican primary in North Carolina earlier this month, it appears controversy may continue to plague what's left of Rep. Madison Cawthorn's first term in Congress.

The U.S. House Committee on Ethics announced an investigation Monday into allegations that Cawthorn, 26, "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," according to a press release.

The announcement, which notes that the inquiry "does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee," comes after a string of scandals involving the youngest serving member of Congress preceded Republican voters' rejection of Cawthorn at the polls.

Sen. Thom Tillis — who backed Cawthorn's primary opponent, state Sen. Chuck Edwards — called for the committee to investigate the allegation of insider trading of a cryptocurrency reported by The Washington Examiner.

Cawthorn commented in December that the currency would "go to the moon," suggesting its price would soar, on an Instagram photo of him with the hedge fund manager who runs the currency, according to the Examiner. The day after he posted the comment, the cryptocurrency announced it had sponsored a race car driver, sending shares soaring more than 75%.

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

A super PAC committed to opposing Cawthorn also urged an investigation into several matters, including the lawmaker being cited for illegal gun possession after a loaded firearm was reportedly found in his bag at a North Carolina airport and a "relationship with his House employee Mr. Stephen L. Smith," according to a letter the group sent to the committee, which alleges Smith has accepted undisclosed gifts such as free housing and travel from Cawthorn.

Cawthorn's chief of staff Blake Harp told Axios of the investigation, "We welcome the opportunity to prove that Congressman Cawthorn committed no wrongdoing and that he was falsely accused by partisan adversaries for political gain."

"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," Harp also said, according to the Axios report.

The committee's investigation would likely continue until the end of Cawthorn's term, according to The Washington Post, which also reports it could end sooner if the lawmaker decides to step down.

The House Committee on Ethics also announced it would not pursue an investigation into misdemeanor charges against Cawthorn for driving with a revoked license and speeding.

"The Committee believes that the handling of this matter by local authorities is sufficient given the facts of the matter," the panel said. "The Committee has determined to take no further action in this matter, and upon publication of this Report, considers the matter closed."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters in March that Cawthorn had "lost his trust" following controversial comments made during a podcast appearance about fellow lawmakers allegedly inviting Cawthorn to participate in orgies while others had done "key bumps of cocaine" in front of him.

Cawthorn said he was "calling out corruption" in the comments and claimed they were then "used by the left and the media to disparage my Republican colleagues and falsely insinuate their involvement in illicit activities."

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