I wish I didn’t understand a single word of that headline, but unfortunately I do. You probably do too—sorry.
On Monday, the House Committee on Ethics released a public statement, declaring that they were investigating embattled and soon-to-be-dethroned Rep. Madison Cawthorn. The alleged actions facing scrutiny: Cawthorn’s potential promotion of a cryptocurrency “in which he may have had an undisclosed financial interest,” and Cawthorn’s potential involvement with a staffer with whom he may have “engaged in an improper relationship.”
It’s not a cocaine fueled orgy, or even an airport gun, but it’s scandal nonetheless.
Following a complaint filed by an anti-Cawthorn super PAC, the Ethics Committee stated that they unanimously voted to pursue investigation on May 11. So far, the only conclusion that’s been announced is that the House won’t take action against Cawthorn for driving too fast on a suspended license.
The cryptocurrency and staffer relationship inquiries, though, are ongoing.
Cawthorn’s office didn’t immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but in a statement to Forbes, his chief of staff, Blake Harp said, “We welcome the opportunity to prove that Congressman Cawthorn committed no wrongdoing and that he was falsely accused by partisan adversaries for political gain.” He added, “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.”
In April, conservative news outlet, the Washington Examiner first reported that Cawthorn may have violated insider trading laws. The Congressman reportedly made a suspiciously prescient comment on an Instagram post regarding the Let’s Go Brandon cryptocurrency, (named for the meme/chant mocking Joe Biden).
“LGB legends…Tomorrow we go to the moon!” he wrote, according to the Washington Examiner. The next day, the currency’s value skyrocketed as NASCAR driver Brandon Brown (the “Brandon” himself), announced he would be sponsored by the memecoin.
The sponsorship later fell through when NASCAR refused to approve it (and LGBCoin has subsequently tanked). But that doesn’t change the fact that Cawthorn seemed to have known about the sponsor deal ahead of time.
The North Carolina representative may have also violated another, more basic, financial law by failing to officially disclose his stake in LGBCoin to begin with, according to a report from Insider. Legislators have to report all of their investments via specific forms, including crypto purchases.
Cawthorn, the youngest member of Congress at 26, lost his bid for re-election in last week’s primary. The vote happened amid a barrage of leaked pictures and videos of the congressman in vaguely sexual (or otherwise unbecoming of a Republican politician) situations.
And his alleged questionable actions don’t just end with inadvisable political gaffes. 160 of the representative’s former college classmates also signed an open letter detailing Cawthorn’s history of “gross misconduct towards” women. He has been accused of sexually aggressive behavior and assault by multiple women.
On top of the allegations of financial misdeeds, Cawthorn is also facing the “improper relationship with a staffer” inquiry. The staffer in question is likely, Stephen L. Smith, who is featured in one of the aforementioned videos and is mentioned in the Fire Madison PAC complaint. The congressman allegedly provided travel, lodging, and other unauthorized gifts and payments to Smith. A representative from Cawthorn’s office previously told Insider that Smith and Cawthorn are cousins—not that that necessarily absolves anything.
What we don’t know at this point is what the outcome of this ethics probe might mean for the already embattled congressman. Insider speculated that it’s not likely to end in any major consequences. At any rate, the voters of North Carolina have spoken, and hopefully Cawthorn won’t take up quite so much news bandwidth in the future.