House Panel to Investigate Cawthorn Tie to Crypto, Alleged Relationship With Staffer

May 23, 2022 by Dan McCue
House Panel to Investigate Cawthorn Tie to Crypto, Alleged Relationship With Staffer
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., speaks to supporters and the media at his primary election night watch party in Hendersonville, N.C., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that it has begun an investigation into allegations Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., improperly promoted a cryptocurrency and engaged in an “inappropriate relationship” with a member of his staff.

The committee did not elaborate on the allegations. 

In a notice on its website, it said Reps. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, and Michael Guest, R-Miss., would serve as chair and ranking member respectively, of a newly formed subcommittee to look into the allegations.

The two other members of the panel are Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn.

“No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with committee rules,” the announcement said.

Monday’s developments come a month after Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., called on Congress to conduct a “thorough and bipartisan inquiry” into allegations that Cawthorn may have engaged in insider trading involving his holdings of Let’s Go Brandon coin, a cryptocurrency that gets its name from a meme mocking President Joe Biden.

“Insider trading by a member of Congress is a serious betrayal of their oath, and Congressman Cawthorn owes North Carolinians an explanation,” Tillis said in a Twitter post.

Tillis raised his concerns after the Washington Examiner reported government watchdogs had told it Cawthorn may have broken federal insider trading laws, which restrict investors from profiting off nonpublic information.

As has so often been the case with Cawthorn, who lost his bid for reelection in last week’s North Carolina primary, a photo is also playing a part in stoking the allegations against him.

The photo, posted on Instagram by James Koutoulas, a lawyer and fund manager who is said to be a co-founder of the crypto company, captures Cawthorn at a party with, among others, Erik Norden, another co-founder of the cryptocurrency.

Among the comments posted with the photo is one from Cawthorn’s official Instagram account. It says, “Tomorrow we go to the moon!”

Less than 24 hours after the photo was posted, the racing team of the NASCAR driver Brandon Brown, Brandonbilt Motorsports, announced that Let’s Go Brandon coin had been signed as its primary partner for the 2022 season.

According to published reports, the value of the cryptocurrency briefly skyrocketed, but it soon cratered when NASCAR rejected the sponsorship deal.

As for the allegations involving Cawthorn’s relationship with a staffer, they appear to stem from an ethics complaint drafted by a group calling itself Fire Madison Cawthorn.

As part of its complaint, the group included a video, later obtained by London’s Daily Mail newspaper, that shows Cawthorn in a car with his close aide and his scheduler, Stephen Smith.

Cawthorn sits in the driver’s seat apparently filmed by Smith as he adopts an exaggerated accent and says, “I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.”

The camera then pans back to Smith who says, “Me too,” as Cawthorn can be heard laughing. Smith then films himself reaching his hand over and into Cawthorn’s crotch.

In a tweet on May 4, Cawthorn responded to publication of the video by saying, “A new hit against me just dropped. Years ago, in this video, I was being crass with a friend, trying to be funny. We were acting foolish, and joking. That’s it. I’m NOT backing down. I told you there would be a drip drip campaign. Blackmail won’t win. We will.”

The Well News reached out to Cawthorn’s office seeking his response to the Ethics Committee announcement.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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