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VOL. 46 | NO. 20 | Friday, May 20, 2022

Ethics panel opens investigation into GOP's Madison Cawthorn

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations that Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn had a conflict of interest in a cryptocurrency he promoted and engaged in an improper relationship with a member of his staff, the panel said Monday.

The investigation is just the latest moment of high-profile scrutiny for the North Carolina Republican, who will be leaving Congress at the end of the year after losing his primary race last week to state Sen. Chuck Edwards. Cawthorn's defeat came despite support for his reelection bid from former President Donald Trump.

Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from Texas, and Rep. Michael Guest, a Republican from Mississippi, will lead the review of Cawthorn. The panel cautioned that the opening of the investigation does not mean that he violated House rules.

In a statement, the congressman's chief of staff, Blake Harp said they "welcome the opportunity to prove that Congressman Cawthorn committed no wrongdoing and that he was falsely accused by partisan adversaries for political gain."

The allegations of a potential conflict of interest stem from an April article in the Washington Examiner that reported Cawthorn may have violated federal insider trading laws when he promoted the meme coin LGB, named for the chant "Let's Go Brandon" mocking President Joe Biden.

Cawthorn promoted the LGB coin in a Dec. 29 Instagram post where he was pictured with the hedge fund manager of the cryptocurrency. The next day, NASCAR driver Brandon Brown announced a deal with the coin, raising questions about whether Cawthorn had advanced nonpublic knowledge of the announcement, according to the Examiner.

The committee did not provide any further details on Cawthorn's alleged "improper relationship."

The 26-year-old lawmaker's political career has been upended by a series of salacious headlines that contributed to his downfall in last week's primary. Since October, he has been stopped by the police three times — two in which he was cited for speeding and one for driving with a revoked license. He's been caught with guns at airport checkpoints twice in the past year, including three weeks ago. And in March, as the Russian invasion into Ukraine was deepening, Cawthorn called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a "thug" even as many of his GOP colleagues were pledging support for Ukraine's government.

Shortly after that, Cawthorn further infuriated his GOP colleagues when he alleged on a podcast that he had been invited to an orgy in Washington and that he had seen leaders in the movement to end drug addiction use cocaine. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reprimanded him publicly for the remarks.

In the final weeks of Cawthorn's primary campaign videos emerged that showed him in sexually suggestive poses, which he has said were from several years ago and were meant to be funny.

Cawthorn has acknowledged the speeding and gun citations as failings, but has dismissed the videos as part of a "drip campaign" by his political enemies, of which he has included some establishment Republicans, to drive him out of Congress.

"I am on a mission now to expose those who say and promise one thing yet legislate and work towards another, self-profiteering, globalist goal," Cawthorn said in social media post after losing his primary last week. "It's time for the rise of the new right, it's time for Dark MAGA to truly take command."

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