Just weeks before he’s set to exit Congress, the House Ethics Committee released its report Tuesday on Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s (R-NC) cryptocurrency scandal, ordering him to pay more than $14,000 toward a charity and a $1,000 fine following “substantial evidence” that he promoted a “Let’s Go Brandon” coin that he had an undisclosed financial interest in.
According to the 81-page report, Cawthorn had purchased a number of Let’s Go Brandon coins and urged another witness cited in the report to “pump this up so much” before publicly promoting the coin in an Instagram comment. But Cawthorn did not disclose his vested stake in the coin before publicly promoting it—a violation of House rules.
Cawthorn told investigators he meant to “publicly tell people” he owned Let’s Go Brandon coins, but evidently forgot.
On Dec. 31, 2021, two days after commenting on an Instagram post that Let’s Go Brandon coin was headed “to the moon”—a colloquial expression in the crypto community for exponential gains—Cawthorn sold 65,841,651,026 Let’s Go Brandon coins, which made up 36.58 percent of his total owned coins. He made an approximate 93 percent return on his investment, according to the report.
According to investigators, Cawthorn said he originally bought the coin to “connect with his generation, poke fun at a political opponent, and address the government’s control of currency.”
Cawthorn announced Tuesday he will donate half of the charity-directed fines toward the Firearms Policy Coalition and half toward the Shepherd Brain and Spinal Cord Center.
The report also addresses allegations that Cawthorn had an inappropriate relationship with a staffer. The committee’s investigation of that allegation found “no evidence” of such a relationship, and noted there was “no evidence of an unprofessional office environment, and found that Representative Cawthorn did not violate House Rules or laws relating to nepotism.”
It’s an imperfect ending to a rocky two years in Congress for Cawthorn, who lost his primary in May. Not only did he turn heads after alleging members of Congress were having orgies and doing key bumps of cocaine on the regular, he also faced multiple run-ins with the law while driving or traveling.
Just 27 years old, Cawthorn has not yet announced his plans for after his term ends in January, but he has intimated some involvement with GOP politics. He said after he lost his primary this year that the GOP should embrace “dark MAGA” positions—presumably a harder turn toward former President Donald Trump’s tactics—and Cawthorn was the only sitting member of Congress to show up to Trump’s announcement speech for another presidential run in November.
This spring, government ethics watchdogs also raised alarms in response to The Daily Beast’s reporting about what appeared to be excessive Cawthorn campaign payouts to his chief-of-staff. The campaign drew further scrutiny a month later for apparently misappropriating donations, and has since gone bust, with only $12,000 in the bank as of Oct. 19.
But Cawthorn recently signaled that, while he may be exiting the Capitol doors, he doesn’t intend to get out of the political fundraising game. On Nov. 28, he converted his campaign committee to a leadership PAC, called “MADISON PAC,” which will allow him to support political allies, as well as tap the account for what amounts to a personal “slush fund.” It’s a reversal: Cawthorn terminated his old, broke leadership PAC the day after he lost.
Roger Sollenberger contributed to this report.