Fresh accusations of ethics violations against North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn are testing the inflammatory congressman’s reelection run, adding to a list of scandals that have put the once-rising far-right star at odds with some members of his own party.
Cawthorn, the youngest member of Congress, has faced sexual misconduct allegations from during his time in college. After the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, he said “bloodshed” would follow should there be more “stolen” elections. He recently called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug.”
Then, on a conservative podcast in March, Cawthorn spoke about being invited to what he described as cocaine-fueled orgies held by fellow lawmakers in Washington, D.C. He’s also been charged twice with driving with a revoked license, most recently in early March.
The recent emergence of salacious photos showing Cawthorn in lingerie could also likely rub conservative voters the wrong way. Cawthorn dismissed them as “goofy vacation photos” that were taken “during a game on a cruise” long before he ran for Congress.
Last week, Cawthorn continued to grab headlines: He was detained, but not charged, for attempting to bring a loaded gun through North Carolina airport security, his second such attempt in just over a year. The congressman was also hit with allegations of insider trading related to an anti-Biden cryptocurrency.
Republicans, who are working to win back control of the House in the midterm elections, have stepped up pressure on Cawthorn in response to the mounting controversies.
But it’s unclear what effect any of it will have on Cawthorn’s reelection prospects.
Some voters in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District have tired of the drama surrounding Cawthorn but don’t appear ready to vote against him despite criticism from within the GOP, member station WFAE reported before the most recent revelations against the congressman.
For his part, Cawthorn has embraced the criticism, framing it as a “coordinated assault against me and my reelection.”
According to the conservative newspaper The Washington Examiner, which first reported the purported financial scheme, Cawthorn allegedly had information that the “Let’s Go Brandon” crypto coin — currency he has said he owns — would sponsor NASCAR driver Brandon Brown a day before that was made public.
The news renewed criticism from North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis. “There needs to be a thorough and bipartisan inquiry into the matter by the House Ethics Committee,” he said on Twitter.
In response to what he calls a “coordinated drip campaign,” Cawthorn, who has largely blamed Democrats for the criticism, is now taking aim at “RINOs” and establishment Republicans.
“I want to change the GOP for the better, and I believe in America First,” he tweeted on Friday. Cawthorn, who is 26 years old, added, “I can understand the establishment attacking those beliefs, but just digging stuff up from my early 20s to smear me is pathetic.”
Now, a political action group run by North Carolina Democrats in Cawthorn’s district is pushing for an ethics investigation.
The PAC, called American Muckrakers, is waging a campaign to unseat the first-term congressman. On Wednesday, the group asked the House Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Cawthorn after he was cited for attempting to bring a loaded gun through security at a Charlotte airport. The ethics complaint also points to the congressman’s alleged insider trading, repeated attempts to bringing weapons into prohibited spaces, and an alleged inappropriate financial relationship with a younger staffer.
David Wheeler, president of the PAC, told The New York Times that his group was formed to “hold Cawthorn accountable.”
Wheeler told the paper that it’s not the Republicans in Washington but those in North Carolina who have been working toward that same goal, by digging up dirt on Cawthorn.