Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) illegally spent hundreds of thousands in campaign donations, and now it’s time to pay up. Cawthorn violated campaign finance regulations by tapping into his general election fund when he had yet to win the primary which he eventually lost.
By law, candidates are required to repay advance donations made in anticipation that they would advance past the primary. But as the number of Cawthorn’s donors declined, his spending went in the opposite direction, increasing in a desperate attempt to save his campaign.
By early May of this year. the accelerated spending left the freshman representative with just a fraction of the nearly $4 million that he had raised since Jan 2021.
The congressman’s campaign spent tens of thousands on things like Chick-Fil-A, high-end cigars, and an expensive trip to Florida.
This wild spending spree was called “baffling” by a member of Cawthorn’s campaign team who told The Daily Beast that “Nobody ever did the math, which baffled me because the spending was so outrageous.”
The one-term congressman has faced controversy after controversy since the beginning of 2022.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on consulting and fundraising for his failed campaign, including direct payments to his Chief-of-Staff, Blake Harp. According to FEC filings, Harp’s consulting company received $73,237 over twice as much as senior congressional staff can legally earn.
The North Carolina Rep.’s personal relationship with Harp led to allegations of ethics violations and accusations of insider trading followed his promotion of the “pump and dump” cryptocurrency, LGBCoin.
Cawthorn’s failure to submit the required quarterly Federal Election Commission report on time – a document that would reveal the discrepancies – will add fines to what Cawthorn will need to pay back, which stood at over $220,000 as of May 5, according to the FEC report.
Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said that the campaign finance regulations are pretty explicit:
“There are few more ironclad rules in campaign finance than you can’t spend general election funds in the primary. There are strict limits on how much may be given and spent in each.”
Libowitz added that if Cawthorn spent the funds with no attempt to make restitution, “he’ll likely be in a lot of trouble with the FEC.”
Exactly how he will be held accountable remains to be seen.
Original reporting Roger Sollenberger at The Daily Beast
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