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House panel directs Cawthorn to pay fine for improper crypto purchase

The House Ethics Committee has directed Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) to pay more than $14,000 following an investigation into his promotion of a cryptocurrency but found no evidence that he had an improper relationship with a staff member. 

The committee announced in a release on Tuesday that it unanimously approved a report on Thursday from its Investigative Subcommittee regarding allegations that Cawthorn might have promoted a cryptocurrency while having an undisclosed financial interest and had a relationship with his staffer. 

The investigation began in May, about a week after Cawthorn lost his primary election to Republican state Sen. Chuck Edwards after a series of scandals, including the two that led to the ethics probe. 

The subcommittee found “substantial evidence” that Cawthorn promoted a “Let’s Go Brandon” cryptocurrency, with its name coming from the slogan criticizing President Biden, in which he had financial interest in violation of rules against conflict of interest. 

The report states that Cawthorn failed to file timely reports to the House disclosing his transactions, but the subcommittee did not find that he knowingly or willfully failed to do so. But Cawthorn is still required to pay late fees for not filing the disclosures in a timely manner. 

The subcommittee also found that Cawthorn purchased the cryptocurrency on more generous terms than were available to the public, which is considered an improper gift. 

Cawthorn is being directed to pay $14,237.49 to “an appropriate charitable organization” by Dec. 31 and send $1,000 in late fees to the Treasury Department within 14 days of the report’s release as a result of the improper gift and late disclosures. He also must submit a report disclosing his purchase of the cryptocurrency within 14 days of the report’s release. 

Multiple news articles and social media discussed whether Cawthorn had a romantic or sexual relationship with a staff member of his following the release of photos and videos showing them engaging in “explicit and sexually suggestive” comments and conduct, but the probe did not find evidence of one. 

Both Cawthorn and the staff member denied having any relationship, and all witnesses that the subcommittee interviewed said there was no improper relationship. Witnesses also said the “close relationship” between Cawthorn and the staff member did not create an “unfair work environment.” 

The subcommittee also established that any depictions of sexual or otherwise inappropriate comments or conduct happened before Cawthorn’s term in the House began and are outside the investigation’s jurisdiction. 

The Hill has reached out to Cawthorn’s office for comment.