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Madison Cawthorn ordered to pay $15,237.49 in fines by House Ethics Committee for promoting 'LGB Coin' cryptocurrency he was invested in

Bryan Metzger   

Madison Cawthorn ordered to pay $15,237.49 in fines by House Ethics Committee for promoting 'LGB Coin' cryptocurrency he was invested in
  • Rep. Madison Cawthorn was fined over $15,000 by the House Ethics Committee, according to a new ethics report.
  • Cawthorn promoted a cryptocurrency named after "Let's Go Brandon," which he had personally invested in.

Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina was ordered to fork over more than $15,000 by the House Ethics Committee after improperly promoting a cryptocurrency in which he had a financial interest.

In an 81-page report released on Tuesday, the Committee on House Ethics said that its investigative subcommittee had failed to come to a consensus on whether to formally reprimand Cawthorn, but said the release of the report should "serve as an admonishment" of the congressman.

The committee's report said an investigative subcommittee couldn't reach a consensus on whether Cawthorn personally intended to profit from promoting the "LGB Coin" cryptocurrency, which is named after the "Let's Go Brandon" euphemism used to insult President Joe Biden.

But they found that Cawthorn had purchased LGB Coin on terms more favorable than those available to the general public by paying a sum "based on an over two-week-old valuation" of the cryptocurrency, thus violating House rules by accepting a gift.

On December 30, 2021, the value of all Let's Go Brandon coins in circulation eclipsed $570 million. By the end of January 2022, its market cap dropped to $0.

The Committee unanimously voted to order Cawthorn to pay $14,237.49 — the approximate value of the gift — to a charitable organization within 14 days.

He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 late filing fee and file a periodic transaction report disclosing the purchase of the cryptocurrency.

Cawthorn has failed to properly disclose his cryptocurrency trades multiple times in the last year.

While it's not illegal for Cawthorn to buy or sell the cryptocurrencies, he reported some of his transactions nearly six months after making them — well over the 45-day limit required under the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act.

By law, members of Congress must quickly and publicly report their crypto purchases in certified congressional documents, known as periodic transaction reports. Members have 30 days to report their transactions after they make them.

"While cryptocurrency promotion, particularly of a 'meme coin,' may be a novel issue before the Committee, whether a Member may promote an asset in which that Member has a financial interest is not a novel question," read the report.

That the committee took any kind of action against Cawthorn is notable in and of itself: For years, Congress has demonstrated little interest in punishing its own members for violating conflicts-of-interest laws or rules that govern how members must manage their personal finances.

This summer, for example, it allowed several members to avoid penalties or reprimands despite their clear violations of the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions.

News about the crypto purchase was originally published in the Washington Examiner, which reported that Cawthorn may be in violation of insider-trading laws. If true, such a crime would be a matter for the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate.

The committee also cleared the 27-year-old congressman, who lost re-election earlier this year, of allegations that he'd had an improper relationship with a member of his staff and had engaged in nepotism.

In clearing Cawthorn of the improper relationship, the committee's report noted "public discussion in news articles and on social media" about the "photographs and videos depicting the two of them engaging in explicit and sexually suggestive comments and conduct."

The committee said both Cawthorn and the staffer "denied having any romantic or sexual relationship." The report also said it was not nepotistic for Cawthorn to employ the man as a member of his staff, since he was "not a first cousin."

Cawthorn's congressional office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The congressman is among 75 members of Congress who have violated the disclosure requirements in the STOCK Act.

The law clarified that it was illegal for members of Congress to engage in insider trading and created disclosure requirements that allow the public to see whether their representatives can personally benefit in the votes they cast or the legislation they introduce.

Cawthorn has faced repeated controversy.

In April, officers cited him for carrying a loaded 9-millimeter handgun inside Charlotte Douglas International Airport. He was previously cited but not charged in February 2021 for trying to bring a gun onto a plane in his carry-on luggage at Asheville Regional Airport.

In March, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy publicly rebuked Cawthorn after he said on a podcast that he'd seen Washington Republicans use cocaine and that he'd been asked to participate in an orgy.

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