Is there anything else to be said about poor young Madison Cawthorn? Well... not really, but I don't want him to just completely fade away altogether when I feel there's a good chance that he may wind up toppling Kevin McCarthy in the near future. And there is some news today: a long over-due admission of culpability in the pump-and-dump cryptocurrency scheme he's been involved with-- one that could land him in prison.
Except for teh admission, this isn't new to you if you've been following our extensive Cawthorn coverage... including the pump-and-dump scheme (like this one last week) or this one from earlier this week: "According to the Ethics Committee's press release, Cawthorn is being investigated for improperly promoting a cryptocurrency-- a pump and dump scam-- in which he had an undisclosed financial interest...The Committee didn't disclose what the charges are against Ronny Jackson and Alex Mooney, although Jackson was stealing campaign funds for private use and Mooney took a bribe in the form of an expensive family trip to Aruba. Cawthorn has been profiting from the now worthless 'Let's Go Brandon' meme cryptocurrency. The Ethics Committee empaneled a Madison Cawthorn subcommittee 2 weeks ago to investigate the charges against him. The members are Vernonica Escobar (D-TX), the chair, Michael Guest (R-MS), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Michelle Fischbach (R-MN). Cawthorn, a notorious liar, denies everything and claims the investigation is just a formality."
CNBC's report today, by Dan Mangan, brings us right up to date, pointing out that this morning Cawthorn "belatedly disclosed suspected cryptocurrency transactions that earlier this month led the House Ethics Committee to open an investigation into the North Carolina Republican's possible promotion of an asset he secretly owned." Now that the Ethics Committee-- with McCarthy's acquiescence-- is on his ass, he admitted that "he bought between $100,001 and $250,000 worth of 'Let’s Go Brandon' cryptocurrency on Dec. 21. The transaction came eight days before he wrote a Dec. 29 Instagram post that said, 'Tomorrow we go to the moon,' in response to a photo of him posing with co-founders of the coin. A day later, the dollar value of that crypto-- which is named after a derogatory phrase about Biden-- soared 75% on news of its sponsorship deal with a NASCAR driver."
That indicates that Cawthorn probably had insider information, part of the "pump" part of the scheme. In yesterday's filing, he also admitted that he "sold between $100,001 and $250,000 of 'Let’s Go Brandon' coin on Dec. 31," two days after he told his followers on Instagram that malarky about "going to the moon." as for the "dump" part of the scheme:
That sale potentially recouped at least what he had paid for the virtual currency before its dollar price exploded.
The value of the Let’s Go Brandon coin collapsed in early January after NASCAR rejected its sponsorship deal with the driver Brandon Brown.
Cawthorn’s disclosure of the transactions came four days after the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating the North Carolina Republican over his Instagram comment about the “Let’s Go Brandon” coin.
In the same House financial disclosure form filing Friday, Cawthorn also belatedly revealed that he had bought between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of Ethereum cryptocurrency on Dec. 27, and between $1,001 and $250,000 of Ethereum on Dec. 31.
Under the federal STOCK Act, members of Congress are legally required to file disclosures of the purchase and sale of stocks, bonds, commodity futures and other securities within 45 days of the transactions.
Cawthorn’s disclosure Friday came five months after the transactions he detailed.
This afternoon New Yorker columnist Peter Slevin predicted Cawthorn had reached his Icarus Moment. "In his race, 68% of voters," he wrote, "chose one of the seven candidates not named Cawthorn." He contrasted the sterile tweet one of his staffers wrote the night of his primary defeat-- "It’s time for the NC-11 GOP to rally behind the Republican ticket to defeat the Democrats’ nominee this November."-- with the more typical Cawthorn post a few days later, lumping Republicans and Democrats into an ominous "Uni-party" that had taken him down. "It’s time for the rise of the new right, it’s time for Dark MAGA to truly take command. We have an enemy to defeat, but we will never be able to defeat them until we defeat the cowardly and weak members of our own party," Cawthorn wrote, on Instagram. Under the heading "America First Patriots," he compiled a gallery of "honorable men and women," some of whom took his side. They included Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, and also Tucker Carlson, Mike Cernovich, "the great Charlie Kirk," the N.R.A., and, of course, Donald Trump, who’d endorsed Cawthorn. "He’s a genius," Cawthorn said of the former President earlier this year. "Trump is like a father to me."
It’s not at all clear what Cawthorn meant, when he threatened, after his loss, “to expose those who say and promise one thing yet legislate and work towards another, self-profiteering, globalist goal”—or whether Dark maga actually exists. According to the University of Maryland researcher Caroline Orr Bueno, Dark maga is a nascent agglomeration of trolls, gamers, white supremacists, and other right-wing figures, such as Greene and Jack Posobiec, who aim to rebrand Trumpism ahead of the 2024 Presidential race.
...More certain is that the twenty-six-year-old Cawthorn, the youngest member of Congress and one of its most audacious, flubbed his star turn in almost every way possible, via a seemingly unending series of self-inflicted calamities. The GOP establishment in North Carolina, led by Senator Thom Tillis, apparently came to despise him; a super pac connected to Tillis reportedly spent more than three hundred thousand dollars on an attack ad that said Cawthorn “lies for the limelight.” But Cawthorn also proved terrible-- negligent, his critics said-- at constituent service. Even Karl Rove cautioned Cawthorn last year to tend the home fires.
“While you can gain a national following acting like Cawthorn, you can’t build a political organization in a district without acting like Edwards,” John Hood, the president of North Carolina’s conservative John William Pope Foundation, told me a few days after Cawthorn’s defeat. “This is not ideological. The perception is, ‘He’s irresponsible.’ He obviously just got carried away with his sudden fame.” It’s a view I heard often-- Cawthorn as Icarus. A charismatic, home-schooled, college dropout with a tragic backstory, he flew into Washington and onto Fox News, only to fall just as fast. As for the future of Dark maga, Hood was dismissive. “I do not think there is some serious Dark maga movement. Aimless young men like to make things up and talk to one another.”
Cawthorn’s electoral prospects had rested on sandy soil for weeks before the election. There were the multiple tickets for speeding and charges of driving with a revoked license, the times he tried to carry a gun onto an airplane, and his claim that he had been invited to an orgy by his colleagues in Washington. Shortly after, there were the photos of him in women’s lingerie; the video of him simulating sex with another man, whom he has referred to as his cousin; the allegations of insider trading and improper relations with one of his staffers; and the time he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug.” Kevin McCarthy told Cawthorn that he had lost the House Minority leader’s trust. (Cawthorn declined my request for an interview.)
The barrage of negative news was relentless and memorable. But what most undid Cawthorn was a tactical mistake. Seven months ago, in his Republican-leaning district in the mountains of western North Carolina, Cawthorn’s path to reëlection looked smooth. His only declared primary opponents were three newcomers, who had fewer resources, and none of his skill for stoking grievance. Suddenly, however, Cawthorn jumped districts, announcing that he would leave the Eleventh and move to the newly drawn Thirteenth. The new district had no incumbent, leaned even more Republican, and included a piece of the Charlotte media market-- valuable territory as he contemplated a future run for governor. “We are taking ground for conservatism,” he declared on Twitter. “Trust me to fight for you.”
To many voters in his current district, who had trusted him to fight for them, his flight to more favorable turf was a betrayal. Cawthorn likely would have sailed to victory in the new Thirteenth, but the North Carolina Supreme Court determined that the state’s maps had been illegally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans, and ordered them redrawn. The fresh maps wiped out the new district, and, some four months after leaving the Eleventh behind, he returned to it. In the meantime, things had changed. New candidates had entered the race, most notably Edwards, a seasoned state senator, who already possessed a working political operation in the district’s most populous counties. Robert Orr, a retired North Carolina Supreme Court justice who helped draw the latest congressional maps, told me that Edwards is “vanilla, nose to the grindstone, at least as conservative, but he’s not as offensively conservative.” Establishment Republicans, seeing their chance to oust Cawthorn, rushed to support Edwards.
When I last interviewed Cawthorn, in December, 2021, he was confident that his “grassroots army” and millions of dollars in campaign donations would return him to office. But his army failed to materialize, he ran through his money—more than $3.5 million, at last count—and the powerful Republican leaders in the state ganged up on him. Senator Richard Burr, the retiring North Carolina Republican, said of Cawthorn, “On any given day, he’s an embarrassment.” Tillis, who endorsed Edwards, decried Cawthorn’s “consistent pattern of juvenile behavior, outlandish statements, and untruthfulness.” I asked Orr, the former North Carolina Supreme Court justice, about the reaction to Cawthorn’s defeat. “Up in the mountains, I think there was a sense of relief,” Orr said. “I haven’t heard any bitterness.” Hood agreed. Many state leaders and donors saw him as a threat to the Party’s fortunes in a closely divided state; others had feared running afoul of him.
...Cawthorn, meanwhile, has seven months left in Congress. He faces a House Ethics Committee investigation and court dates to defend his driving record and attempt to carry a loaded gun onto an airplane in Charlotte. On Monday, after the ethics investigation was announced, Cawthorn tweeted, “Wow-- I must still be a problem for the swamp! They’re still coming after me!” He remains a proven draw at G.O.P. gatherings, notably for Turning Point USA, the high-energy organization for young conservatives run by his friend and ally Charlie Kirk. Does Cawthorn have a political future in North Carolina? “Redemption is always possible,” Hood said. “He’s going to have to basically rebuild his life on a more stable foundation.” Cawthorn, he said, should not be counted out. “He still almost won.”