The U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee has ordered Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., to pay more than $15,000 in punitive donations and fines as a result of his violation of congressional and governmental ethics rules around a little-known digital currency.
Cawthorn, who lost the Republican nomination for his seat after a series of controversies, failed to disclose holdings in the token branded "LGB Coin" in accordance with House ethics rules and federal law, a committee investigation concluded. Cawthorn did not file required disclosures for his holdings until after an investigation began, and he promoted purchase of the token publicly after purchasing $150,000 worth of the coins.
The name of the token is a reference to "Let’s Go Brandon," a tongue-in-cheek rallying cry for critics of President Joe Biden.
On top of the “admonishment” from the House Ethics Committee, the North Carolina Republican appears to have lost virtually his entire investment, even though he violated gift rules by accepting a discount on the previously undisclosed purchase. Cawthorn estimated his current token holdings to be valued at $357.52, though the committee report on the investigation notes “the value of his remaining LGB Coin was substantially less at the time the Report was adopted, and it is unclear how Representative Cawthorn reached his estimation of the value.”
As of Nov. 19, Cawthorn reported holding 15,378,707,329 of LGB Coin.
The committee ordered Cawthorn to donate $14,237.49, the approximate value of the gift he received, to charity and pay a late disclosure fine of $1,000 to the Department of Justice.
The committee said it looked into potential fraud and insider trading around the issue but did not find sufficient evidence. However, the Ethics panel said its report should serve as an admonishment for the soon-to-be-former congressman who “acted in a manner that did not reflect creditably upon the House” in violation of House conduct rules.
The Ethics Committee also investigated allegations that Cawthorn had an inappropriate relationship with a second cousin who was employed by his office after the release of photographs involving "suggestive comments and conduct."
The panel did not find evidence of an improper relationship with an employee while Cawthorn held office, and noted that the incidents occurred before Cawthorn's time in the House and that only first cousins fall under nepotism rules.
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