Madison Cawthorn's Surprising Campaign Finance Report Will Probably Get Him Fined

By Roberta Elliot | Thursday, 18 August 2022 05:15
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Outgoing Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) faces a harsh fine for offering his campaign finance report nearly a month late to the Federal Election Commission.

Cawthorn reported Sunday that his campaign had just $1,500 ready at the end of June after lavishly spending the $4.2 million he had raised since the start of 2021. Even though Cawthorn donated $208,000 to his campaign on June 30, it entered July with $305,000 in immense debts, the bulk of which were owed to an LLC owned by his chief of staff, Blake Harp.

“The closing out of a large campaign can sometimes take more time than anticipated,” Harp told WRAL News last week.

Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the Washington Examiner that FEC fines for late filings are based on a formula that takes into account how many days late the report is filed, as well as the campaign's fundraising and spending during the period noted.

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Cawthorn meets an assessed fine of $17,141 for being 29 days late filing his report, which revealed just over $1 million in total receipts and distributions, according to the FEC's administrative fine calculator.

Whether or not Cawthorn or his campaign will have to pay a fine will be concluded by a vote by the FEC's six commissioners, the Citizen-Times reported.

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Cawthorn selected himself as his campaign's treasurer and custodian of records on July 15, a move that could reveal him to personal liability if the FEC follows through on its threat to fine his campaign for its late reporting.

Cawthorn's campaign also refunded $248,000 in contributions between late April and the end of June, the filing reveals.

The reimbursements appear to have gone to large-dollar donors who had donated to Cawthorn's general election fund before his May 17 primary loss to state Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-NC). Cawthorn was required to refund those contributions within 60 days of his primary defeat.

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Cawthorn's campaign also spent $2,000 at a private golf club in western North Carolina, $1,800 at a high-end tobacco shop in Asheville, $710 at Hobby Lobby, $602 at the Papas Beer restaurant, and $529 at Chick-fil-A between late April and the end of June, the filing shows.

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The FEC previously threatened Cawthorn with legal enforcement action for failing to file his campaign finance report covering the time period between late April and the end of June, which was originally due on July 15.

The looming FEC fine against Cawthorn comes as the outgoing lawmaker faces a House Ethics Committee investigation over allegations that he engaged in an insider trading scheme related to the "Let's Go Brandon" meme cryptocurrency.

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