Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., spent campaign funds meant for the general election and can’t pay back donors, according to a recent report. The controversial Republican, who lost his primary bid in May, may be in violation of campaign finance rules.
A report from The Daily Beast on Saturday revealed that Cawthorn’s campaign had spent all the money meant for his general campaign during his failed primary bid and that the campaign cannot return the donations. His campaign allegedly “held twice as much debt as hit had cash on hand.” An anonymous source called the spending “outrageous.”
Cawthorn did not just spend his primary election funds, he also spent general election funds. The problem is that candidates cannot spend general election funds unless they win their primary.
Cawthorn’s campaign has around 2% of the $3.7 million they raised since January 2021 — about $137,000 on hand and $325,000 in debt owed. The spending includes $1,500 spent at Chick-Fil-A and $21,000 for lodging in Florida.
Spending includes hundreds of thousands of consulting fees to Cawthorn’s friend and campaign manager Blake Harp. Cawthorn also allegedly paid Harp beyond the federal limit for campaign managers.
According to campaign finance law, Cawthorn’s campaign now has to repay all those funds, but it failed to do so. Some individuals he owes money to include his Republican colleagues Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
The Federal Election Commission will also fine the campaign for being a week late disclosing the debt.
Cawthorn, 26, might face further consequences if he continues not paying, according to Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
However, Cawthorn has some options to keep himself out of trouble. He could ask some of his biggest donors to his campaign to pay back those who donated to him. He could also use his own money to pay off the debt and pay back donors. Cawthorn could run again and start a new campaign to raise the money, but his list of allies is thin amid multiple scandals that cost him support in the primaries.
Cawthorn lost his reelection bid to Chuck Edwards, a state senator.