Politics

Madison Cawthorn Somehow May Have Committed “Let’s Go Brandon”–Related Cryptocurrency Fraud

Cawthorn, seated in a wheelchair and wearing a gray vest with a red tie, moves toward the right of the frame down a ramp off a red carpeted stage. A rally crowd and a "Save America" sign can be seen behind him.
Soon-to-be former Rep. Madison Cawthorn in Selma, North Carolina, on April 9. Allison Joyce/Getty Images

In the weeks preceding North Carolina’s May 17 primary, there were a number of ostensibly unflattering stories in circulation about Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who had made allegations about cocaine use and sex parties that, he hinted, implicated well-known Republican figures.

Irresponsible behavior is generally excused and even incentivized in the Trump GOP, and Cawthorn had engaged in a lot of it before this year without repercussion. His big mistake is thought to have been that the drug and sex allegations invited scrutiny of other Republicans in a way that had the potential to cause them problems with, like, their wives, among others. Thus was Cawthorn aired out both for things that probably don’t bear on his fitness to serve in Congress (like “gay” playacting) and things that probably do (like reckless driving and repeatedly trying to bring loaded guns through airport security). Whatever the case, it worked: Cawthorn lost his race by 1.5 percentage points to a less overtly scandalous conservative challenger.

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One story from that period concerned potential insider trading. As the Washington Examiner reported in late April, Cawthorn made an Instagram post on Dec. 29, 2021, which suggested that … let’s see here … that a kind of cryptocurrency named for the slogan “Let’s Go Brandon,” which is code for “Fuck Joe Biden” because of something that happened at a NASCAR race, was about to go “to the moon,” which is an online bro thing to say about your cryptocurrency or “stonk.” What a world.

The next day, the NASCAR driver whose actual name is Brandon announced a sponsorship deal with Let’s Go Brandon Coin, after which its price soared to an all-time high of (not making this up) one ten-thousandth of a cent or so. Since then its price has fallen back down under one ten-millionth of a cent.

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This was suspicious because it sounded like Cawthorn owned the currency and had gotten advance knowledge of the sponsorship deal that triggered the price surge. It wasn’t necessarily insider trading per se, though, because there wasn’t evidence that Cawthorn had profited by buying low and selling high.

But now some evidence to that end: According to a financial disclosure form that Cawthorn was supposed to file in February but for some reason had not filed until just now, he bought between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of LGBCoin on Dec. 21, 2021, and sold an amount of it whose value was in the same range on Dec. 31. (On Jan. 4, 2022, NASCAR rejected the sponsorship proposal. Maybe it can sponsor a Micro Machines car instead? Because it’s worth a very small amount of money!)

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What this will mean to Cawthorn legally is not clear, even apart from the question of how much profit he actually made. Part of the point of cryptocurrency is that it’s not closely regulated, although the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have taken action on crypto-related misconduct before, including, as of Wednesday, alleged insider trading. There’s been a class-action lawsuit filed against some of the other individuals involved in promoting LGBCoin, but Cawthorn is not a defendant in the case. And the House Ethics Committee says it’s investigating the matter, but Cawthorn will leave office at the end of the year.

In any case, it’s surely all been a wake-up call to this young man to get his head on straight and start taking his responsibilities and our nation’s airplane gun laws seriously.

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