Madison Cawthorn facing investigation for illicit cryptocurrency promotion and sex claims by House Ethics Committee

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The House Ethics Committee has opened an investigation into claims that North Carolina Representative Madison Cawthorn committed insider trading and engaged in a sexual relationship with a male staff member in violation of House ethics rules.

In a statement, ethics committee chairman Ted Deutch and raking member Jackie Walorski said the ten-member panel had “unanimously voted” to begin the investigation, which is focused on “improperly promoted a cryptocurrency in which he may have had an undisclosed financial interest, and engaged in an improper relationship with an individual employed on his congressional staff”.

Mr Deutch and Ms Walorski added that the panel had commissioned a subcommittee to investigate the claims chaired by Texas Representative Veronica Escobar of Texas, a Democrat, with Republican Representative Michael Guest of Mississippi serving as ranking member. Delaware Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat, and Republican Michelle Fischbach of Minnesota will also serve on the subcommittee.

The investigation appears to be centered around two separate sets of allegations regarding Mr Cawthorn, who earlier this month lost his bid to run for re-election in his district on the GOP ballot line.

Multiple watchdog groups have accused Mr Cawthorn of engaging in insider trading by promoting a cryptocurrency known as the “Let’s Go Brandon” coin, named for an epithet popular among conservatives who understand it to mean “F*** Joe Biden”.

Mr Cawthorn posted on Instagram about the cryptocurrency on 29 December, just one day before Nascar driver Brandon Brown announced that “LGBCoin” would be his car’s primary sponsor for the 2022 racing season, leading the token’s value to spike.

The groups have suggested Mr Cawthorn’s 29 December post is evidence that he had foreknowledge of Mr Brown’s announcement, and because Mr Cawthorn claimed to own some “LGBCoin,” it could also show he violated federal laws against insider trading.

Mr Cawthorn was also accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with his scheduler and Americans for Disabilities Act aide, Stephen Smith.

In a video released by a super PAC opposed to his re-election, Mr Cawthorn was shown in a car stating: “I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands”.

As Mr Smith, who appeared to be filming, said “me too” in response, the camera showed him placing his hand on Mr Cawthorn’s crotch.

Mr Cawthorn, who has said he is straight, has previously described Mr Smith as his third cousin. Both have denied engaging in any sort of sexual relationship.

The North Carolina congressman had also faced an ethics complaint regarding his driving with a revoked license in his home state, but in a separate statement the ethics committee said it had voted against opening an investigation because members believed “the handling of this matter by local authorities [was] sufficient given the facts of the matter”.

A spokesperson for Mr Cawthorn did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Independent.