Outgoing Republican congressman Madison Cawthorn has been fined $15,000 by the House Ethics Committee for pumping the short-lived Let’s Go Brandon coin and, in the process, breaking conflict of interest rules.
Let’s Go Brandon (LGB) was a meme-inspired crypto associated with an offensive anti-Joe Biden chant and was dubbed “America’s Free Speech Coin.” It was also briefly approved as a Nascar sponsor in December 2021 but the sport’s governing body blocked the deal, claiming that it had been given the go-ahead by an employee without the authorization to do so.
During the NASCAR fallout, Cawthorn promoted LGB in numerous social media posts and purchased $150,000 worth of the coin. The currency rose in price following the NASCAR announcement but later plummeted 73% when the sponsorship was nixed.
The committee report details how Cawthorn sold his LGB for ether in stages: $105,000 was sold on December 30, $33,420 on January 4, and $27,998 on January 27. This resulted in a potential $166,418 recoup and ~11% gain. The NASCAR sponsorship was announced on December 30 and pulled on January 4.
The crypto was later rebranded in March to LETSGO, and is now down 99% from its all-time high.
Cawthorn kept his crypto purchases/sales under wraps and continued to promote the token after the price drop, ultimately resulting in the $14,237.49 fine that Cawthorn has been told he must donate to charity. Maybe unsurprisingly, Cawthron says he’ll split the $15,000 between a gun lobby and a medical center.
The report published by the committee on Tuesday read: “The ISC found that Representative Cawthorn improperly promoted LGB Coin, in violation of applicable conflict of interest rules.”
No insider trading here
The investigation was launched in May 2022 based on allegations of Cawthorn pumping and dumping LGB coin. However, the investigation couldn’t “reach a consensus as to whether Representative Cawthorn intended to personally profit from his promotional activity,” the report read (our emphasis).
According to the report, “There is not clear evidence on the record showing Witness 1 gave Representative Cawthorn nonpublic, material information or that Representative Cawthorn purposefully sold his LGB coin in order to gain a maximum return on his investment.”
Cawthorn told the committee he had “no knowledge of this sponsorship before it was public” and that “it was clear that a reasonable person could infer, based on the NASCAR-styled number 68 in the background of the publicly posted graphic, that [LGB Coin] may have secured a sponsorship.”
The investigation also looked into “improper relations” with congressional staff but concluded no rules had been broken.