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Madison Cawthorn Targeted by Federal Election Commission

After high-flying campaign, he’s broke, busted and disgusted

In a message to constituents on Instagram, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) shows off his cigar

BY TOM FIEDLER, Asheville Watchdog

Fancy cigars. Four-figure dinner tabs. Coast-to-coast luxury travel and stays at swanky hotels. Generous gifts to friends, and lucrative payouts to Republican advisors and cronies. Madison Cawthorn’s re-election campaign was rolling in money.

But now, following his defeat in the May 17 Republican primary, the money’s all gone. And federal officials want to know where it went.

In a bluntly worded letter dated Aug. 1 — Cawthorn’s 27th birthday — the Federal Election Commission warned that unless Cawthorn “immediately” submits a report that was due July 15, he faces fines of about $1,000 a day, an audit, or even “legal enforcement action.” The report must detail how he handled more than $3.65 million in campaign contributions, fully listing all his donors and the amounts they gave, and providing a full account of where he spent it. 


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The Fall and Rise and Fall of Madison Cawthorn

From “douche crew” leader to Congress to late-night punch line

Before the luxury travel, before the payroll padding at taxpayer expense, before the sexually suggestive photos and social-media messaging, they were the “douche crew,” the name 20-year-old Madison Cawthorn gave to himself and his buddies. 

Cawthorn assembled his circle of friends as a student at Patrick Henry College in northern Virginia in the fall of 2016, and he remains at the center of its successor pack as the high-profile, far-right, Trump-embraced congressman representing North Carolina’s 11th District, which covers most of the state’s western mountain counties.

Cawthorn was “the ringleader of a cohort of, let’s be honest, rich kids … a group of classmates known as ‘The Douche Crew’,” one schoolmate wrote on the website Medium. The tightly knit gang became well known on campus for frat-boy pranks, for parties at Cawthorn’s off-campus house,


Our Man in Congress: Cawthorn Races From Reckless to a Possible Reckoning

Outrageous comments get him publicity and money, but traffic citations might land him in jail.

There is sexual perversion, drug use among GOP colleagues, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) tells interviewer

It seems only yesterday that Congressman Madison Cawthorn’s most newsworthy achievements were his citations for repeatedly violating motor-vehicle laws, including “extreme speeding” while driving his father’s car with a revoked license.

Since the traffic citations came to light last month, the 26-year-old Republican from Hendersonville earned bipartisan rebukes in Congress for calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and Ukraine “incredibly evil” — charges that won him accolades on Russian state television.

He then told a right-wing YouTube channel host that unnamed Republican lawmakers in Washington “in their 60s and 70s” had invited him to “orgies” and that he had witnessed them snorting cocaine.

And on April 4 , he took to the House floor to lecture Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a grandmother of nine — on biology. “I never imagined that one of my sacred duties in this hallowed chamber would be explaining to the House Speaker the difference between a man and a woman,” Cawthorn announced.


Echoes From Civil War Reverberate In Challenge to Cawthorn Re-election

Does Constitution disqualify him for office?

Young guns: Rep. Madison Cawthorn, left, and Rep. Zebulon Vance in 1859 // Library of Congress

[This article was updated Feb. 1 to include a legal response from Rep. Cawthorn’s campaign.]

To former Army Gen. Joseph C. Abbott, a candidate seeking to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Capitol, his opponent was both unworthy to hold the office and disqualified by law. Never mind, Abbott said, that his opponent from western North Carolina had voter support and powerful political backing; the man had aided “an insurrection” and violated a sacred oath to “support the Constitution.”

The election that concerned Abbott was in 1870. His opponent was an unrepentant former Confederate colonel, an Asheville native whose name and legacy looms large in local and North Carolina history: 

Zebulon Baird Vance.   

Those charges from a century and a half ago are echoed in a pending challenge by 11 North Carolina Republican voters alleging that Rep.


Cawthorn’s Uncivil War

Congressman’s invasion into new district is triggering an intra-party reckoning

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, and Rep. Mark Walker at an American Renewal Project event in October. In return for Trump's blessing, Walker will not oppose Cawthorn ally Ted Budd for U.S. Senate.

When Madison Cawthorn revealed his plan to abandon western North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District to seek reelection in a neighboring — and seemingly friendlier — district, he exuded confidence, even cockiness, about the outcome.

“We are taking ground for constitutional conservatism,” he wrote on Twitter, describing his move into the adjacent 13th District as if leading a righteous crusade into infidel territory. Otherwise, the 26-year-old Republican added, “I’m afraid that another establishment, go-along-to-get-along Republican would prevail there. I will not let that happen.” 

Initially his bravado in jumping the district line — a legal, though rare move — seemed politically sound and his victory assured. As a rising media star on the GOP’s far-right fringe and armed with the endorsement of ex-President Trump, Cawthorn had raised $2.3 million toward reelection by the end of September, with more pouring in. 


Cawthorn Pointedly Defies Laws Banning Weapons on School Property

In latest incident, a short dagger in his pants

Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaking Oct. 5 at Western Carolina University (photo: David Wheeler)

[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include yet another complaint, at end of story.]

For the second time in as many months, Rep. Madison Cawthorn faces a potential criminal complaint for carrying a weapon — in the latest incident, a “combat” automatic knife similar to a switchblade — in a public school building.  

The 26-year-old freshman Congressman was photographed Tuesday night at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee with the knife handle protruding from his pants pocket. 

Enlarged view of knife clip

It appeared to be a different knife than the one he was seen carrying three weeks ago during an appearance before the Henderson County Board of Education. That also prompted a citizen complaint to be filed with Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin. 

Griffin, a Republican,


Batchelor Withdraws from GOP Primary Race to Replace Cawthorn in NC11

The field of challengers to Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn’s renomination narrowed Sunday with the withdrawal of Army veteran and Haywood County deputy sheriff Eric Batchelor.

Batchelor sent an email to supporters early Sunday announcing the suspension of his intra-party challenge to the first-term incumbent. But he added that his decision was intended to improve the chances of the remaining three announced challengers to stop Cawthorn from winning renomination as the Western North Carolina representative.

“With myself and three others challenging Cawthorn in the primary, the vote is split so that he will probably still emerge as the victor,” Batchelor wrote in an early-morning email. “I have met with two of the three remaining candidates and they understand the consequences of our high numbers as well.”

Under North Carolina election law, a candidate needs only 30 percent of the vote in a primary election to secure a party nomination. In a multi-candidate field,


“It’s going to lead to one place … bloodshed.” What Madison Cawthorn said to supporters

“We need to be storing up some ammunition,” Congressman says

Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaks to Macon County GOP supporters on Aug. 29 (YouTube)

Congressman Madison Cawthorn, Republican representing western North Carolina, spoke this week to Macon County Republicans in Franklin. The organizer estimated the crowd at more than 200 people. The Macon County Republican Party posted a 1-hour, 28-minute video on its Facebook page, but removed it after Cawthorn’s remarks attracted nationwide scrutiny. A copy of the video can be found on YouTube here.

During remarks that were frequently interrupted with applause and cheers from the overwhelmingly white, unmasked crowd, Cawthorn, holding a shotgun he was asked to sign, says the Second Amendment is not for hunting or target shooting but rather for fighting tyranny. He advises the crowd to begin stockpiling ammunition for what he says is likely American-versus-American “bloodshed” over unfavorable election results.

He repeats his claims that the American election system is “rigged” and that the 2020 election was “stolen” from Donald Trump,


The Man Who Would Be Sheriff: Buncombe Candidate Vows to Make Everything Right

“The biggest terrorist organization right now is the United States government"

David Hurley, candidate for Buncombe County Sheriff, speaks to supporters in Asheville

[This article has been modified since it was originally published. A correction notice has been added.]

Under a Carolina-blue sky, shaded by the oaks framing Pack Square, the small crowd formed a loose, attentive circle around a man speaking and gesticulating with the fervor of a revivalist. This was David Hurley, 37, a candidate to become the Buncombe county sheriff in 2022. 

But, he told the crowd, he wouldn’t be your typical sheriff. 

Hurley described a “constitutional sheriff,” a kind of super authority who would reign supreme over all law enforcement, more powerful than mayors, county commissioners, the governor and — when it came to local matters — even the president.

“The sheriff is the ultimate power in America,” Hurley declared, pacing inside the circle. “It’s been the best-kept secret that they didn’t want to get out.


As Hospitals Elsewhere Mandate Vaccines for Staff, Mission and Others Resist

Despite "critical" need, administrators fear workers will quit

A choice to be made between an individual and their doctor

The largest healthcare providers in Western North Carolina, including Mission Hospital in Asheville, confirmed this week that they are not requiring doctors, nurses, volunteers, or other hospital staff to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus despite a resurgence of infections and hospitalizations.

Most of the other major hospital systems in the state have made full vaccinations mandatory, citing staff and patient safety as a highly contagious COVID-19 variant spreads nationwide, almost entirely among people who have not been vaccinated or are only partly vaccinated.

Hospital administrators and clinical leaders say they agree that vaccinations represent the most effective way to stop the pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans, including hundreds of people in Asheville and surrounding communities.

Few people are more familiar with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic than hospital workers. Even so, hospital administrators in Western North Carolina — where science and politics are not always compatible — said nurses,