Rep. Madison Cawthorn was hit with an ethics complaint after a video surfaced of one of his male staff members grabbing his crotch, raising questions about the lawmaker’s relationship with someone on his congressional payroll.
The video shows Mr. Cawthorn, 26, in the driver’s seat of a car with his scheduler Stephen Smith, 23, who is sitting in the passenger seat with his hand in his boss’s genital area.
“I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands,” Mr. Cawthorn, who uses a wheelchair because he is paraplegic, says in an embellished accent.
The video’s frame moves back to Mr. Smith, who replies, “Me too,” and Mr. Cawthorn bursts out laughing. The video, which was recorded by Mr. Smith, was first reported by The Daily Mail.
David Wheeler, the president of the American Muckrakers PAC, alleges in his complaint that Mr. Cawthorn and Mr. Smith are residing together, and included screenshots of Mr. Cawthorn’s registered address in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and Mr. Smith’s registered address on FEC filings. Both are the same.
“The committee is requested to investigate whether any House Rules or statutes were violated by the relationship between Rep. Cawthorn and his House employee Mr. Stephen L. Smith,” Mr. Wheeler stated in his complaint.
Luke Ball, a spokesperson for Mr. Cawthorn, North Carolina Republican, reportedly laughed off the complaint, saying that Mr. Smith is a cousin of Mr. Cawthorn.
Mr. Cawthorn previously described Mr. Smith in a 2017 deposition as his third cousin “once removed,” Business Insider reported, and noted that his cousin worked as a “hospitality professional” at Chick-fil-A, and was living with him.
Mr. Cawthorn did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Times.
Mr. Cawthorn seemed to be referencing the video in a recent tweet: “Many of my colleagues would be nowhere near politics if they had grown up with a cell phone in their hands.”
The camera footage is part of a series of exhibits that the group Fire Madison Cawthorn filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The allegations are reminiscent of the scandal faced by former Rep. Katie Hill, California Democrat, who resigned from office in October 2019 over a sexual relationship with a campaign staffer before she became a member of Congress. The scandal included nude photos of Ms. Hill posted online.
The complaint against Mr. Cawthorn cites violations of several House rules. The group alleges he gave thousands of dollars in loans and gifts to Mr. Smith, whom the complaint says has an inappropriate relationship with the lawmaker.
According to a Federal Election Campaign filing attached to the complaint, Mr. Smith was paid by the Cawthorn campaign and lists his address as Mr. Cawthorn’s Hendersonville, North Carolina, home.
Mr. Smith, according to the complaint, also allegedly joined Mr. Cawthorn on his honeymoon to Dubai in April 2021.
Mr. Cawthorn’s marriage ended after about eight months.
During his first year in office, Mr. Cawthorn is facing a slew of personal, political and legal issues. This includes three traffic-related offenses for driving while his license was revoked. He was stopped twice when law enforcement clocked him at nearly 90 mph.
More recently, police busted him at Charlotte Douglas International Airport for attempting to go through airline security with a firearm. This was the second time this had happened to him. The first time occurred at Asheville Regional Airport on Feb. 13, 2021.
He also angered members of his conference when he claimed an unidentified lawmaker asked him to “come to an orgy” and that he witnessed others do cocaine at a party. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Mr. Cawthorn “did not tell the truth,” and the North Carolina lawmaker later walked back the allegation.
A House Republican privately told the Times that he attempted to straighten out Mr. Cawthorn but he is “just a big mess.”