Madison Cawthorn's campaign disclosure woes continue after misreporting his own donation

Danielle Battaglia, The News & Observer on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s troubles with the Federal Election Commission continued Wednesday when he reported to the agency that he had failed to disclose an additional $235,566 he gave his campaign in the most recent quarter beyond what he told them three days earlier.

Cawthorn already drew the regulatory agency’s ire by failing to turn in his campaign finance report due July 15 that was meant to show donations and expenses between April 28 and June 30. The FEC sent Cawthorn a letter on Aug. 1 — his birthday — telling the freshman congressman that for every day that passed since it was due he was incurring a hefty fine.

Cawthorn submitted that report Sunday, the last day the FEC would have accepted it before deeming it so late that there was no hope of receiving it. That would have created bigger problems for the Republican.

But on Wednesday, the additional cash, the use of his former treasurer’s signature on the document and paying off debts to three companies forced him to amend his already month-late campaign finance report.

Brett Kappel, an attorney with Harmon Curran focused on campaign finance, lobbying and government ethics law cases, said that the signature issue is more of a problem for his former treasurer than for Cawthorn.

“The bigger problem for them will be that when he first filed this report, he was like 29 days late, and then he admitted two days later to disclosing ... contributions that he hasn’t reported earlier in the week,” Kappel said. “Whenever you file an amended report with a discrepancy like that, you get a letter from the FEC that says, ‘Your amended report shows an increase in contributions of $200,000. Would you care to explain that?’”


What Kappel said he doesn’t think the FEC will be bothered by is who signed the original document, though he said it shows incompetence in Cawthorn’s campaign.

After he lost his May 17 primary to a Republican opponent, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, Cawthorn parted ways with his treasurer, Thomas Datwyler, for unknown reasons. Despite that, Datwyler’s electronic signature had shown up on the report Cawthorn filed Sunday.

Cawthorn named himself treasurer after Datwyler’s departure — a risky move that means Cawthorn is now directly responsible and at fault for any problems with his reporting. Once Cawthorn failed to turn in his report on time, he began accruing a fine that is now above $17,000.

“A normal and competent campaign, when they replace the treasurer, they would have gotten a new treasurer,” Kappel said. “It is not all that uncommon when someone is a failed candidate, or is going to be leaving Congress, for the former member to take over as the treasurer, although if they had a lawyer who was competent, they would advise them not do that because they are exposing them to personal liability.”


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