Tillis demanded a probe by congressional ethics investigators following a report by the Washington Examiner that said Cawthorn had raised suspicions among “multiple watchdog groups” for promoting the cryptocurrency “Let’s Go Brandon,” named for a vulgar anti-Joe Biden phrase popular with Donald Trump fans.
The Examiner published an Instagram photo posted in December showing Cawthorn posing with hedge fund manager James Koutoulas, the man behind the “Let’s Go Brandon” meme coin. In the post, Cawthorn hyped the coin, boasted that he owned it and said it would “go to the moon” the following day.
Sure enough, the following day NASCAR driver Brandon Brown announced that the cryptocurrency would be his primary sponsor in the 2022 racing season, which sent the coin’s value soaring by 75%, the Examiner reported.
NASCAR hit the brakes on the sponsorship a short time later.
According to the newspaper, the total value of the coin reached $570 million before bottoming out just a month later. The swing led to accusations of a “pump and dump” scheme, in which promoters hype an investment to drive up the price, then dump their holdings. Sucker investors are left holding deflated assets.
“This looks really, really bad,” Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, the government affairs manager for the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, told the Examiner. “This does look like a classic case of you got some insider information and acting on that information. And that’s illegal.”
An investor has already filed a class-action lawsuit against Koutoulas. Although Cawthorn is not a target of the suit, he is named as one of the “celebrities” who touted the coin.
Cawthorn didn’t respond to the Examiner, or to the Raleigh-based News & Observer, which picked up the story. However, on Instagram he blasted an unnamed senator and called him a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only). He also complained that “the establishment” was targeting him.
Cawthorn has come under fire in recent months over repeated encounters with law enforcement involving firearms and traffic offenses. He was pulled over twice for speeding, driving without a license and driving with a suspended license, according to authorities.
Then on Tuesday, Cawthorn was issued a misdemeanor citation for possession of a dangerous weapon for trying to bring a loaded handgun through a security checkpoint at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, police said.
It was the second time Cawthorn had been caught trying to slip firearms past airport security. He was stopped last year at Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina while trying to board a plane with an unloaded gun and a magazine loaded with ammunition in his carry-on bag.
At the time, he said it was just a mistake.