Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), a politician who has made it a point to rail against colleagues who “love wasting your hard-earned tax dollars,” appears to have used more taxpayer money on lodging and food related to his staff retreat than almost anyone else in Congress.
Members of Congress are permitted to fund annual staff visits to their home district. While just over half, or 286 of Congress’s 435 members, spent nothing on such retreats, according to The Washington Examiner, Cawthorn spent just shy of $5,000—almost five times the average spent by the 147 other offices that allocated money to such events. House disbursement records show that only Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) spent more.
The largest single expenditure by Cawthorn’s office was $2,950 to Skylaranna, a resort just outside of Asheville, N.C. that describes itself as a “boutique mountain hotel” with “luxury suites.” In the same week in early August, the Examiner explains, Cawthorn billed taxpayers $556 for four separate grocery runs, $491 after a trip to Papa’s and Beer Mexican Restaurant, two visits to Chick-fil-A totaling $382, a purchase from at Joey’s NY Bagels for $53, a stop at Bojangles costing $47, and two undescribed payments totaling $455 to his Citibank government card service. The 26-year-old lawmaker classified all the payments as “legislative planning food and beverage” expenses.
The representative’s expenditures contradict his go-to talking point of criticizing “wasting tax dollars.” In fact, in the very days his office undertook the spending spree, Cawthorn tweeted attacks on purported government waste and spendthrift politicians.
Democratic politicians certainly love wasting your hard-earned tax dollars while forcing your businesses to shut down.— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) August 6, 2021
NC-11 is sick and tired of our hard-earned tax dollars being spent on these trillion-dollar socialist monstrosities.— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) August 8, 2021
They’re OUR dollars, not the socialists.
Cawthorn’s communications director, Luke Ball, defended the purchases to the Examiner: “Our district retreat occurred on those dates; those expenses were for the district and D.C. staff on the retreat. Nearly every office on Capitol Hill has a district retreat and a budget specifically designated for one.” Ball’s quote did not address the majority of representatives whose records reflect no such expenditures, nor his boss’s nearly unmatched spending.
Shortly after coming to Capitol Hill in 2021, Cawthorn told his GOP colleagues that he had “built my staff around comms rather than legislation.” Nonetheless, Cawthorn, like other members of Congress, can pay for up to two legislative planning events with staff a year. Rules stipulate the events are not supposed to be “primarily social in nature.”
As a member of Congress, Cawthorn, a staunch ally of former president Donald Trump, has attracted regular controversy, making himself an unusually prominent first-term legislator. Recently, his Republican colleagues have complained about his allegation that more senior D.C. lawmakers attend orgies and use cocaine. Both of his state’s sitting Republican senators have publicly criticized the congressman. One of them, Thom Tillis, has backed his primary challenger, saying that Cawthorn has “fallen well short of the most basic standards Western North Carolina expects from their representatives.”