An anti-Madison Cawthorn political group filed an ethics complaint against the embattled freshman lawmaker on Thursday, alleging he has an inappropriate personal relationship with one of his staffers.

The group uncovered video footage of Cawthorn's staffer, Stephen Smith, touching the lawmaker's crotch as the two apparently spoke jokingly in sexual innuendos. The group's complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics alleged that Cawthorn, a North Carolina Republican, provided free housing, travel, and gifts to the staffer in excess of the $250 limit allowed by House rules.

"Mr. Smith apparently lives with Rep. Cawthorn and various social media postings by them indicate a personal relationship between them, separate and apart from the professional relationship of employer and employee," the political group, Fire Madison Cawthorn, said in its complaint. "For example, Stephen L. Smith accompanied Rep. Cawthorn on his honeymoon to Dubai, UAE, in April 2021."


Cawthorn spokesman Luke Ball told Punchbowl News that the complaint was "ridiculous" and said Smith "is his cousin — they're family."

When reached for comment Friday about the complaint, Ball forwarded the Washington Examiner a tweet Cawthorn posted Thursday evening.

"We see through it, RINOs," Cawthorn tweeted.

The Fire Madison Cawthorn PAC is affiliated with Cawthorn's 2020 Democratic opponent, Moe Davis.

The group also uncovered video of Smith placing his hand on Cawthorn's crotch while the two were in the lawmaker's car.

"I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands," Cawthorn said in an exaggerated accent in the video.

"Me too," a laughing Smith responded before placing his hand on Cawthorn's crotch.

It's not clear when the video was taken.

The ethics complaint was first reported by the Daily Mail.

The complaint was filed just one day after Cawthorn's fellow North Carolina Republican, Sen. Thom Tillis, called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate allegations that the freshman lawmaker engaged in an insider trading scheme.

Multiple government watchdog groups told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that Cawthorn's statements surrounding his ownership of the "Let's Go Brandon" cryptocurrency meme coin, combined with his close relationship with the coin's ringleader, suggest the lawmaker may have had advance, nonpublic knowledge of a Dec. 30 announcement that caused the coin's value to spike upward by 75%.

"Insider trading by a member of Congress is a serious betrayal of their oath, and Congressman Cawthorn owes North Carolinians an explanation," Tillis said in a tweet Wednesday. "There needs to be a thorough and bipartisan inquiry into the matter by the House Ethics Committee."

Cawthorn said in February he owns LGB Coin and that it is "working out well, very well." At the time, LGB Coin was trading at about 93% below the peak price it set in late December.

Cawthorn has not responded to questions surrounding the promotion of LGB Coin and his claim that he owns the cryptocurrency.

Also on Tuesday, Cawthorn was cited for the second time during his 15-month tenure in Congress for trying to bring a handgun past an airport security checkpoint.

Cawthorn is favored to win his May 17 primary despite the stream of negative and embarrassing headlines, Republican insiders told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday.

Cawthorn accused establishment Republicans of trying to quash his reelection bid in a video statement Tuesday evening.

"We have the North Carolina political establishment and one [Republican in name only] senator who have really targeted me and are coming hard," he said in reference to Tillis. "They are putting hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars, to be able to defeat me, and they're starting to say these ridiculous, salacious things."


"We're starting to see this coordinated drip campaign. When I say a drip campaign, it's where they're going to drop an attack article every one or two days just to try and kill us by death by a thousand cuts, and that is really their main strategy," he said.