Former presidential adviser and Fox News agent Karl Rove urged 11th District Madison Cawthorn MPs to focus more on western North Carolina and less on traveling the country, where campaign funding reports show the Republican hit tens of thousands in his first term of dollars spent on donors’ money on airline tickets and hotels, including $ 11,113 over two days at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, Florida.
It was reported that Rove made the comments earlier this month during a July 11th District GOP officials meeting, which included Cawthorn.
Eleventh District Chairperson Michele Woodhouse and other Republican district leaders did not return messages for comments on July 23. Rove didn’t respond either. But in a Smoky Mountain News interview published July 21, the strategist credited with President George W. Bush’s two election victories gave his advice to Cawthorn.
“Don’t go too far into the nationwide campaign. Don’t neglect the people at home, ”said Rove.
Second term wins are very important in “cementing a district,” he said, and could help the GOP win the Senate race and retain a state legislative majority.
Cawthorn campaign spokesman Micah Bock declined to comment.
Despite his novelty in an elected office, his young age of 25 (the youngest in Congress), and a poor legislative track record of co-funding a bill (according to the Congressional online legislative database), Cawthorn uses a wheelchair after a paralyzed car accident that is has become a familiar face of right-wing national politics.
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In the past few days, Cawthorn has been joining a far-right attack on Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying he wanted to prosecute the country’s top infectious disease official for a conspiracy theory that a possible virus leak from a Wuhan lab was shameful, not accidental, and that it was with Fauci and the gain-of- Function research by the US government linked to communicable diseases.
Cawthorn’s fame so far this year has resulted in massive fundraising of $ 1.8 million. That continues at a $ 50,000 per person per person with Donald Trump at one of the former president’s golf resorts in Bedminster, New Jersey, on July 31, the day before Cawthorn’s birthday.
But unlike many other top fundraisers, Cawthorn has used up most of its money, spending $ 1.5 million and leaving $ 383,481 in its coffers.
In terms of campaign travel outside of the district, Cawthorn spent $ 28,929 on airfare and related fees such as baggage and $ 19,254 on hotels outside of the district, according to a Citizen Times analysis of the Henderson County’s campaign finance reports.
Fares were for 29 different dates, although the reports do not clearly state the destinations.
Patrick McHenry, a member of GOP House, a veteran Lincoln County legislature who once belonged to Asheville and who is a senior member of the Financial Services Committee, spent $ 2,494 on airline tickets and $ 4,445 on hotels.
Bruce O’Connell, owner of the Pisgah Inn on Blue Ridge Parkway and one of Cawthorn’s three GOP main challengers in 2022, called Rove’s advice “spot on.”
“After all, the main job of a Congressman is to represent the people of the district that elected him. That’s exactly why I’ve already started a 17-county tour of our district,” said O’Connell, who describes himself as small – Government, “common sense”, constitutionally conservative. “A better question might be why Madison needs to be reminded.”
Cawthorn showed 14 hotel bills, although it is not clear how many days he stayed. Several are available for trips in North Carolina outside of its county to Raleigh, Southern Pines, Winston-Salem, and Greenville. Outside of the state, he made overnight campaign stops in New York and Washington. He also made several trips to Florida, with hotel expenses reported in Kissimmee and Orlando.
On March 2-3, he stayed at an Orlando hotel for the Conservative Political Action Conference, his reports read. Cawthorn spoke at the event and was absent from the House of Representatives votes. Instead, he appointed a deputy, a practice he railed against when Democrats started doing it over concerns about travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hotel bills for Orlando’s Double Tree Hilton were $ 1,321. But also on March 3rd, Cawthorn showed $ 8,118 in bills for the Waldorf. The report described the spending as “hotel travel and FR event spending”.
On March 23, he stayed at the Waldorf again and spent $ 2,996 more in donation money.
Cawthorn revealed a slew of other transportation and travel expenses, including $ 1,500 for Uber trips from March 22nd through June 22nd. It was not clear how many were for intra-district versus non-district trips.
Another GOP key challenger, Wendy Nevarez, said Cawthorn should focus on the district’s voters, “or these people will fire you.”
“Not all national problems translate into local problems,” said Nevarez, an Asheville Navy veteran and national debt critic, who said she values diversity and avoids inflammatory language.
Cawthorn, she said, “has never had contact with the people of western North Carolina. He has no idea of the struggles people face in everyday life with housing, health care, education, or the job market.”
Large overseas donations amount to “buying” the congressman, she said. “He’s the swamp.”
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District 11th Republican candidate Eric Batchelor said he agreed with Rove, saying that “too many of our elected leaders are flying around the country looking for political glory for the next photo op.”
Batchelor, a deputy sheriff of Haywood County and a veteran in the Iraqi and Afghan armies, said he doubted Cawthorn will follow the advice “as he has already shown by his unavailability”.
“I want people in this district to know that I have a lifetime of public service, competence and maturity,” he said. “If you hire me to fill this important job, the first priority will always be to be available to the people in the district.”
Among the Democrats, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a Buncombe County commissioner, issued a statement saying that Cawthorn’s travel expenses showed he had no contact with most of the residents of WNC. She noted that the families had recently received checks for the extended child tax credit.
“That’s a monthly direct cash payment of $ 300 per child to cover groceries, diapers, childcare, and more. And Madison Cawthorn proudly voted against it. “
How Rep. Madison Cawthorn spent $ 1.5 million
Cawthorn was among the top 2% of the nation’s top fundraisers and donors in US races, according to federally commissioned campaign funding coverage from January 1 to June 30. Here are some details on how Cawthorn reported using the money from donors. NOTE: The Congressman’s reports use different descriptions of what appears to be the same type of expense, for example “Airfare” and “Campaign Travel – Airfare”.
- Airfare $ 2,247.76
- Campaign Travel – Airfare $ 3,013.40
- Campaign airfare $ 18,015.80
- Campaign trip Asheville to DC $ 1,586.80
- Campaign luggage $ 76
- Checked baggage $ 70
- Campaign trip $ 3,842.80
- Campaign Auto Travel $ 1,529.78
- Auto Parts, Rental Cars, Refunded Miles, Auto Maintenance $ 8,208.90
- Rental car $ 815.64 $
- Rental car CPAC event $ 2,872.32 $ 2
- Mileage, food and drink reimbursement on campaign travel $ 437.51
- Fuel campaign trips $ 375.82
- Hotel $ 1,032.94
- Hotel campaign trips $ 6,167.37
- Hotel trips $ 2,995.56
- Hotel CPAC $ 1,321.24
- Hotel and fundraising events cost $ 8,117.58
- Strategic Consultant Travel $ 15,507.85
- Travel Insurance $ 350.16
- Agency fees $ 85,695.41
- Bank charges $ 2,322.86
- Credit card fees $ 63,253.55
- Shopify charges $ 10,049.80
- Processing Fees $ 9,073.91
Fundraising and advice
- Campaign Email $ 3,004.43
- Email Service $ 10,992.46
- Digital fundraising / advice $ 226,174.03
- Monthly strategic advice $ 10,000
- Fundraising Advice $ 71,619.12
- Research and data services $ 6,110
- Statistical modeling $ 2,409.33
- Direct mail for donations of $ 83,264.34
- Postage for direct mail $ 192,936
- Printing (TY letters, cards, direct mail) $ 71,148.75
- Donor Data Lists $ 14,110.78
- $ 3,668.08
- Marketing / Advertising $ 67,563
- Media $ 67,512.50
- Donor meeting $ 409.90
- Meeting cost $ 951.37
- Call for a donation of $ 249.99
- Fundraiser $ 764.40
- Reimbursement of event expenses of $ 10,835.12
- Hotel fundraiser $ 784.62
- Take Back the House PAC donation $ 62,572.80
- Campaign Agent Salaries $ 117,825.
- Security Detail $ 10,522
- Loan repayment to yourself $ 116,000
Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police violence. Please support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.