U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn lags behind competitors in ad spending heading into primary

Rep. Madison Cawthorn speaks before a rally for former U.S. President Donald Trump at The Farm at 95 on April 9, 2022 in Selma, North Carolina.
Allison Joyce | Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C. hasn’t spent any money on local television ads in his bid to win the GOP primary Tuesday, lagging behind many of his rivals and facing opposition within his own party to retain his congressional seat.

Cawthorn’s campaign has spent just over $147,000 on cable spots in the buildup to the Tuesday primary, according to data from Medium Buying. His campaign has placed about $13,000 into radio spots. Cawthorn has been snared in a slew of controversies in the buildup to the primary, including accusations of possible insider trading and calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “thug” as his country faces an invasion by Russia.

Though Cawthorn remains ahead of the other contenders for his seat in a recent poll, that same survey shows a decline of about ten percentage points among likely primary voters. Cawthorn’s campaign came into May with just over $137,000 on hand, according to Federal Election Commision filings. Former President Donald Trump threw his support behind Cawthorn in a post on his Truth Social account, calling on voters to “give Madison a second chance.”

A representative for Cawthorn did not return a request for comment.

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who has become a vocal critic of Cawthorn’s, has endorsed GOP state Sen. Chuck Edwards in the race for Cawthorn’s House seat. Edwards’ campaign has spent over $417,000 on campaign ads this cycle, including just over $316,000 on local TV ads, Medium Buying’s data shows. A super PAC aligned with Tillis that’s called Results for NC has spent over $1 million on television ads, with much of the airtime being dedicated to opposing Cawthorn and backing Edwards.

Super PACs have become a critical campaign tool in recent years because contributions aren’t capped and they can spend unlimited amounts of money on a single issue or campaign so long as the candidate doesn’t directly control how the funds are spent.

The PAC has raised over $1 million with big money donations from the likes of Ryan Salame, co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets, a subsidiary of cryptocurrency exchange FT; John Clay Sykes, the founder of utility giant ESG Operations; North Carolina oil supply company JH Reaben Oil & Supply Co. and Americans for a Balanced Budget, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that pushes back on what they see is overt government spending. The nonprofit does not publicly disclose their donors.

Douglas Stewart, the president of the organization, once played a role in North Carolina politics as he was the finance director the North Carolina Republican Party and chief of staff to Congressman Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., according to Americans for a Balanced Budget’s website.

Representatives for Salame, Sykes, JH Reaben Oil and Americans for a Balanced Budget did not return a request for comment.

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