Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s campaign paid a taxidermist $1,700 to create gifts to give to fundraiser hosts

Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina arrives at the Capitol for votes in the House of Representatives on March 11, 2021.
Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina arrives at the Capitol for votes in the House of Representatives on March 11, 2021. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
  • Rep. Madison Cawthorn spent $US1,700 ($AU2,291) on “Taxidermy by Neal Pate” at the end of August.
  • Cawthorn’s campaign says they purchased gifts for people who host fundraisers for the congressman.
  • Campaign gifts like this are legal.

Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina’s campaign spent $US1,700 ($AU2,291) on “gifts” from a North Carolina taxidermist, which a spokesman said will be given to the hosts of future fundraisers for the 26-year-old congressman.

The campaign expense, which Cawthorn’s campaign disclosed last Friday as part of routine quarterly filings with the Federal Election Commission, was made on August 31 and is described simply as “gifts for hosts.”

The disclosures, which cover donations and spending for July, August, and September, show that Cawthorn raised just over $US570,000 ($AU768,298) but spent roughly $US615,000 ($AU828,953) during this 3 month stretch. Despite the deficit, Cawthorn’s campaign reports still having nearly $US373,000 ($AU502,763) in cash on hand.

The four-figure payment was made to “Taxidermy By Neal Pate” in Willow Spring, North Carolina, a small unincorporated community south of Raleigh, the state capital. Asked about the expense, a spokesperson for Cawthorn’s campaign said that they “purchased several items from this vendor as gifts to be given out to fundraising hosts when they hold events with our campaign.”

Cawthorn’s campaign did not respond to a question about what kinds of “gifts” were purchased, and little information about the taxidermist exists online. Neal Pate did not immediately respond to an attempt to contact him via phone.

According to one website, Pate won the “Most Artistic Entry Award” in a 2009 taxidermy competition for a sculpture of a stuffed bird based on the taxidermist’s “innovation, skill, artistic talent and high quality.” Posts on duck-hunting forums indicate that Pate is well-regarded when it comes to stuffing birds.

Gifts for fundraiser hosts are generally permissible under federal campaign finance laws, an FEC spokesperson confirmed to Insider. He referred to a clause within the FEC’s candidate guide that states that “on special occasions, campaign funds may be used to purchase gifts or make donations of nominal value to persons other than the members of the candidate’s family.”