'Suspicious': Right-wing scholar slams Madison Cawthorn over top staffer earning $127K annually — despite no experience

'Suspicious': Right-wing scholar slams Madison Cawthorn over top staffer earning $127K annually — despite no experience
U.S. Congressman-elect Madison Cawthorn speaking with attendees at the 2020 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, photo via Gage Skidmore.

A lead staffer for Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) is at the center of controversy as details about his salary come to light. According to Citizen-Times, accounting records suggest Cawthorn's Chief of Staff William "Blake" Harp earned $31,777.77 in the first quarter of 2021, alone. That first-quarter total serves as a projection of approximately $127,000 for the entire year.

Now, the young lawmaker is facing bipartisan criticism for the appointment. Norman Ornstein, a scholar with the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, weighed in with his own assessment of Cawthorn's appointment of Harp.

According to Ornstein, it appears Cawthorn has embarked on a path of conflict of interest by "rewarding a friend who had no relevant experience by 'overpaying using taxpayer dollars.'" Ornstein also noted that such action is unethical.

"At one level, the Cawthorn chief of staff pay is on the low side for the position," Orstein said. "But the vast majority of chiefs have a lot of experience, usually on the Hill, sometimes running campaigns. This one does not fit any usual category, and looks quite suspicious."

While $127,000 annually may not be out of the ordinary for an individual running an office for a Congressional politician, Harp's earnings are questionable because he does not appear to have the professional experience to justify the six-figure salary. A Republication source pointed out that Harp has known Cawthorn since 2016, but at the time, he and the Republican lawmaker were 20-years-old with no political experience or professional government background.

The Republican source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, revealed the brief extent of Harp's professional background, which consisted of construction work and running fireworks stands back home in Texas where he is from.

"One hundred twenty-seven thousand dollars is not exorbitant for a chief. It's highway robbery for anyone for whom it's their first real job and they bring no discernible skills," the staffer said.

The publication highlighted a number of other qualified individuals who also serve in the same capacity as Harp but for other Congressional politicians. For example, Mathew Lee, currently chief of staff for Rep. Deborah Ross, earns $122,222.24. However, he also has six years of experience as a legislative director. Another professional highlighted was Justin Wein.

Per Citizens-Times:

"Justin Wein's LinkedIn account shows he worked 17 years in the House, including two as chief for Rep. David Price. For that job, as well as being Price's assistant on the Appropriations Committee, Wein makes $152,913.92."

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