'Highway robbery': Madison Cawthorn raises suspicions by paying inexperienced buddy $127,111 as top staffer
Madison Cawthorn (screengrab)

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) appears to be overpaying an underqualified friend to serve on his congressional staff.

Quarterly disbursement statements show Cawthorn's chief of staff William "Blake" Harp made $31,777.77 in the first quarter of the year, the equivalent of $127,111 annually, despite having no background in government and not much other work experience besides running fireworks stands, reported the Citizen Times.

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

Harp and Cawthorn have known each other since at least 2016, when they were both around 20 years old, and neither has any experience in government until Cawthorn became the youngest member of Congress with his election in November.

"At one level, the Cawthorn chief of staff pay is on the low side for the position," said ethics expert Norman Orstein. "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."