Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina is under fire for what appears to be paying an unqualified friend a seemingly unreasonable amount for working as a member of his congressional staff.
According to quarterly disbursement statements, Cawthorn is paying his chief of staff, William "Blake" Harp the equivalent of $127,111 a year despite Harp having no experience indicating he is qualified for the role.
The Citizen Times reported Harp has almost no work experience at all, other than selling fireworks.
Harp was paid $31,777.77 during the first three months of the year for his work as Cawthorn's Chief of Staff. This isn't an unreasonable salary for someone who holds that position, but many are questioning how Harp got the job with no documented qualifications to perform the role.
A Republican member of the legislative staff spoke with The Citizen Times, under condition of anonymity due to the very sensitive nature of the subject and potential risk to their position. They revealed Harp told them his only prior work was running fireworks stands in Texas and working construction.
The staffer said:
"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."
When The Citizen Times checked the experience and work history of other top staffers of North Carolina Congressmembers, all had considerably more government experience. Years of experience ranged from 6 to 17 years working in the House of Representatives.
Many also had related non-government experience, such as one staffer who worked as a non-profit federal policy director.
Harp's LinkedIn profile showed no relevant job experience other than his current work as Cawthorn's Chief of Staff. He and Cawthorn have known each other for years, though.
According to Sentinel PAC on Twitter, Harp is actually making even more money because he is also being paid separately for work on Cawthorn's reelection campaign.
Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning public policy think tank, said the whole situation was unethical.
Ornstein commented it appeared as though Cawthorn was paying a friend who was unqualified for the position and "overpaying using taxpayer dollars."
"At one level, the Cawthorn chief of staff pay is on the low side for the position. 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."
Micah Bock, Cawthorn's spokesperson, did not respond to requests from The Citizen Times for comment on Harp's qualifications for the position.