Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ chief of staff funneled a hefty amount of campaign contributions into his private companies and a conservative government accountability group is now asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate.
Former Bernie Sanders campaigner and tech-mogul millionaire Saikat Chakrabarti is the figure at the head of Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign which regularly emphasizes its commitment to transparency, government accountability and opposing the influence of money in politics. But the right-leaning group National Legal and Policy Center says this didn’t stop AOC’s top aide from siphoning massive amounts of cash through political action committees (PACs) into two private companies owned by Chakrabarti himself.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint names both Ocasio-Cortez and her Chief of Staff, contending that Chakrabarti’s LLCs served as shell companies to slush $885,735 as part of “an elaborate scheme to avoid proper disclosure of campaign expenditures.”
If the accusations prove to be true, Chakrabarti’s act of creative accounting would be a violation of campaign finance law. Whereas PACs have a strict $5,000 spending limit per-candidate per-year, the filings show that Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign blew this number out of the water when it dropped $41,108.59 on “strategic counseling” from Justice Democrats, a PAC founded by Chakrabarti. This money was then transferred into the private accounts, allegedly to avoid legal backlash.
The accusations seem to be particularly damning in light of the fact that the majority of the PACs funds were raised by small out of pocket donations from supporters.
“They believe their cause is so great that they don’t have to play by the rules,” said the center’s director Tom Anderson, adding that the progressive alliance thinks of itself as “above the law.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign responded to the allegations by denying any wrongdoing and claiming that the conservative group’s attack is politically motivated. A spokesman also reminded the media that Chakrabarti was no longer involved with the groups he founded when he joined her campaign in February 2018.
Chakrabarti himself wrote the accusations off as confusion resulting from his new and innovative approach to campaign finance, tweeting an explanation of the complicated structure.
While the FEC has yet to comment on whether or not an investigation will take place as the watchdog group requested, experts are already saying that, despite the complex explanation, something fishy appears to have been going on in the progressive camp’s finances.
In an interview with The Washington Examiner, Adav Noti, a former FEC lawyer, seemed almost baffled by the situation. “None of that makes any sense,” he said. “I can’t even begin to disentangle that. They’re either confused or they’re trying to conceal something.”
Former FEC Chairman Bradley Smith called the situation “really weird,” adding that he didn’t see any way Chakrabarti’s strategy didn’t entail a legal violation of some variety.
Monday’s complaint is not the first filed against the progressive politician –commonly known by her moniker and Twitter-handle AOC– and not even the first this year. Just last week, a separate filing by the Coolidge Reagan Foundation drew attention to a $6,000 payment from the Brand New Congress Pac to Riley Roberts, Ocasio Cortez’s boyfriend, ostensibly for campaign “counseling” services.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!