Progressive darling and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came under fire this week after a watchdog group filed a Federal Election Commission complaint about her team’s use of off-book funds to finance her election.
This week, the National Legacy and Policy Center, located in Virginia, filed a complaint against both Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff. According to the complaint, the lawmaker funneled money from PACs to private companies, a practice that violates election law. The freshman lawmaker is denying any wrongdoing.
“There is no violation,” Ocasio-Cortez told Fox News after the complaint was filed.
The funds in question – which totaled almost a million dollars – were used for campaign events for both Ocasio-Cortez and other deeply liberal candidates in the 2018 elections. Ocasio-Cortez was one of several beneficiaries, though there is no accounting for the actual expenditures yet. The complaint was filed in part to uncover what the funds were actually spent on. The FEC has been asked to complete an immediate investigation to determine what the funds were used for, and which candidates they were allocated to.
Saikat Chakrabarti is Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, and the person responsible for redirecting thousands of dollars to candidates outside of the normal, legal channels. Chakrabarti also worked for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election cycle before working for Ocasio-Cortez in 2017. Chakrabarti was asked to comment on the complaint by Fox News, but declined.
According to the FEC complaint, Chakrabarti created two PACs (the Brand New Congress PAC and the Justice Democrats PAC). Once these were created and began collecting donations, he then funneled over $885,000 in contributions to similarly named LLC businesses. A private business does not have to report their expenditures the same way a PAC does. Chakrabarti sent funds from the Brand New Congress PAC to the Brand New Congress LLC. Once the funds arrived at the LLC, they were used to fund candidates like Ocasio-Cortez outside of the normal, legal funding system. The expenses are detailed only as “strategic funding” without an explanation of how or where they were allocated.
The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 was established to ensure fairness and track campaign expenditures. The complex setup of the “donation to PAC to LLC to candidate” funding set up by Chakrabarti was put in place to get around those legal requirements, according to the FEC complaint.
The complex and entangled method of shuttling funds to candidates and avoiding the legal reporting mandate caught the attention of watchdog groups and triggered the complaint.
“It sounds to a lot of people like that’s a way to skirt the campaign finance laws in this country,” former Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz said, speaking to Fox. “The FEC and the other regulators need to get in there and find out where was this money going – was it going to people’s pockets? Was it legitimate or not?”
While the complaint is still pending, Ocasio-Cortez has denied involvement. Her chief of staff has yet to respond to reporter inquiries. Watchdog groups, political groups and journalists continue to watch and report as the investigation evolves.
~ Liberty Planet