Amid a brewing controversy over her affiliation with the PAC that helped get her elected, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and her chief of staff were officially de-listed from the Justice Democrats' board on Friday.
The "quiet" removal of Ocasio-Cortez from the board was first reported by The Daily Caller's Andrew Kerr. The removal was made official in a corporate filing to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs on Friday.
Kerr provides some background on the congresswoman's affiliation with the group: "The New York Democrat and her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, who served as her campaign chair, joined the board of Justice Democrats in December 2017, according to the political action committee’s website. It also said the two held 'legal control over the entity' at the same time it was playing a key role in supporting Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign prior to her shock victory over incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in June 2018."
Though the move was not officially documented until Friday, Ocasio-Cortez's attorneys claim that she was removed from the board back in June 2018. However, as Kerr notes, as late as March 14, 2019, she was still listed in corporate filings as an "entity governor" of the group.
The PAC's move comes amid mounting questions about her affiliation with the Justice Democrats and just days after a legal complaint filed by a Virginia-based conservative group, Fox News notes in its coverage of the story. "The development is the latest in the controversy surrounding the left-wing firebrand’s campaign," Fox reports. "Earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti were accused in an FEC complaint of violating campaign finance law by funneling nearly $1 million in contributions from PACs, including Justice Democrats, to private companies also controlled by Chakrabarti."
The complaint, filed by conservative National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) on March 4, alleges that Chakrabarti established two PACs — Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress PAC — which then transferred over $885,000 in contributions to two "shell" companies he controlled and that are exempt from reporting their significant expenditures to the FEC, thus potentially skirting campaign finance laws.
Ocasio-Cortez failed to disclose to the FEC that she and Chakrabarti maintained "legal control" over the PAC while it backed her campaign, Kerr reports. The allegations in the complaint are serious enough that a former FEC commissioner told The Daily Caller that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti could face severe repercussions, while another former FEC commissioner stated in a March 10 op-ed for Fox that he believes there's enough evidence to merit an investigation.
"As a former FEC commissioner who has studied the complaint against Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti, I have concluded that there is unquestionably more than enough evidence to justify the FEC opening a civil investigation," wrote former FEC Commissioner Hans A. von Spakovsky. "And there’s also enough evidence for the U.S. Justice Department to seriously consider opening a criminal investigation."
"Federal law (52 U.S.C. §30104) and the pertinent FEC regulation (11 CFR §104.3(b)(4)) require any political committee – and both of these entities [the companies Chakrabarti controlled] would qualify – to provide itemized descriptions of all their expenditures over $200," von Spakovsky explains. "Simply listing 'strategic consulting' for almost $900,000 in disbursements to an organization that admits it was doing all of the administrative work of the campaign – including fundraising, campaign advertisements, organizing rallies and speaking events, and handling volunteers – certainly does not meet this requirement."