The chief of staff for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) may have broken campaign finance laws, according to a report from the New York Post.
Saikat Chakrabarti, 33, founded a PAC called Justice Democrats, which was paid $41,108.59 for “campaign services” and “strategic consulting” by Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign in 2017 and 2018, according to Federal Election Commission filings. But as the Post notes, PACs are barred from offering over $5,000 a year worth of services for any single candidate, per FEC regulations. If candidates exceed that amount, they must consult the FEC.
The Post also noted, “Brand New Congress, another PAC that Chakrabarti founded to support lefty candidates, paid Ocasio-Cortez’s boyfriend $6,000 in 2017, filings show. The payment to Riley Roberts was made at the same time that Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign paid Brand New Congress LLC $18,880 for ‘strategic consulting.’”
The Coolidge Reagan Foundation filed an FEC complaint last week, stating, “The timing and amounts of these transactions, the use of two affiliated entities as intermediaries, the vague and amorphous nature of the services Riley ostensibly provided, the magnitude of these transactions compared to both the limited funds the campaign had raised at the time … and the romantic relationship … collectively establish reason to believe these transactions may have violated campaign finance law.”
Tom Anderson, who supervises the Government Integrity Project at the National Legal and Policy Center in Virginia, echoed, “They believe their cause is so great that they don’t have to play by the rules. They believe that they are above campaign finance law.”
Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent contended that Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and the PAC had indeed consulted with an elections attorney, adding, “It was payment for services.” He stated, “We believe that complaint is politically motivated, basically intended to create a political story,” noting that Chakrabarti had left the PACs he founded before he served as Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign manager in February 2018.
Chakrabarti supervised social-media tech for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.
The Washington Examiner reported last week that due to the new “living wage” rules she outlined for her staff, “Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to cap her office salaries at $80,000 will let her chief of staff and senior employees avoid public transparency laws that would require them to reveal outside income, gifts, and stock trading activity.” As The Daily Wire noted, “Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti — a wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur who recently bought a $1.6 million home in Maryland — would be protected from having to follow the public disclosure laws.”
On that issue, Tom Anderson commented, “Purposefully underpaying staffers in order to avoid transparency is an old trick some of the most corrupt members of Congress have used time and again.”
Chakrabarti has stated, “When you shoot for big stuff, you stay true to the movement, you fight unapologetically on the inside, that is a very, very powerful way to pass the radical solutions that are necessary to face the radical problems that you have,” adding, “You have to decide to create the society you want to create and that’s done through politics.”