by CHQ Staff
Andrew Kerr, investigative reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation posted a blockbuster report suggesting that a “serious investigation” of Socialist Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Chief of Staff, Silicon Valley millionaire Saikat Chakrabarti, could result in jail time if a campaign finance complaint were filed.
Kerr reports that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti obtained majority control of Justice Democrats PAC in December 2017, according to archived copies of the group’s website, and the two appear to retain their control of the group, according to corporate filings obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
If the Federal Election Commission (FEC) finds that the New York Democrat’s campaign operated in affiliation with the PAC, which had raised more than $1.8 million before her June 2018 primary, it would open them up to “massive reporting violations, probably at least some illegal contribution violations exceeding the lawful limits,” former FEC commissioner Brad Smith told Kerr.
Ocasio-Cortez never disclosed to the FEC that she and Chakrabarti, who served as her campaign chair, controlled the PAC while it was simultaneously supporting her primary campaign, reported Kerr.
Former FEC commissioners told Kerr the arrangement could lead to multiple campaign finance violations. The group backed 12 Democrats during the 2018 midterms, but Ocasio-Cortez was the only one of those to win her general election.
“If the facts as alleged are true, and a candidate had control over a PAC that was working to get that candidate elected, then that candidate is potentially in very big trouble and may have engaged in multiple violations of federal campaign finance law, including receiving excessive contributions,” former Republican FEC commissioner Hans von Spakovsky told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Republican election attorney Charlie Spies told TheDCNF: “It looks like the campaign and PAC are under common control and the PAC was funding campaign staff and activities as an alter-ego of the campaign committee, which would be a blatant abuse of the PAC rules.”
Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti could face prison if the FEC determines that they knowingly and willfully withheld their ties between the campaign and the political action committee from the FEC to bypass campaign contribution limits, according to Kerr’s report of Smith’s comments on the known facts of the arrangement.
“At minimum, there’s a lot of smoke there, and if there are really only three board members and she and [Chakrabarti] are two of them, sure looks like you can see the blaze,” Smith, a Republican, told TheDCNF. “I don’t really see any way out of it.”
Andrew Kerr’s report had barely hit cyberspace before the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that, contrary to campaign laws, Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti funneled nearly $1 million in contributions from political action committees Chakrabarti established to private companies that he also controlled.
Gregg Re of Fox News reports the FEC complaint asserts that Chakrabarti established two PACs, the Brand New Congress PAC and Justice Democrats PAC, and then systematically transferred more than $885,000 in contributions received by those PACs to the Brand New Campaign LLC and the Brand New Congress LLC — companies that, unlike PACs, are exempt from reporting all of their significant expenditures. The PACs claimed the payments were for “strategic consulting.”
Although large financial transfers from PACs to LLCs are not necessarily improper, reports Re, the complaint argues that the goal of the “extensive” scheme was seemingly to illegally dodge detailed legal reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which are designed to track campaign expenditures.
“It appears ‘strategic consulting’ was a mischaracterization of a wide range of activities that should have been reported individually,” the complaint states.
Fox reports that according to the NLPC’s complaint, Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti appeared to have “orchestrated an extensive off-the-books operation to make hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenditures in support of multiple candidates for federal office.”
Former FEC Associate General Counsel for Policy Adav Noti, who currently directs the Campaign Legal Center, told Fox News that it was a “total mystery” to him why Chakrabarti had established an LLC seemingly to take money from the PAC, rather than simply create a “normal venture,” like a consulting business, to provide services for candidates on the books.
“Certainly, it’s not permissible to use an LLC or any other kind of intermediary to conceal the recipient or purpose of a PAC’s spending,” Noti said. “The law requires the PAC to report who it disburses money to. You can’t try to evade that by routing it through an LLC or corporation or anyone else.”
The funds, the NLPC complaint alleges, were likely spent on campaign events for Ocasio-Cortez and other far-left Democratic candidates favored by Chakrabarti, who made his fortune in Silicon Valley and previously worked on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. But no precise accounting for the expenses is available, and the complaint asks the FEC to conduct an investigation into the matter immediately.
“These are not minor or technical violations,” Tom Anderson, director of NLPC’s Government Integrity Project, said in a statement reported by Gregg Re of Fox News. “We are talking about real money here. In all my years of studying FEC reports, I’ve never seen a more ambitious operation to circumvent reporting requirements. Representative Ocasio-Cortez has been quite vocal in condemning so-called dark money, but her own campaign went to great lengths to avoid the sunlight of disclosure.”
Added Anderson: “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.”