by Andrew Kerr
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s wealthy chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, did not file a disclosure revealing his net worth and outside income earned in 2018, despite the congresswoman having the legal means to compel him to do so.
Chakrabarti cofounded two PACs — Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats — that were instrumental to the New York Democrat’s electoral rise.
The political action committees funneled over $1 million to an LLC Chakrabarti controlled during the 2018 midterms. A complaint filed in March with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) called the operation “an elaborate scheme to avoid proper disclosure of campaign expenditures.”
Ocasio-Cortez announced in February that she was capping her staff salaries at $80,000, meaning that nobody on her payroll, including Chakrabarti, would earn the senior pay rate of $126,000 that requires congressional staffers to publicly disclose their finances, the Washington Examiner previously reported.
But the House Ethics Committee requires every representative to have at least one staffer file a financial disclosure. Members such as Ocasio-Cortez that don’t pay any of their employees at the senior pay rate must designate at least one so-called principal assistant who is required to disclose their finances.
Representatives have broad latitude to determine which employee to name as their principal assistants, but the House Ethics Committee encourages representatives to select employees who can, in some circumstances, “act in the Member’s name or with the Member’s authority.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s senior policy analyst Dan Riffle was the only member of the New York Democrat’s staff to have a financial disclosure on file with the House Legislative Resource Center as of Monday afternoon.
No financial disclosures were on file for Chakrabarti, who engages with Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional colleagues on Twitter. Chakrabarti co-founded a Silicon Valley firm in 2010 and purchased a $1.6 million home in 2018, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Given Chakrabarti’s enormous wealth and potential for conflicts of interest, I am a little surprised he is not voluntarily filing financial disclosure statements,” said government affairs lobbyist Craig Holman of the left-leaning advocacy group Public Citizen, who noted that House Ethics rules grant Ocasio-Cortez “the legal means to require her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti and other senior staffers to disclose their financial dealings.”
“It is great that Senior Policy Analyst Dan Riffle is disclosing his finances, but if this interpretive ruling need be invoked for transparency of potential conflicts of interest, it should be invoked upon the wealthy chief of staff where the greatest potential for conflicts rests,” Holman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not return a request for comment.
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