For a Left-wing crusader who stormed in to Washington as a liberal media darling and champion of “the people,” self-ascribed “Democratic socialist” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has sure engulfed herself in Washington-style corruption.
And in what appears to be record time as well.
The Federal Election Commission said on Monday that Ocasio-Cortez’s top aide, chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, funneled “slush funds” from a pair of political action committees into his own private companies, according to a complaint filed with the agency.
The cash transfers were overseen by Chakrabarti and run afoul of her campaign promises to “increase transparency and reduce the influence of ‘dark money’ in politics,” the Washington Examiner reported.
The news site noted further:
The arrangement skirted reporting requirements and may have violated the $5,000 limit on contributions from federal PACs to candidates, according to the complaint filed by the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group.
Campaign finance attorneys described the arrangement as “really weird” and an indication “there’s something amiss.” They said there was no way of telling where the political donations went — meaning they could have been pocketed or used by the company to pay for off-the-books campaign operations.
The revelation comes as Ocasio-Cortez, who was also named in the complaint, has repeatedly tried to position herself as a sort of ‘people’s champion’ against Washington-style corruption, before and after her election. (Related: Former ICE director explodes on Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘rape’ allegations: ‘I’m sick of this!’)
“It appears Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her associates ran an off-the-books operation to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, thus violating the foundation of all campaign finance laws: transparency,” said Tom Anderson, who heads up the National Legal and Policy Center’s Government Integrity Project.
Chakrabarti, 33, graduated from Harvard and is a technology entrepreneur. He joined Sen. Bernie Sanders’ socialist presidential campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination, which the candidate lost to Hillary Clinton thanks to some behind-the-scenes shenanigans by the party.
The two PACs founded by Chakrabarti are called Brand New Congress, which began operations in 2016, and Justice Democrats, which he launched the following year. The objective of both PACs was to help elect Left-wing candidates to Congress, and one of them was Ocasio-Cortez.
Though she has also been named in the complaint, legal experts say that Chakrabarti, not the New York congresswoman, has more exposure. In an interview with Fox News, legal analyst and former judge Andrew Napolitano said that, according to the FEC complaint, it appears as though the PAC founder attempted to evade required detailed reporting requirements laid out in the Federal Election Campaign Act, which requires campaign spending to be tracked and accounted for.
Diverting money from his PACs would only be legally permissible, Napolitano said, if Chakrabarti did so in return for services rendered — and there’s no record of that thus far. Rather, the PACs say the payments were for “strategic consulting.”
“This now appears as though this is an effort to hide the existence and movement of [nearly] a million dollars from the Federal Election Commission, which requires you to report it,” said Napolitano.
“That puts them in a dangerous category. Mistakes? The FEC will forgive, they may fine you for them. Deception? They call the Justice Department,” he added.
In terms of fallout, he said that the freshman lawmaker faces “political jeopardy” but her chief of staff is in “legal jeopardy.”
Upon landing at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez denied to Fox News that any illegal activity took place.
“There is no violation,” she said. When asked if she was connected to “dark money,” which she has previously, and specifically, denounced, she answered, “No, no.”