Things just got worse for New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as she and her chief of staff could be headed to prison.
Watchdog group National Legal and Policy Center’s Government Integrity Project has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission.
The complaint alleges that Ocasio-Cortez’s Chief of Staff Saikat Chakrabarti illegally funneled $1 million to companies he ran from a PAC he was in charge of, The Washington Examiner reported.
Chakrabarti’s campaigns raised $3.3 million and diverted more than $1 million to his companies, the Washington Examiner reported.
He helped found both Brand New Congress PAC and Justice Democrats, with the goal of bringing new and progressive members like Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described Democratic socialist, to Congress.
After starting Brand New Congress, he formed a Delaware-based LLC, Brand New Campaign LLC. Shifting the funds avoided detailed disclosure requirements of itemized expenses.
“None of that makes any sense,” former FEC lawyer Adav Noti of the Campaign Legal Center told the publication. “I can’t even begin to disentangle that. They’re either confused or they’re trying to conceal something.”
Ocasio-Cortez responded to an inquiry from The Washington Times on Monday in her usual defiant manner.
Should Ocasio Cortez be in prison?
“He’s not on my payroll. They were not working for me and they are two separate entities here,” she said. “This is the difference between an LLC and a PAC.”
But she is in her own jam with some chicanery that was done between the PACs and her campaign for Congress, as we reported.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti could be facing prison time for a major campaign finance violation.
The two were running a PAC that supported her campaign in the 2018 election which is a major no no and now they could be forced to pay the consequences, The Daily Caller reported.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat 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 said.
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, and former FEC commissioners say 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.
Former FEC Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky told The Daily Caller News Foundation “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.”
And another former commissioner of the FEC, Brad Smith, said if “a complaint were filed, I would think it would trigger a serious investigation.”
“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 said. “I don’t really see any way out of it.”
Smith also told the DCNF that both Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti could face serious fines and significant prison time if a complaint is filed.
“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,” Charlie Spies, a Republican election attorney, said.
Justice Democrats stated on its website from December 2017 until two weeks after Ocasio-Cortez’s June 2018 primary victory that she and Chakrabarti held “legal control” of the PAC, and corporate filings obtained by TheDCNF show that the two still serve on the three-member board of Justice Democrats on paper.
Political committees are affiliated if they are “established, financed, maintained or controlled by … the same person or group of persons,” federal election law states.
Ocasio-Cortez credits Justice Democrats for recruiting her to run for Congress in May 2017. She tweeted that the group got her campaign up and running by helping “with all that stuff a normal person would need (what forms to fill out? etc).”
Ocasio-Cortez paid a combined $27,293 to Justice Democrats and to what was effectively its predecessor, Brand New Congress LLC, for administrative, staffing and overhead services from the time she declared her candidacy to her shock primary victory, according to FEC records. Ocasio-Cortez only began paying her staffers directly through her campaign beginning in March 2018, according to her campaign reports.
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