Complaint alleging massive campaign finance violations prompts a denial from Ocasio-Cortez – Washington Examiner

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has some explaining to do, and I don’t think a simple denial will cut it.

The freshman congresswoman’s top aide, Saikat Chakrabarti, reportedly funneled more than $1 million through political action committees he founded into two private companies he owns, according to a new investigative report by the Washington Examiner’s Alana Goodman.

“Chakrabarti’s companies appear to have been set up for the sole purpose of obscuring how the political donations were used,” Goodman reports, citing a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission by the watchdog group the National Legal and Policy Center. The “arrangement skirted reporting requirements and may have violated the $5,000 limit on contributions from federal PACs to candidates.”

“PACs are required to disclose how and when funds are spent, including for expenditures such as advertisements, fundraising emails, donations to candidates, and payments for events and to vendors,” Goodman wrote. “The private companies to which Chakrabarti transferred the money from the PACs are not subject to these requirements.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded to the report Tuesday by asserting simply that “ there is no violation.” For a lawmaker whose path to Congress was paved with a promise to elevate the ethics of Washington, D.C., she’s going to have to do better than that to explain how it’s kosher for her campaign-manager-turned-chief-of-staff to shuffle money through his PACs into his own private companies, whence it allegedly benefited other campaigns.

The Campaign Legal Center’s director, Adav Noti, himself a former FEC lawyer, told the Examiner that Chakrabarti’s arrangement is definitely unusual. He also suggested that it might have been done with an eye toward obscuring how the money changes hands.

“None of that makes any sense,” said Noti. “I can’t even begin to disentangle that. They’re either confused, or they’re trying to conceal something.”

“It does seem like there’s something amiss. I can only think of really two likely possibilities for this sort of pattern of disbursements,” he added. “One is the scam PAC possibility — they’re really just paying themselves, and they’re concealing it by using the LLC. The other is that there’s actually another recipient, that the money is going to the LLC and then being disbursed in some other way that they want to conceal.”

The thing that gets me is that Ocasio-Cortez was sworn into office only 61 days ago. Yet, her office already looks like a black hole of ethically dubious behavior. Remember: This FEC complaint isn’t even the first shoe to drop. During the 2018 election, her campaign made several payments to Brand New Congress LLC for “strategic consulting,” and then Brand New Congress PAC made payouts to her boyfriend, Riley Roberts, who was billed as a “marketing consultant,” according to Federal Election Commission filings compiled by GOP operative Luke Thompson.

As if that weren’t already strange enough, both the LLC and the PAC were co-founded by Chakrabarti. These are the same organizations that he reportedly used to funnel cash into his private companies. Then, there’s the questionable issue of the congresswoman giving her boyfriend a dot-gov email address. These addresses are reserved only for House staff, though they are given out on occasion to the spouses of elected members of Congress. Roberts is neither.

For a candidate who came to Washington on the promise of transparency and a high standard of ethical behavior, Ocasio-Cortez has wasted no time falling far from that ideal.

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