Federal officials are reportedly investigating Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, who resigned on Friday, to determine whether he violated campaign finance law.
The National Legal and Policy Center, a Virginia-based government watchdog, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission in March against Saikat Chakrabarti, accusing the mastermind of Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign of illegally fundraising.
Federal officials are investigating the FEC complaint that alleges groups Chakrabarti created to help elect progressive candidates, Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, funneled over $1 million to the similarly named Brand New Campaign LLC and the Brand New Congress LLC.
These companies, which were also controlled by Chakrabarti, are exempt from reporting their significant expenditure and appear to have been created for the sole purpose of obscuring how the political donations.
PACs must adhere to strict federal rules on disclosure of spending and fundraising, while private companies are not subject to the same transparency.
The PACs raised approximately $3.3 million in 2016 and 2017. Campaign filings show a third of the cash raised from small donors was transferred to Chakrabarti’s two private companies. The PAC’s claimed the payments were for “strategic consulting.”
The FEC notes in its guidebook that complaints lead to investigation only if there is sufficient evidence to believe there may have been a violation.
“Upon finding reason to believe that a violation has occurred or is about to occur, the Commission may authorize an investigation,” the guidebook states.
A complaint was also filed against Chakrabarti and Ocasio-Cortez in April, claiming they used Brand New Congress LLC to illegally provide in-kind political contributions by offering consulting services for cheap rates, operating at a loss by charging candidates a portion of the cost.
The Democratic-socialist lawmaker maintains complaints are baseless.
“It’s conservative interest groups just filing bogus proposals,” she told reporters in April.
Chakrabarti’s salary from Ocasio Cortez is also being investigated by federal officials. He earned $80,000 while the average salary for a chief of staff is $146,830. The lower salary allowed the Harvard graduate and tech millionaire to evade requirements to report outside income, which is mandated for Congressional staffers earning at least $126,000.
Ocasio-Cortez’s office issued a statement Friday announcing Chakrabarti’s departure noting he is heading to New Consensus, a nonprofit working to bolster the Green New Deal and other climate change initiatives.
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