News & Politics

Feds Investigating Former AOC Chief of Staff for Campaign Finance Violations

Feds Investigating Former AOC Chief of Staff for Campaign Finance Violations
Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., right, and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, left, walk back together after joining other members of the freshman class of Congress for a group photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The former chief of staff to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is under investigation by the Federal Election Commission for violations of campaign finance law, according to the New York Post.

Saikat Chakrabarti suddenly resigned from Ocasio-Cortez’s staff on Friday. It was believed that his resignation was connected to his boss’ spat with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But the federal probe into AOC’s campaign finances and the targeting of  Chakrabarti may throw new light on his sudden departure.

The two PACs being probed, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, were both set up by Chakrabarti to support progressive candidates across the country.

But they funneled more than $1 million in political donations into two private companies that Chakrabarti also incorporated and controlled, according to Federal Election Commission filings and a complaint filed in March with the regulatory agency.

In 2016 and 2017, the PACs raised about $3.3 million, mostly from small donors. A third of the cash was transferred to two private companies whose names are similar to one of the PACs — Brand New Congress LLC and Brand New Campaign LLC — federal campaign filings show.

Chakrabarti apparently tried to subvert FEC regulations by funneling that money to entities not subject to federal reporting requirements:

In March, when the FEC complaints were filed, a lawyer for the PACs, the LLCs and the Ocasio-Cortez campaign told the Washington Post that the arrangement “fully complied with the law and the highest ethical standards” and that Chakrabarti never profited from any of the political entities he formed.

They may also have violated the $5,000 limit on contributions from federal PACs to candidates, according to the complaint. It is not known if any of that money flowed to Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign.

Federal authorities are looking at new salary rules imposed by Ocasio-Cortez when she took office earlier this year, and whether they were put in place to let Chakrabarti dodge public financial-disclosure rules, according to sources.

And Chakrabarti also was able to dodge Congressional rules on salaries by taking a huge pay cut.

Although Ocasio-Cortez raised the salaries of junior staffers in her office to just over $52,000 a year, Chakrabarti took a massive pay cut. The Harvard graduate and tech millionaire agreed to an annual salary of $80,000 — far less than the $146,830 average pay for his position.

Because his salary was less than $126,000, congressional rules exempted the chief of staff from having to disclose his outside income.

Well what do you know — a socialist with the heart of a capitalist! Chakbarti is a co-founder of the Justice Democrats and a driving force behind the Green New Deal. But in the end, he turns out to be just another grasping politician with the morals of a marmoset.

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