Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has come under fire since The Washington Examiner first reported that a complaint to the Federal Election Committee (FEC) claimed her top aide “funneled over $1 million in political donations into two of his own private companies.”

The mainstream media largely ignored the story until Ocasio-Cortez provided a non-response response.

FEC Complaint

The Washington Examiner published its report on Monday:

The cash transfers from the PACs — overseen by Saikat Chakrabarti, the freshman socialist Democrat’s chief of staff — run counter to her pledges to increase transparency and reduce the influence of “dark money” in politics.

Chakrabarti’s companies appear to have been set up for the sole purpose of obscuring how the political donations were used.

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.

Here are the facts listed in the complaint:

https://www.scribd.com/document/401081150/AOC-FEC-Complaint-as-Filed

The complaint shows how the PACs run by Chakrabarti “raised about $3.3 million for the project, primarily from small donors” in 2016 and 2017, which the committees then “transferred over $1 million to two shell companies controlled by Chakrabarti with names similar to one of the PACs, Brand New Campaign LLC and Brand New Congress LLC, according to federal election filings.”

Chakrabarti developed Brand New Campaign LLC a few weeks after he started Brand New Congress PAC:

Over the next seven months, as small-dollar political donations poured into the PAC from progressives across the country, the committee transferred over $200,000, 82 percent of the contributions, to the company Brand New Campaign LLC. The payments were for “strategic consulting,” according to federal election filings. They were sent to an apartment address listed for Chakrabarti in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan.

In 2017, Brand New Congress PAC transferred another $240,000 to Brand New Congress LLC, also for “strategic consulting.” Another PAC co-founded by Chakrabarti that year, Justice Democrats, transferred an additional $605,000 to Brand New Congress LLC in 2017.

Brand New Congress LLC does not appear to be registered in any state, according to state government records available online. It is unclear where or when it was incorporated.

The law requires PACs “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.” Chakrabarti’s private companies do not fall under those rules.

The complaint requests “the FEC to investigate and audit the two PACs, saying they were engaged in an ‘an elaborate scheme to avoid proper disclosure of campaign expenditures.'”

The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained the corporate filings. Former FEC commissioner Brad Smith told the publication that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti could face jail time:

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.

“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,” former Republican FEC commissioner Hans von Spakovsky told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Ocasio-Cortez, Chakrabarti Respond

Ocasio-Cortez told Fox News when she landed at Ronald Reagan National Airport that “[T]here is no violation.” When the network asked her “if the complaint shows she was connected to ‘dark money’ during the campaign, Ocasio-Cortez replied, ‘No, no.'”

Chakrabarti never responded to comment requests, but defended the actions on Twitter:

MSM Finally Picks It Up

It took almost two days for the mainstream media to pick up the story. The Washington Post published a story on it late Tuesday night:

Campaign finance experts said the relationship between Chakrabarti’s PACs and the limited-liability corporation obfuscated who received the payments — and raised questions about who benefited.

“In a normal situation, if all you saw was a PAC that disbursed hundreds of thousands of dollars to an affiliated entity to pay the salaries of people who were really working for the PAC, that looks like . . . a PAC that takes in money to engage in political activity but is actually enriching its owners,” said Adav Noti, former Federal Election Commission lawyer who is now chief of staff of the Campaign Legal Center, a group that advocates for greater transparency in campaign finance.

In his statement, [The PACs and Ocasio-Cortez campaign attorney David] Mitrani said that the PACs did not disclose information about the ultimate recipients of the money because they were not required to do so by the FEC.

“If the PACs and campaigns were required to provide additional information on subvendor payments made by Brand New Congress LLC, it would have done so,” he wrote.

Of course The Washington Post did not credit The Washington Examiner. Instead:

AOC FEC Complaint as Filed by on Scribd

 
 
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