The Chief of Staff for New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez abruptly resigned on Friday, and reports quickly surfaced that he was under federal investigation.
Saikat Chakrabarti, according to the New York Post, is being probed over a pair of political action committees (PACs) that he personally oversaw, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats.
The PACs, a Federal Election Commission filing states, “funneled more than $1 million in political donations into two private companies that Chakrabarti also incorporated and controlled.”
The private companies appear to have been set up as a means to muddy the waters when it comes to federal reporting, as they are not held to the same reporting standards on spending and fundraising disclosure.
UPDATE: Feds are looking into possible campaign finance misdeeds by @AOC Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff ( @saikatc ). The two #PACs being probed, ‘Brand New Congress’ and ‘Justice Democrats’, were set up to support progressive candidates.https://t.co/w0FVBKgdKT
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) August 4, 2019
Earlier this year, the Political Insider reported that a complaint had been filed by the National Legal and Policy Center on this very matter.
The complaint alleged that Chakrabarti engaged in “an elaborate scheme to avoid proper disclosure of campaign expenditures” and that the effort was “coordinated” with other “respondents,” including the congresswoman herself.
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Ocasio-Cortez Being Looked At
Even better than her Chief of Staff under investigation is that the Post reports multiple sources have indicated Ocasio-Cortez’ implementation of new salary rules was actually part of a means to help him cover up his misdeeds.
In February, the New York socialist announced that entry-level staffers would receive a base salary of $52,000 a year, a move aimed at championing a “living wage.”
You may recall her bragging about it and the media lapping it up at the time.
Leadership starts with our choices.
That’s why I decided that no one on my staff will make less than $52k/year.
It’s likely one of the highest entry-level salaries on the Hill. We pinch pennies elsewhere, but it’s worth every dime to pay a living wage.https://t.co/IxfNH4632h
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 23, 2019
“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,” the New York Post reported.
Ocasio-Cortez’s communications director, Corbin Trent, who also resigned alongside Chakrabarti, had explained to The Hill that salaries for her staff would not exceed $80,000. The average pay for a person in that position is $146,830.
Very noble of him to take such a pay cut so junior staffers could make a ‘living wage.’ Or was it?
The report goes on to explain, “Because his salary was less than $126,000, congressional rules exempted the chief of staff from having to disclose his outside income.”
Former FEC commissioner Brad Smith previously explained that if Chakrabarti, Trent, or even AOC knew of the intent behind the scheme, they could be facing very serious penalties.
“If this were determined to be knowing and willful, they could be facing jail time,” Smith alleged.
It’s a good thing the duo was so insistent on allowing felons the right to vote. Perhaps they’ll still be able to help a Democrat win the popular vote in 2020 when all is said and done.
“Even if it’s not knowing and willful, it would be a clear civil violation of the act, which would require disgorgement of the contributions and civil penalties,” he continued. “I think they’ve got some real issues here.”
Underscoring the severity of this development, Ocasio-Cortez, widely known as willing to speak on just about any topic, refused to comment on the resignations and failed to show up at an event in the Bronx over the weekend.