Contrary to her pledges to increase transparency and reduce “dark money” in politics, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff funneled more than $1 million in political donations into two of his own private companies, according to a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday.
The companies owned by Saikat Chakrabarti appear to have been established for the sole purpose of hiding how the political donations were used, the Washington Examiner reported.
The complaint, filed by the watchdog National Legal and Policy Center, charges the arrangement violated reporting requirements and possibly the $5,000 limit on contributions from federal PACs to candidates.
In the absence of reporting to the FEC, the money could have been pocketed or used to pay for off-the-books campaign operations, argues the complaint, which names Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti as respondents.
“It appears Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her associates ran an off-the-books operation to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, thus violating the foundation of all campaign finance laws: transparency,” said Tom Anderson, director of the National Legal and Policy Center’s Government Integrity Project.
Chakrabarti, 33, founded a PAC called Brand New Congress in 2016 and another called Justice Democrats in 2017. The stated objective was to help elect progressive candidates to Congress. One was Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected last fall from the Bronx at age 29.
Adav Noti, the senior director of the Campaign Legal Center and a former FEC lawyer, said the arrangement was highly unusual and seemed intended to obscure the destination of the funds.
“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.”
Bradley A. Smith, a former chairman of the FEC, called it “a really weird situation.”
“I see almost no way that you can do that without it being at least a reporting violation, quite likely a violation of the contribution limits,” he told the Examiner. “You might say from a campaign finance angle that the LLC was essentially operating as an unregistered committee.”
Chakrabarti declined to comment as did a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez.