Possible campaign finance violations by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s former Chief of Staff Saikat Chakrabarti may constitute the basis of a federal probe, according to a report in the New York Post that cited federal sources. The article, meanwhile, didn’t specify which exact agency would be responsible for conducting the probe.
Two PACs (political action committees) are now being probed, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats – both of which were set up by Chakrabarti to support promising candidates across the country.
In terms of campaign finances, Chakrabarti has previously been scrutinised for his operations at Justice Democrats. In early spring, a complaint was filed with the Federal Elections Commission alleging that he covertly injected over $1 million in political donations into two of his private companies.
There were reportedly no “walls of separation” in the vast, 3,500-foot office space in Knoxville, Tennessee that in 2017 and 2018 housed two PACs, two private law firms, and at least 12 congressional campaign committees, all headed and controlled by Chakrabarti.
The PACs were found to have raised about $3.3 million in small donations overall, a third of which was transferred to two private structures bearing names similar to the PACs - Brand New Congress LLC and Brand New Campaign LLC, per federal campaign filings, cited by the edition.
While PACs are obliged to stick to federal reporting regulations, the National Legal and Policy Centre, a Virginia-based watchdog, alleged that the LLCs could have been started in order to obscure the reporting.
The NY Post report closely follows Friday’s unexpected news piece published by The Intercept that Saikat Chakrabarti and Corbin Trent, the congresswoman’s communications director, would be leaving her office for other employment in the near future.
Chakrabati, who stood by Ocasio-Cortez’s side as she was running in a congressional vote, is reportedly transferring to New Consensus, a non-profit focusing on the Green New Deal and other climate change ventures. Trent, on the other hand, is expected to work for Ocasio-Cortez’s re-election campaign:
“With the Ocasio 2020 campaign beginning to ramp up, I’ve asked Corbin to transition to the campaign full-time and he has agreed to do so”, Ocasio-Cortez told The Intercept. “I’m looking forward to growing the movement with him in Queens and the Bronx and across the country”.
In an outspoken and arguably brash move, Chakrabarti, who managed and promoted Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, had previously dropped a series of derogatory tweets that further worsened a rift between his boss and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“People were not happy that he used his Twitter account to comment about members and the bills that he and his boss oppose”, a senior House Democratic staffer said, as cited by the NY Post, adding: “There was a series of colliding and cascading grievances”.