Saikat Chakrabarti, the Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is facing a complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) after allegedly using his personal businesses to funnel money from campaigns.
According to a report by the Washington Examiner, Chakrabarti oversaw more than $1 million in political donations being funneled into his private businesses. The complaint claims that Chakrabarti’s businesses were set up as shell companies in order to obscure where the funds were going.
The National Legal and Policy Center filed the complaint with the FEC against Chakrabarti, claiming that he may have used his private companies to dodge FEC reporting requirements, as well as a $5,000 cap that limits contributions to federal Political Action Committees (PACs).
The complaint notes that it was difficult to track where the funds went, meaning the money could have been used for off-the-books campaign activities.
A typical PAC has to disclose how the funds are used, including all campaign events, advertising, and donations to candidates.
The National Legal and Policy Center’s complaint called Chakrabarti’s PAC management “an elaborate scheme to avoid proper disclosure of campaign expenditures.”
Director of the National Legal and Policy Center’s Government Integrity Project Tom Anderson told the Washinton Examiner, “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.”
Several people took to Twitter to call out Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti for their questionable dealings, claiming it was hypocritical for the congresswoman because of her outspoken opposition to dark money in politics.
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) March 4, 2019
AOC is quite vocal in condemning dark money, BUT her campaign went to GREAT lengths to avoid the sunlight of disclosure.
AOC's ambitious operation circumvented reporting $1 million in campaign cash.
They even funneled money to pay her live in boyfriend. https://t.co/vjIR5bGm0f
— Jessie Jane Duff (@JessieJaneDuff) March 5, 2019
A former FEC Commissioner, Brad Smith, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti could face fines and jail time if the FEC finds that they knowingly and willfully tried to funnel the money.
This latest complaint comes after a series of shady dealings were uncovered by Luke Thompson, a Republican strategist. As IJR reported, Thompson found that a PAC managed by Chakrabarti cut two checks totaling $6,000 to Ocasio-Cortez’s boyfriend Riley Roberts within two months of receiving a $6,191.32 payment from her campaign.
Although Thompson alleged that Chakrabarti made these payments to muddy the waters around Ocasio-Cortez paying her boyfriend, Chakrabarti denied the accusations and said he hired Roberts because of his talent. The National Legal and Policy Center also has a pending FEC complaint against Chakrabarti for these payments, as IJR previously reported.
Beyond the shady dealings of his PACs and businesses, Chakrabarti caused some chaos in Ocasio-Cortez’s office after the congresswoman bragged about paying her staff above-average wages. This was problematic because the main reason her office could afford higher wages for her entry-level staffers is that her chief of staff Chakrabarti was only being paid $80,000 — which is almost half the average pay of a congressional chief of staff.
As IJR reported, this low salary conveniently allowed Chakrabarti to dodge public financial disclosures because he is below the $126,000 salary threshold where the federal requirement kicks in.