Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tried to brush off the pile of Federal Elections Commission (FEC) complaints filed against her and her former chief of staff.
As IJR previously reported, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti announced he was leaving the congresswoman’s office to pursue other political passions amid the announcement that he was under FEC investigation for allegedly funneling more than $1 million between shell companies and PAC accounts.
Chakrabarti ran several entities, including Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress PAC, and Brand New Congress, LLC.
The particular FEC complaint that is being investigated was filed by the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), but it was just one of several ethical complaints targeting Chakrabarti and Ocasio-Cortez. As IJR has reported, the two face:
- An FEC complaint from NLPC alleging Chakrabarti funneled more than $1 million between his LLC and his PAC to avoid campaign disclosures;
- An Office of Congressional Ethics complaint from the Coolidge Reagan Foundation for alleged misuse of congressional resources after it was revealed that Ocasio-Cortez gave her boyfriend, Riley Roberts, an official House email account;
- An FEC complaint from the Coolidge Reagan Foundation against Chakrabarti for allegedly paying Roberts through his LLC so the campaign would not have to disclose payments to the candidate’s boyfriend;
- An FEC complaint from the Coolidge Reagan Foundation against Chakrabarti for allegedly running a political “subsidy scheme” by using PAC accounts to drive down costs for his LLCs to the tune of several million. This allowed the LLCs to skirt campaign finance laws because the transaction laws were not considered in-kind contributions, which they legally should have been.
The complaints both stem from two nonpartisan organizations. The Coolidge Reagan Foundation is a First Amendment foundation with a goal to “advance liberty.” The NLPC has a goal of “promoting ethics in public life.”
While the groups are not partisan, Ocasio-Cortez still brushed the complaints off as political hit jobs.
During an interview with The Daily News on Thursday morning, the congresswoman claimed the two organizations were just Republican trolls.
“All of these things were filed by these fringe, Republican groups. It’s a tactic they use and it’s very common. It’s a form of legal trolling.”
She went on to say that she and Chakrabarti are “in conversation” with the FEC, and maintained that they are “in total compliance” with the investigation.
Dan Backer, an attorney with the Coolidge Reagan Foundation, claimed that the fact Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti are talking to the FEC shows that there is merit in the complaints.
“If they’re talking to the FEC, they’re in conversation, that means the FEC probably found reason to believe they violated the law,” Backer told IJR, adding, “I think she’s more or less admitting to it.”
Backer also addressed the claim that the complaints are just “trolling” from “fringe, Republican groups.”
“When the [liberal donor] funded groups like the Campaign Legal Center and CREW [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] go around filing complaints against Republicans, then it’s totally okay and it’s fine. When a Republican group files a complaint against a Democrat — or in this case, a nonpartisan organization — but when it’s against Democrats, of course it’s always the ‘fringe.’ And nobody’s better able to evaluate the legal merit of the complaint than the criminal that the complaint is against.”
As for whether the FEC will come down hard on Ocasio-Cortez or Chakrabarti, Backer said it won’t be announced until the investigation is fully concluded.
“It’s hard to know which of her illegal actions she’ll be found guilty of, but eventually we’ll find out,” said Backer.