Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and ex-chief of staff face mounting scrutiny amid FEC probe

Numerous questions have been raised over the past several months about some allegedly dubious financial activities by Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and, perhaps more specifically, her now-former chief of staff and campaign manager, Saikat Chakrabarti.

Several complaints have been filed with the Federal Elections Commission claiming that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti violated key campaign finance regulations, and reports indicate that the FEC has opened up an inquiry into at least one of those allegations — that more than $1 million in political donations were funnelled from political action committees (PACs) to private companies owned by Chakrabarti.

Multiple complaints filed

Independent Journal Review reported that there are several potentially criminal matters that could ultimately prove troublesome for Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti, aside from the alleged illegal diversion of donations meant for the Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress PACs to Chakrabarti’s privately-owned limited liability corporations.

One such matter is an ethics complaint with the FEC that alleged that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti improperly funneled payments to the then-candidate’s boyfriend, Riley Roberts, in order to avoid the required disclosure of salaries for campaign workers.

There are also ethics complaints pending in Congress which allege that improper payments and privileges were provided to Roberts after Ocasio-Cortez assumed office.

Another issue that has given rise to official complaints involves Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to significantly lower the salary of her then-chief of staff Chakrabarti, purportedly so that she could pay higher salaries to junior staffers.

That drew attention due to the fact that his salary for the job was reduced below the $126,000 threshold that would require full disclosure of Chakrabarti’sfinancial information and sources of outside income.

Siphoned funds

Concerns about Chakrabarti’s salary being reduced below the threshold of required disclosure lead right into the main issue at the heart of the reported FEC inquiry.

The allegation at the center of that probe is that roughly $1 million in political donations were siphoned out of the federally-regulated PACs created by Chakrabarti and into the coffers of Chakrabarti’s private businesses, which are not as tightly regulated in terms of required disclosures and fiscal transparency.

The PACs and private LLCs were all created around the same time by Chakrabarti and bear strikingly similar names. By all appearances, the shifting of the $1 million in funds looks to have been an effort to sidestep reporting regulations that closely track the income and expenses of non-profit political action committees.

Seeking the truth

It remains to be seen what, if anything, will come of the FEC inquiry and the congressional ethics complaints against Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti, but the issue most certainly isn’t going away and won’t be swept under the rug and ignored.

If it turns out that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti did indeed violate campaign finance regulations and ethics rules in Congress, then both need to be held fully accountable under the law so that justice can truly be served.

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