This isn’t the first complaint involving the campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But so far, it involves by far the most money.
At the end of February, an earlier complaint was filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign had funneled more than $6,000 to her boyfriend, Riley Roberts, using the campaign-connected Brand New Congress PAC and a separate company run by Saikat Chakrabarti, who is now AOC’s chief of staff.
A new complaint, filed on Monday (March 4), alleges that Chakrabarti used the same PAC and LLC, plus two others, to divert money donated to the PACs into a slush fund – to the tune of over $1 million.
Experts in campaign finance advised the filing group, the National Legal and Policy Center, that the arrangement basically seemed to have the hallmarks of a slush fund.
Campaign finance attorneys described the arrangement as “really weird” and an indication “there’s something amiss.” They said there was no way of telling where the political donations went — meaning they could have been pocketed or used by the company to pay for off-the-books campaign operations.
The two PACs in question, Brand New Congress PAC and Justice Democrats – both of them set up by Chakrabarti – have reporting and transparency requirements that illuminate where their funds are going, and for what ostensible purposes.
But Chakrabarti’s private companies, Brand New Congress LLC and Brand New Campaign LLC, aren’t subject to the same requirements. If money is transferred into them, its ultimate use is not visible to government or public scrutiny.
As outlined in the complaint, the Brand New Congress PAC and Brand New Campaign LLC were both set up in 2016. About 82% of the donations to the PAC were funneled to the LLC, for a total of over $200,000. The bookkeeping indicated the transfers were for “strategic consulting.”
In 2017, after the 2016 campaign was over, Chakrabarti created the Brand New Congress LLC. The Brand New Congress PAC (from 2016) then transferred some $240,000 to it. The PAC expenditure was again reported to be for “strategic consulting.”
Also in 2017, Chakrabarti formed Justice Democrats, the second PAC. Justice Democrats transferred $605,0000 in 2017 to Brand New Congress LLC.
It gets even more “weird.” The LLC formed in 2016, Brand New Campaign, was incorporated as a shell company in Delaware using a registered agent service – an extremely common procedure.
But the LLC formed in 2017, Brand New Congress, doesn’t appear to have a record of incorporation anywhere. As the Washington Examiner notes, “It is unclear where or when it was incorporated.”
Apparently it does have a bank account, if more than $800,000 have been transferred to it from Chakrabarti’s PACs.
It looks like something of an understatement to make the observations recorded by Alana Goodman at the Washington Examiner:
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.”
It would seem so. The lack of transparency and blatant appearance of bad faith could in fact be held to warrant even more trenchant language.
But if Chakrabarti, and perhaps others who participated in AOC’s 2018 campaign, thought they could get away with it, one reason may be that the FEC still hasn’t called the Hillary Clinton campaign on $84 million in apparent fund-laundering in the 2016 election cycle. What Hillary has gotten away with continues to pollute the whole of America’s political environment.