The New York Post is reporting, that after his sudden and surprising resignation last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s now-former Chief of Staff is under federal investigation for possible campaign violations.
The inquiry centers on two political action committees funded by Saikat Chakrabarti, the top aide who quit along with Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent, reliable sources told the Post. While no reason was given for Chakrabarti’s sudden departure, Trent left to join the congresswoman’s 2020 re-election campaign.
The brash Chakrabarti masterminded Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and steered her proposed Green New Deal. It was his acerbic tweets that were said to be largely responsible for the rift between AOC 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. “There was a series of colliding and cascading grievances.”
In June and July, Chakrabarti accused Pelosi of being a weak leader and said that moderate Democrats were racists, “hell-bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.”
Four days later, Pelosi reprimanded Ocasio-Cortez and her “Squad” of young progressives during a closed-door meeting, demanding they stop airing their grievances in public.
The Root of the Probe of AOC Former Top Aide
The two PACs being probed, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, were both set up by Chakrabarti to support progressive candidates across the country.
But they funneled more than $1 million in political donations into two private companies that Chakrabarti also incorporated and controlled, according to Federal Election Commission filings and a complaint filed in March with the regulatory agency.
According to the Post’s reporting, in 2016 and 2017, the PACs raised about $3.3 million, mostly from small donors. A third of the cash was transferred to two private companies whose names are similar to one of the PACs — Brand New Congress LLC and Brand New Campaign LLC — federal campaign filings show.
While PACs must follow stringent federal rules on disclosure of spending and fundraising, private companies are not subject to the same transparency.
The complaint filed by the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group based in Virginia, alleged that the LLCs appeared to have been set up to “intentionally obscure” those federal reporting requirements.
The PACs may also have violated the $5,000 limit on contributions from federal PACs to candidates, according to the complaint. It is not known if any of that money flowed to Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign.
The sources speaking to the Post also said that federal authorities are looking at new salary rules imposed by AOC when she first took office earlier this year, and whether they were put in place just to let Chakrabarti dodge public financial disclosure rules.
AOC did not show up at a Bronx event on her schedule Saturday. When contacted by the New York Post, her office would not comment on the staff departures, and Chakrabarti did not return several messages. The Post says that Trent also declined comment.