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Ocasio-Cortez, chief of staff illegally moved $885K in campaign contributions 'off the books,' FEC complaint alleges

Ocasio-Cortez, chief of staff illegally moved $885K in campaign contributions 'off the books,' FEC complaint alleges

Postby smix » Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:55 pm

Ocasio-Cortez, chief of staff illegally moved $885K in campaign contributions 'off the books,' FEC complaint alleges
Fox News

URL: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/ocasio ... nt-alleges
Category: Politics
Published: March 4, 2019

Description: New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Saikat Chakrabarti, the progressive firebrand's multimillionaire chief of staff, apparently violated campaign finance law by funneling nearly $1 million in contributions from political action committees Chakrabarti established to private companies that he also controlled, according to an explosive complaint filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and obtained by Fox News. Amid the allegations, a former FEC commissioner late Monday suggested in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation that Ocasio-Cortez and her team could separately be facing major fines and potentially even jail time if they were knowingly and willfully violating the law by hiding their control of the Justice Democrats political action committee (PAC). Such an arrangement could have allowed Ocasio-Cortez's campaign to receive donations in excess of the normal limit, by pooling contributions to both the PAC and the campaign itself. The FEC complaint asserts that Chakrabarti established two PACs, the Brand New Congress PAC and Justice Democrats PAC, and then systematically transfered more than $885,000 in contributions received by those PACs to the Brand New Campaign LLC and the Brand New Congress LLC -- companies that, unlike PACs, are exempt from reporting all of their significant expenditures. The PACs claimed the payments were for "strategic consulting." Although large financial transfers from PACs to LLCs are not necessarily improper, the complaint argues that the goal of the "extensive" scheme was seemingly to illegally dodge detailed legal reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which are designed to track campaign expenditures. "It appears 'strategic consulting' was a mischaracterization of a wide range of activities that should have been reported individually," the complaint states.

cortez-chakrabarti.jpg

The complaint was drafted by the conservative, Virginia-based National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC). Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti, according to the NLPC's complaint, appeared to have "orchestrated an extensive off-the-books operation to make hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenditures in support of multiple candidates for federal office." The funds, the NLPC writes, were likely spent on campaign events for Ocasio-Cortez and other far-left Democratic candidates favored by Chakrabarti, who made his fortune in Silicon Valley and previously worked on Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign. But no precise accounting for the expenses is available, and the complaint asks the FEC to conduct an investigation into the matter immediately. "These are not minor or technical violations," Tom Anderson, director of NLPC’s Government Integrity Project, said in a statement. "We are talking about real money here. In all my years of studying FEC reports, I’ve never seen a more ambitious operation to circumvent reporting requirements. Representative Ocasio-Cortez has been quite vocal in condemning so-called dark money, but her own campaign went to great lengths to avoid the sunlight of disclosure.” Added Anderson: “They believe their cause is so great that they don’t have to play by the rules. They believe that they are above campaign finance law." Brand New Congress LLC does not appear to be registered as an LLC in any state, according to the complaint, but is a registered 527 tax-exempt organization. Fox News confirmed that Brand New Campaign LLC is a registered Delaware corporation, but Brand New Congress LLC is not. Ocasio-Cortez's office did not return a request for comment. In announcing the complaint the NLPC pointed to a 2016 interview on MSNBC, in which the 33-year-old Chakrabarti told anchor Rachel Maddow that he wanted to employ a "single, unified presidential-style campaign" model to "galvanize" voters nationally to elect progressives to Congress, while helping candidates avoid the stress of fundraising and managing their own campaigns. Other legal experts also sounded the alarm on Monday, saying Chakrabarti's unusual arrangement raised serious unanswered questions. Former FEC Associate General Counsel for Policy Adav Noti, who currently directs the Campaign Legal Center, told Fox News that it was a "total mystery" to him why Chakrabarti had established an LLC seemingly to take money from the PAC, rather than simply create a "normal venture," like a consulting business, to provide services for candidates on the books. "Certainly, it's not permissible to use an LLC or any other kind of intermediary to conceal the recipient or purpose of a PAC's spending," Noti said. "The law requires the PAC to report who it disburses money to. You can't try to evade that by routing it through an LLC or corporation or anyone else." Noti added: "What's so weird about this situation is that the PAC that disbursed so much of its money to one entity that was so clearly affiliated with the PAC. Usually, that's a sign that it's what's come to be known as a 'scam PAC' -- one that's operated for the financial benefit of its operators, rather than one designed to engage in political activity." At the same time, Noti said, Chakrabarti had provided "long descriptions of why they structured it the way they did -- which is not something a scam PAC would do," because it only draws attention to the unusual setup. And Noti cautioned that there is a tendency for some groups to try to gain attention by invoking Ocasio-Cortez. "But on the other hand," Noti added, Ocasio-Cortez's "explanations don't make a lot of sense on their face. I read their explanation multiple times, and I still don't understand. If you want to start a business to provide services to campaigns -- many of those are organized as LLC's, and you sell your services." Instead, Chaktrabarti "started a PAC, which has legal obligations to report all of is incoming and outgoing money, and then used the PAC to disperse its funds to the LLC," Noti said. Added former FEC chairman Bradley A. Smith, in an interview with The Washington Examiner: "It's a really weird situation. I see almost no way that you can do that without it being at least a reporting violation, quite likely a violation of the contribution limits. You might say from a campaign finance angle that the LLC was essentially operating as an unregistered committee." Last week, Anderson also raised concerns over Ocasio-Cortez's decision to announce, with much fanfare, that she would offer a minimum salary of $52,000 to her staffers, and a maximum salary of $80,000 -- far below the typical six-figure highs hit by chiefs of staff and other high-level congressional workers. Government watchdogs pointed out that federal law requires congressional workers making more than $126,000 a year -- which would ordinarily include Chakrabarti -- to file detailed forms outlining all of their outside income, including investments and gifts. “Purposefully underpaying staffers in order to avoid transparency is an old trick some of the most corrupt members of Congress have used time and again,” Anderson said. Speaking to the New York Post, Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent dismissed the FEC complaint, saying the campaign had consulted an elections lawyer and that all money was properly accounted for. “It was payment for services. ... We believe that complaint is politically motivated, basically intended to create a political story,” Trent told the Post. Noti told Fox News that Trent's explanation could be plausible -- and if so, it might help Ocasio-Cortez's team avoid civil fraud lawsuits. "One possibility -- a strong possibility, based on the description they put out, is they just got really bad legal advice that somehow said they had to to do this," Noti said. "But regardless, when they decided to use the PAC form, which they did, they subjected themselves to all the legal requirements that come with that." Election laws are complicated, Noti added, and there have been some erroneous recent reports related to Ocasio-Cortez's campaign. For example, FEC filings reviewed by Fox News show that Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional campaign paid the Justice Democrats PAC more than $35,000 from 2017 to 2018 for "web services," “strategic consulting,” and "campaign services." While some outlets have incorrectly reported that federal rules generally prohibit PACs from providing more than $5,000 in services to campaigns, Noti told Fox News that the payments were likely proper so long as they were for the fair market value of the services rendered. In terms of possible penalties, Noti said that Ocasio-Cortez's campaign could be facing FEC fines if it followed bad legal advice and made reporting errors. But civil or even criminal fraud statutes, as opposed to campaign finance laws, would potentially kick in if it were determined that Chakrabarti had intentionally tried to hide the money to use for illicit expenses. Meanwhile, former FEC commissioner Brad Smith told the Daily Caller News Foundation's investigative unit that, because Ocasio-Cortez may have held legal control of the Justice Democrats PAC while the PAC was supporting her campaign, the two committees were likely acting as affiliated committees -- and therefore share an individual contribution limit of $2,700 that might have been improperly and repeatedly exceeded. The Daily Caller News Foundation's review of archived copies of the Justice Democrats PAC's website and relevant campaign documents indicated that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti "obtained majority control of Justice Democrats PAC in December 2017" -- and yet allegedly failed to disclose afterward to the FEC the fact that the PAC was supporting her candidacy. “If this were determined to be knowing and willful, they could be facing jail time," Smith said. "Even if it’s not knowing and willful, it would be a clear civil violation of the act, which would require disgorgement of the contributions and civil penalties. I think they’ve got some real issues here.” Added former Republican FEC commissioner Hans von Spakovsky: “If the facts as alleged are true, and a candidate had control over a PAC that was working to get that candidate elected, then that candidate is potentially in very big trouble and may have engaged in multiple violations of federal campaign finance law, including receiving excessive contributions." Monday's FEC complaint comes on the heels of a separate complaint by the Washington, D.C.-based Coolidge Reagan Foundation, which alleged last week that the Brand New Congress PAC may have illegally funneled thousands of dollars to Ocasio-Cortez's live-in boyfriend, Riley Roberts.

aoc-boyfriend.jpg

It was first reported late last month that the Brand New Congress PAC paid Roberts during the early days of the Ocasio-Cortez campaign. According to FEC records, the PAC made two payments to Roberts – one in August 2017 and one in September 2017 – both for $3,000. The FEC complaint specifically cites the use of "intermediaries" to make the payments, "the vague and amorphous nature of the services Riley ostensibly provided," the relatively small amount of money raised by the campaign at that stage and "the romantic relationship between Ocasio-Cortez and Riley" in asserting the transactions might violate campaign finance law. The Coolidge Reagan Foundation -- a 501(c)(3) -- is requesting that the FEC look into the payments for potential violations on relevant campaign finance laws that state that campaign contributions “shall not be converted by any person to personal use” and that “an authorized committee must report the name and address of each person who has received any disbursement not disclosed.”



Payments to Ocasio-Cortez boyfriend spur FEC complaint from Republican group
Fox News

URL: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/paymen ... -complaint
Category: Politics
Published: February 28, 2019

Description: EXCLUSIVE – A Republican group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday alleging that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's campaign may have illegally funneled thousands of dollars through an allied PAC to boyfriend Riley Roberts. Members of the Washington, D.C.-based Coolidge Reagan Foundation allege in their complaint that when the Brand New Congress PAC (BNC) -- a political arm of Brand New Congress LLC, a company that was hired by Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to run and support her campaign -- paid Roberts for marketing services, it potentially ran afoul of campaign finance law. “It’s not illegal for [Ocasio-Cortez] to pay her boyfriend, but it appears that they created some sort of scheme to avoid claiming the money [as a campaign expense],” Dan Backer, a D.C.-based attorney who filed the complaint on behalf of the foundation, told Fox News. “What exactly did he do for that money?”

aoc-pays-boyfriend.jpg

It was first reported last week that the Brand New Congress PAC paid Roberts during the early days of the Ocasio-Cortez campaign. According to FEC records, the PAC made two payments to Roberts – one in August 2017 and one in September 2017 – both for $3,000. The FEC complaint specifically cites the use of "intermediaries" to make the payments, "the vague and amorphous nature of the services Riley ostensibly provided," the relatively small amount of money raised by the campaign at that stage and "the romantic relationship between Ocasio-Cortez and Riley" in asserting the transactions might violate campaign finance law. The Coolidge Reagan Foundation -- a 501(c)(3) -- is requesting that the FEC look into the payments for potential violations on relevant campaign finance laws that state that campaign contributions “shall not be converted by any person to personal use” and that “an authorized committee must report the name and address of each person who has received any disbursement not disclosed.” Officials with BNC claimed in a previous statement, however, that everything was on the up and up regarding payments. “[Roberts] is a professional digital marketing and growth consultant who specializes in social media presence and subscriber engagement,” said BNC’s Communications Director Zeynab Day, adding that his hiring was based “on his experience managing successful advertising and social media campaigns.” “He was hired through a 2 month trial period, beginning on August 3, 2017, and worked through the end of September 2017,” she added. “Services to the Brand New Congress PAC consisted of advertising strategies for potential growth, developing metrics, and aiding in execution of strategy to increase brand awareness for the PAC as a whole.” Wednesday's complaint comes after a blog post on Medium by political consultant Luke Thompson, who first flagged the payments to Roberts. His screed prompted pushback from Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti as it also included unverified speculation of legal impropriety and an incorrect claim that the Democrat’s campaign raised only about $3,000 while spending nearly $28,000 by October 2017 – ignoring that the campaign also raised more than $33,000 from small donors. The congresswoman fired back on Twitter last week, saying, “The conspiracy machine is in full effect & it’s been disappointing to watch professionals get duped + amplify unvetted Medium posts as truth, treating journalism like it’s a high school LiveJournal rumor mill or something. No, I don’t shadily pay my boyfriend. Come on & VET.” News of the payments came after it was discovered that Roberts was recently given a congressional email account, with some suggesting it was an ethics violation as boyfriends might not reach the level of partners or spouses who might otherwise be given such access. The spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, David O'Boyle, told Fox News that “from time to time, at the request of members, spouses and partners are provided House email accounts for the purposes of viewing the member’s calendar.” Ocasio-Cortez said the account was given so he could have access to her calendar, dismissing another claim by Thompson that he was on staff as "nonsense." Fox News has reached out to Ocasio-Cortez's office for comment on the latest FEC complaint.



Ocasio-Cortez hit with new ethics complaint over boyfriend's email account
Fox News

URL: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/alexan ... il-address
Category: Politics
Published: March 7, 2019

Description: EXCLUSIVE — A conservative group that filed a complaint with the FEC alleging Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's campaign may have illegally funneled thousands of dollars through an allied PAC to boyfriend Riley Roberts on Thursday lodged a fresh complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics. The new filing also concerns the famous congresswoman's boyfriend, but focuses on his use of a congressional email account. The Coolidge Reagan Foundation, a political nonprofit, alleges in the complaint that the New York Democratic lawmaker used her newly found congressional privileges in an unethical manner when she set up the House email address for Roberts. “This Complaint alleges Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez improperly converted U.S. House resources to her non-official, personal use by obtaining an official ‘@mail.house.gov’ e-mail address for her boyfriend, despite the fact he was not employed by her congressional office,” reads a line from the complaint obtained by Fox News. “Moreover, it appears she obtained the e-mail address for him by falsely designating him a ‘staff’ member.” Attorneys for the foundation allege that Ocasio-Cortez violated restrictions on personal use of House services and equipment—as outlined in the House Ethics Manual. They maintain that the provision of an official House-based email address for Roberts is a violation of rules that prevent outside individuals from having an official account. “To my surprise, no one else had acted on this information,” foundation attorney Dan Backer told Fox News, “and while media coverage of misconduct is good, [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] has to be held accountable.” “On this matter, only OCE [Office of Congressional Ethics] has the investigative authority to do so.” Officials for Ocasio-Cortez's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but the congresswoman made public statements last month when news of Roberts' email account surfaced saying the account was given so he could have access to her calendar. "Congressional spouses get Gcal access all the time. Next time check your facts before you tweet nonsense," she tweeted. Asked about the arrangement last month, David O'Boyle, the spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, told Fox News: "From time to time, at the request of members, spouses and partners are provided House email accounts for the purposes of viewing the member’s calendar." But Jason Chaffetz, former GOP chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Ocasio-Cortez' claims don’t stack up. "It’s totally naïve and inappropriate – you wouldn’t allow it in most companies, let alone the House of Representatives. There should be real consequences,” Chaffetz told Fox News. The newly filed complaint is the latest to question the operations of Ocasio-Cortez's campaign and congressional office. It was first reported last month that the allied Brand New Congress PAC paid Roberts during the early days of the Ocasio-Cortez campaign. According to FEC records, the PAC made two payments to Roberts – one in August 2017 and one in September 2017 – both for $3,000. A week later, the Coolidge Reagan Foundation filed its first complaint with the Federal Election Commission, requesting that the agency look into the payments for potential violations on relevant campaign finance laws that state that campaign contributions “shall not be converted by any person to personal use” and that “an authorized committee must report the name and address of each person who has received any disbursement not disclosed.” The FEC complaint specifically cites the use of "intermediaries" to make the payments, "the vague and amorphous nature of the services Riley ostensibly provided," the relatively small amount of money raised by the campaign at that stage and "the romantic relationship between Ocasio-Cortez and Riley" in asserting the transactions might violate campaign finance law. “It’s not illegal for [Ocasio-Cortez] to pay her boyfriend, but it appears that they created some sort of scheme to avoid claiming the money [as a campaign expense],” Backer told Fox News at the time. “What exactly did he do for that money?” A separate complaint was filed with the FEC from another group alleging that the congresswoman and Saikat Chakrabarti, her chief of staff, apparently violated campaign finance law by funneling nearly $1 million in contributions from political action committees Chakrabarti established to private companies that he also controlled. The FEC complaint asserts that Chakrabarti established two PACs, the Brand New Congress PAC and Justice Democrats PAC, and then systematically transferred more than $885,000 in contributions received by those PACs to the Brand New Campaign LLC and the Brand New Congress LLC -- companies that, unlike PACs, are exempt from reporting all of their significant expenditures. The PACs claimed the payments were for "strategic consulting." Although large financial transfers from PACs to LLCs are not necessarily improper, the complaint argues that the goal of the "extensive" scheme was seemingly to illegally dodge detailed legal reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which are designed to track campaign expenditures. "It appears 'strategic consulting' was a mischaracterization of a wide range of activities that should have been reported individually," the complaint states.



Company founded by Ocasio-Cortez in 2012 still owes $1,870 in taxes
Fox News

URL: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/compan ... 0-in-taxes
Category: Politics
Published: March 10, 2019

Description: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to pass sweeping tax hikes on the wealthy, but the freshman lawmaker might want to take care of her own unpaid tax bill first. Brook Avenue Press, a company she founded in 2012 to publish children’s books in The Bronx, owes the state $1,870.36 in corporate taxes, public records show. The state slapped the company with a warrant on July 6, 2017, two months after Ocasio-Cortez announced her candidacy to run against Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley for the district that encompasses parts of Queens and The Bronx. The state requires businesses to pay a corporation tax on a sliding scale based on revenue. The minimum payment last year was $25. “The company probably got numerous letters from the state and probably ignored them,” one New York City accountant theorized. Public records show the state dissolved the company in October 2016, which can happen when a business fails to pay corporate taxes or file a return. The state Tax Department won’t comment on individual companies but typically files warrants as a last resort after trying to collect money. “This is the first we’re hearing of it, and we won’t have any additional comment until we look into it,” Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesman, Corbin Trent, said Saturday. Brook Avenue Press was set up to “develop and identify stories and literature in urban areas like New York, specifically communities like The Bronx,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a YouTube video posted in October 2011, months before she filed incorporation papers for the company in July 2012. The company relied on cheap office space in a city-subsidized program to help small businesses in The Bronx. Called the Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, the program was housed in a renovated former printing plant in Hunts Point, where rates for office spaces and tech services in 2012 averaged between $99 for a “virtual office” and $275 per month for local start-ups. Ocasio-Cortez was featured on the city’s website for the incubator, and The National Hispanic Institute named her a social entrepreneur in residence. “You see a huge return on your investment here,” a 22-year-old Ocasio-Cortez told a reporter in July 2012. “People pay $500 an hour for consulting that we get for free by the water cooler.” The tax warrant was issued to Brook Avenue Press at the incubator’s address on Garrison Avenue. But despite her promise to work with “designers, artists and authors that really know the urban story and help develop stories for kids,” The Post could not find any books the publishing house produced. Last week, Ocasio-Cortez signed on to a bill to tax stock trades and has previously called for a 70 percent tax on incomes over $10 million in order to help finance the Green New Deal, her environmental manifesto calling for “new national, social, industrial and economic mobilization” to save the planet.



Ocasio-Cortez de-listed from board of Justice Democrats after controversy
Fox News

URL: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/ocasio ... ontroversy
Category: Politics
Published: March 19, 2019

Description: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., reportedly has been de-listed from the board of left-wing activist group Justice Democrats, following legal and ethical questions about her affiliation with the group. The Daily Caller reported that Ocasio-Cortez, along with chief of staff and former campaign chair Saikat Chakrabarti, have been removed from the board of the political action committee after previously holding “legal control over the entity" in late 2017 and early 2018. The Daily Caller had reported earlier this month on Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti's role with the PAC, noting that the congresswoman never disclosed to the Federal Election Commission that they "controlled the PAC while it was simultaneously supporting her primary campaign." Former FEC officials said at the time this could represent violations of campaign finance law. It was Justice Democrats that helped catapult Ocasio-Cortez from obscurity to an upset primary win over then-Rep. Joe Crowley to an election win in November. The group runs a recruitment program by which activists can nominate grassroots candidates for office to challenge incumbent Democrats, and Ocasio-Cortez gave her support to that push in a video in January. The group has also backed her on issues such as "Medicare-for-all" and the Green New Deal. The Caller reports that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti took control of Justice Democrats in December 2017, until Ocasio-Cortez was removed from the board in June 2018 -- though she was kept on as an “entity governor” until last week. Both Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti were only officially removed from the board on March 15, according to documents obtained by the outlet, almost eight months after attorneys had said she was removed. The development is the latest in the controversy surrounding the left-wing firebrand’s campaign. Earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti were accused in an FEC complaint of violating campaign finance law by funneling nearly $1 million in contributions from PACs, including Justice Democrats, to private companies also controlled by Chakrabarti. Although large financial transfers from PACs to private LLCs are not necessarily improper, the complaint argues that the goal of the "extensive" scheme was seemingly to dodge detailed reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which are designed to track campaign expenditures. The complaint was drafted by the conservative, Virginia-based National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) and alleged that the pair appeared to have "orchestrated an extensive off-the-books operation to make hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenditures in support of multiple candidates for federal office." Her office denied wrongdoing. “There is no violation,” Ocasio-Cortez told Fox News after the report was filed. Asked if the complaint shows she was connected to "dark money" during the campaign, Ocasio-Cortez replied, “No, no.” Chakrabarti also defended the set-up on Twitter, saying, "We were doing something totally new, which meant a new setup. So, we were transparent about it from the start."
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Ocasio-Cortez And Her Chief Of Staff ‘Could Be Facing Jail Time’ If Their Control Over PAC Was Intentionally Hidden, Former FEC

Postby smix » Tue Mar 05, 2019 1:27 pm

Ocasio-Cortez And Her Chief Of Staff ‘Could Be Facing Jail Time’ If Their Control Over PAC Was Intentionally Hidden, Former FEC Commissioner Says
Daily Caller

URL: https://dailycaller.com/2019/03/04/ocas ... democrats/
Category: Politics
Published: March 4, 2019

Description: Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti obtained majority control of Justice Democrats PAC in December 2017, according to archived copies of the group’s website, and the two appear to retain their control of the group, according to corporate filings obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. If the Federal Election Commission (FEC) finds that the New York Democrat’s campaign operated in affiliation with the PAC, which had raised more than $1.8 million before her June 2018 primary, it would open them up to “massive reporting violations, probably at least some illegal contribution violations exceeding the lawful limits,” former FEC commissioner Brad Smith said. Ocasio-Cortez never disclosed to the FEC that she and Chakrabarti, who served as her campaign chair, controlled the PAC while it was simultaneously supporting her primary campaign, and former FEC commissioners say the arrangement could lead to multiple campaign finance violations. The group backed 12 Democrats during the 2018 midterms, but Ocasio-Cortez was the only one of those to win her general election. “If the facts as alleged are true, and a candidate had control over a PAC that was working to get that candidate elected, then that candidate is potentially in very big trouble and may have engaged in multiple violations of federal campaign finance law, including receiving excessive contributions,” former Republican FEC commissioner Hans von Spakovsky told The Daily Caller News Foundation. And fellow former FEC commissioner Brad Smith told TheDCNF that if “a complaint were filed, I would think it would trigger a serious investigation.” He also noted that such a probe could potentially result in jail time for Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff, Chakrabarti. Republican election attorney Charlie Spies told TheDCNF: “It looks like the campaign and PAC are under common control and the PAC was funding campaign staff and activities as an alter-ego of the campaign committee, which would be a blatant abuse of the PAC rules.” Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti could face prison if the FEC determines that they knowingly and willfully withheld their ties between the campaign and the political action committee from the FEC to bypass campaign contribution limits, according to Smith. “At minimum, there’s a lot of smoke there, and if there are really only three board members and she and [Chakrabarti] are two of them, sure looks like you can see the blaze,” Smith, a Republican, told TheDCNF. “I don’t really see any way out of it.” Justice Democrats stated on its website from December 2017 until two weeks after Ocasio-Cortez’s June 2018 primary victory that she and Chakrabarti held “legal control” of the PAC, and corporate filings obtained by TheDCNF show that the two still serve on the three-member board of Justice Democrats on paper.

ocassio-cortez-with-chakrabarti .jpg

Political committees are affiliated if they are “established, financed, maintained or controlled by … the same person or group of persons,” federal election law states. Smith said: “The admission makes it open and shut if someone wants to file a complaint with the FEC. I don’t see how the FEC could not investigate that. We’ve even got their own statement on their website that they control the organization. I don’t see how you could avoid an investigation on that.” And if the FEC concludes that Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and Justice Democrats were operating as affiliated committees, “then anyone who contributed over $2,700 total to her campaign and the PAC would have made an excessive contribution,” which is a campaign finance violation, Smith told TheDCNF. Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and Justice Democrats raised a combined $4.6 million during the 2018 midterm election cycle, FEC records show. There’s a maximum five-year prison sentence for anyone who knowingly and willfully receives a collective $25,000 or more in excessive campaign contributions in a single calendar year. Justice Democrats raked in far more than $25,000 from individual contributors of over $2,700 after Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti took control, according to FEC records. “If this were determined to be knowing and willful, they could be facing jail time,” Smith told TheDCNF. “Even if it’s not knowing and willful, it would be a clear civil violation of the act, which would require disgorgement of the contributions and civil penalties. I think they’ve got some real issues here.” Spies, who served as legal counsel for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, said: “There are a bunch of well-funded groups on the left that file complaints on much thinner grounds than this against conservatives and Republican candidates. I hope that these so-called non-partisan groups file complaints and treat this with the same urgency that they would if it were a conservative candidate.” Ocasio-Cortez credits Justice Democrats for recruiting her to run for Congress in May 2017. She tweeted that the group got her campaign up and running by helping “with all that stuff a normal person would need (what forms to fill out? etc).” Ocasio-Cortez paid a combined $27,293 to Justice Democrats and to what was effectively its predecessor, Brand New Congress LLC, for administrative, staffing and overhead services from the time she declared her candidacy to her shock primary victory, according to FEC records. Ocasio-Cortez only began paying her staffers directly through her campaign beginning in March 2018, according to her campaign reports. Justice Democrats supported Ocasio-Cortez throughout her entire primary run. The group, which Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti appear to have legally controlled for much of her campaign, had raised more than $1.8 million by the time she ousted incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley. Ocasio-Cortez was the only Justice Democrats-sponsored candidate to win her general election. She was also the only Justice Democrats-sponsored candidate to hold legal control of the PAC. The other 11 candidates propped up by Justice Democrats lost their respective races, according to The New York Times. Justice Democrats staffers said there were discussions to go all in for Ocasio-Cortez as early as June 2017.
Last year, when @_waleedshahid and I were at @justicedems, we lead a process to name our 2018 goals. Goal number 1: to defeat at least one prominent establishment Democrat with a JD recruited candidate. Everyone agreed @Ocasio2018 was our best shot.
— No More Billionaires 2020???? (@maxberger) July 4, 2018

Justice Democrats’ goal was for one of its sponsored candidates to defeat the incumbent, co-founder Corbin Trent told The Washington Post in June 2018, and former Justice Democrats staffer Max Berger tweeted that they established that goal in 2017. But the PAC was advertising that it sought to replace numerous Democratic members of Congress with progressives. Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti, who served in multiple leadership roles within her campaign including campaign manager, were serving on the board of the Justice Democrats as early as Dec. 2, 2017, according to an archived copy of the PAC’s website. Cenk Uygur and Kyle Kulinski of The Young Turks network were also on PAC’s board in early December 2017, but Uygur was forced out of the organization Dec. 22, 2017, after what Chakrabarti called “extremely disturbing sexist and racist statements” Uygur made in the early 2000s were unearthed.
We are deeply disturbed by recent news regarding @cenkuygur & David Koller. Their language and conduct is horrifying and does not reflect our values at Justice Democrats. We would be hypocrites to not act immediately and ask for their resignation. Here is our official statement:
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) December 22, 2017

Kulinski announced on YouTube the following day that he was resigning from Justice Democrats due to the PAC’s “venomous” Twitter statement urging Uygur’s resignation. Kulinski said he had “strong disagreements with the staff” of Justice Democrats, but added that the PAC’s candidates had “nothing to do with this.” Board members Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti were left in control over Justice Democrats after Uygur and Kulinski’s departures, according to an archived version of its website saved on March 23, 2018, by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. “Justice Democrats PAC has a board consisting of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Saikat Chakrabarti that has legal control over the entity,” the Justice Democrats website read that day. Justice Democrats then reported that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti were “governors” of the organization in a document submitted to the Washington, D.C. Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs on March 28, 2018. A third listed governor was the PAC’s treasurer, Nasim Thompson. A governor of an organization incorporated in D.C. is any person “under whose authority the powers of an entity are exercised and under whose direction the activities and affairs of the entity are managed,” according to the D.C. Law Library. The Justice Democrats’ website continued to state that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti held “legal control over the entity” for weeks after Ocasio-Cortez’s shock primary victory over Crowley on June 26, according to a July 10, 2018 archive of its website. The Justice Democrats’ website currently states that Alexandra Rojas and Thompson hold legal control of the organization, but the PAC hasn’t filed documents to Washington, D.C. where it’s incorporated reflecting the change, meaning that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti currently retain majority control of Justice Democrats on paper. Politico reported Jan. 16 that Chakrabarti resigned from the board, and Justice Democrat’s website no longer listed Ocasio-Cortez as a board member as of Aug. 8, 2018. TheDCNF received the corporation filing document still showing both as governors on Feb. 25. The D.C. government website showed the same as of Monday afternoon. Ocasio-Cortez’s office and Justice Democrats did not respond to multiple requests for comment.



Ocasio-Cortez Has Ties To A Dark Money Group
Daily Caller

URL: https://dailycaller.com/2019/03/14/ocas ... money-pac/
Category: Politics
Published: March 14, 2019

Description: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has ties with a dark money group that trains progressive organizers on how to lead grassroots political campaigns across the country. The group, Organize for Justice, is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, meaning it can raise unlimited sums of money without having to disclose the identity of its donors to the public. Organize for Justice’s website states that it is the “sister organization” of Justice Democrats, the PAC that, according to corporate filings, Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff have held control over since December 2017. Ocasio-Cortez has frequently decried the use of dark money in politics. During her primary campaign, she said dark money was an “enemy to democracy” and that it poses a “very real danger” of silencing grassroots candidates. Organize for Justice was founded by former Ocasio-Cortez campaign volunteers in November, according to corporate documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. Justice Democrats’ executive director, Alexandra Rojas, also serves on the board of the dark money group. In February, the group launched Movement School, a 10-week training program tasked with “incubating cohorts of highly skilled professionals to lead grassroots political campaigns across the country,” according to its website. The dark money group doesn’t charge its participants tuition fees, according to a frequently asked questions page on its website. It requests graduates “prioritize working for campaigns that live the values of Movement School.” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for Movement School during its launch event in the Bronx. Ocasio-Cortez’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. Ocasio-Cortez has served on the board of the dark money group’s “sister organization,” Justice Democrats, since December 2017. Her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, has also been a Justice Democrats board member since December 2017, and also served as the political action committee’s executive director until February 2018, according to his LinkedIn. Ocasio-Cortez’s attorney told Snopes on March 8 that she left Justice Democrats’ board in June 2018, but the PAC’s corporate filings with Washington, D.C., currently list her and Chakrabarti as “entity governors” of the group. Ocasio-Cortez never disclosed to the Federal Election Commission that she and Chakrabarti, who served as her campaign chair, controlled Justice Democrats while it simultaneously supported her primary campaign. If the FEC finds that her campaign and the PAC were operating in affiliation, it could result in “massive reporting violations,” former FEC commissioner Brad Smith previously told TheDCNF. Former FEC Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky said in a Fox News op-ed Sunday that he believes there’s sufficient evidence to “justify opening a criminal investigation” into Ocasio-Cortez’s alleged campaign finance violations. Neither Justice Democrats nor Organize for Justice returned requests for comment.



Ocasio-Cortez Quietly Removed From Board Of PAC She And Top Aide Controlled
Daily Caller

URL: https://dailycaller.com/2019/03/18/ocas ... crats-pac/
Category: Politics
Published: March 18, 2019

Description: Democratic Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez and her top aide are no longer board members of the outside PAC credited with orchestrating her political rise, according to a corporate document filed Friday to a Washington, D.C., agency. The New York Democrat and her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, who served as her campaign chair, joined the board of Justice Democrats in December 2017, according to the political action committee’s website. It also said the two held “legal control over the entity” at the same time it was playing a key role in supporting Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign prior to her shock victory over incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in June 2018. Attorneys for Ocasio-Cortez said she was removed from Justice Democrats’ board in June 2018, but she was listed an “entity governor” of the PAC as recently as March 14, according to corporate filings, The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported. Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti were officially removed from Justice Democrats’ board on March 15, according to a corporate document filed that day to the Washington, D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. It’s unclear why it took Justice Democrats more than eight months to formally remove Ocasio-Cortez from its board. The PAC did not respond to a request for comment. Ocasio-Cortez never disclosed to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that she and Chakrabarti controlled Justice Democrats while it simultaneously supported her primary campaign. If the FEC finds that her campaign and the PAC were operating in affiliation, it could result in “massive reporting violations” or potentially even jail time for Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti, former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith previously told TheDCNF. Another former FEC commissioner, Hans von Spakovsky, wrote in a March 10 Fox News op-ed that he believes there’s sufficient evidence to “justify opening a criminal investigation” into Ocasio-Cortez. Alexandra Rojas and Demond Drummer replaced Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti on Justice Democrats’ board. Both have close ties to the congresswoman. Rojas, Justice Democrats’ executive director, was a field organizer for the Ocasio-Cortez campaign in 2018 while she was also serving as campaign director for the PAC. Chakrabarti preceded Rojas as executive director. Drummer is the executive director of New Consensus, a nonprofit group that played a key role in developing the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal was written in a single weekend in December by New Consensus, Justice Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez staffers, along with the Sunrise Movement, a climate advocacy organization. “We spent the weekend learning how to put laws together,” Chakrabarti told The New Yorker in January. “We looked up how to write resolutions.”
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AOC’s chief of staff ran $1M slush fund by diverting campaign cash to his own companies

Postby smix » Tue Mar 05, 2019 1:45 pm

AOC’s chief of staff ran $1M slush fund by diverting campaign cash to his own companies
Washington Examiner

URL: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/poli ... -companies
Category: Politics
Published: March 4, 2019

Description: Two political action committees founded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s top aide funneled over $1 million in political donations into two of his own private companies, according to a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday. The cash transfers from the PACs — overseen by Saikat Chakrabarti, the freshman socialist Democrat's chief of staff — run counter to her pledges to increase transparency and reduce the influence of "dark money" in politics. Chakrabarti's companies appear to have been set up for the sole purpose of obscuring how the political donations were used. The arrangement skirted reporting requirements and may have violated the $5,000 limit on contributions from federal PACs to candidates, according to the complaint filed by the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group. 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. PACs are required to disclose how and when funds are spent, including for expenditures such as advertisements, fundraising emails, donations to candidates, and payments for events and to vendors. The private companies to which Chakrabarti transferred the money from the PACs are not subject to these requirements. The complaint names Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti as respondents. It asks the FEC to investigate and audit the two PACs, saying they were engaged in an "an elaborate scheme to avoid proper disclosure of campaign expenditures." Tom Anderson, director of the National Legal and Policy Center's Government Integrity Project, said: "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." Chakrabarti, 33, is a Harvard graduate and technology entrepreneur who became an organizer for Bernie Sanders during the socialist's 2016 presidential campaign. He founded a PAC called Brand New Congress in 2016 and another called Justice Democrats in 2017, with the stated goal of helping elect progressive candidates to Congress. One of those candidates was Ocasio-Cortez, who, last November, age 29, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. According to the Brand New Congress website, the PAC would build a "unified campaign" infrastructure including fundraising, organizing, rallies, and advertising progressive congressional candidates across the country could "plug into," saving the individual campaigns time and money. "Our idea is really to run a single unified presidential-style campaign that is going to look a lot like the Bernie Sanders campaign,” said Chakrabarti in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in May 2016. "The campaign infrastructure and fundraising is set aside from the campaigning." In 2016 and 2017, Chakrabarti’s PACs raised about $3.3 million for the project, primarily from small donors. During this time, the committees transferred over $1 million to two shell companies controlled by Chakrabarti with names similar to one of the PACs, Brand New Campaign LLC and Brand New Congress LLC, according to federal election filings. A few weeks after starting the Brand New Congress PAC, Chakrabarti formed one of the companies, Brand New Campaign LLC, in Delaware, using a registered agent service and mailbox-only address. Over the next seven months, as small-dollar political donations poured into the PAC from progressives across the country, the committee transferred over $200,000, 82 percent of the contributions, to the company Brand New Campaign LLC. The payments were for "strategic consulting," according to federal election filings. They were sent to an apartment address listed for Chakrabarti in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan. In 2017, Brand New Congress PAC transferred another $240,000 to Brand New Congress LLC, also for "strategic consulting." Another PAC co-founded by Chakrabarti that year, Justice Democrats, transferred an additional $605,000 to Brand New Congress LLC in 2017. Brand New Congress LLC does not appear to be registered in any state, according to state government records available online. It is unclear where or when it was incorporated. 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." Noti said it would be simpler to set up a consulting company and work directly with campaigns to provide services for a fee rather than creating a federal PAC and sending the money to a company controlled by the same person. "It does seem like there's something amiss. I can only think of really two likely possibilities for this sort of pattern of disbursements," said Noti. "One is the scam PAC possibility — they're really just paying themselves and they’re concealing it by using the LLC. The other is that there’s actually another recipient, that the money is going to the LLC and then being disbursed in some other way that they want to conceal." Bradley A. Smith, a former chairman of the FEC, said he has never seen such an arrangement. "It's a really weird situation," he said. "I see almost no way that you can do that without it being at least a reporting violation, quite likely a violation of the contribution limits. You might say from a campaign finance angle that the LLC was essentially operating as an unregistered committee." Chakrabarti declined to comment on the FEC complaint or provide details about his companies’ financial activities. Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, declined to comment. Zeynab Day, communications director for the Brand New Congress PAC, said Chakrabarti was not currently affiliated with the group and that it recently went through a "transition period." She referred questions about the LLC to Chakrabarti. “I’m unable to answer any questions about the LLC … I am not informed about them. We are not an affiliated group,” she said. A spokesperson for Justice Democrats said he did not know why the PAC paid so much money to Chakrabarti’s LLCs. When asked what the Justice Democrats PAC does on a daily basis, he said, “It’s very clear what we do,” but declined to elaborate. Chakrabarti founded Brand New Congress PAC, in April 2016. According to a statement released by Justice Democrats PAC last May, Chakrabarti "was the only controlling member" of the company Brand New Congress LLC and "took no salary." The statement added: "Saikat is lucky to have a small side business that generates him enough income that he is able to do all of this work as a volunteer."
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FEC Complaint Filed Against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for ‘Extensive Off-the-Books’ Campaign

Postby smix » Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:35 pm

FEC Complaint Filed Against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for ‘Extensive Off-the-Books’ Campaign
National Legal and Policy Center

URL: https://nlpc.org/2019/03/04/fec-complai ... -campaign/
Category: Politics
Published: March 4, 2019

Description: National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) filed a formal Complaint today with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, and several other individuals and groups who orchestrated an extensive operation to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign spending during the 2018 campaign, in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended. The funds were expended in support of ten or more Congressional candidates by a for-profit entity called Brand New Congress LLC, apparently operated by Chakrabarti. The Act requires that all expenditures of $200 or more to be disclosed to the FEC, and their purpose identified. The Complaint alleges that Chakrabarti’s LLC served as a “cutout,” for at least $885,735 received from Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and two federal political action committees, Brand New Congress PAC and Justice Democrats PAC. The final disposition of the funds is unknown because whatever expenditures were made were never reported to the FEC. It appears, however, that they underwrote a score of campaign-related events and activities for Ocasio-Cortez and other Congressional candidates. Chakrabarti described the operation on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow as a “unified” national campaign to elect progressives to Congress, whereby candidates would be freed from the responsibility of raising money or administering their campaigns. He did not mention that it would also free candidates from the responsibility of disclosure. He stated that one of the campaign’s priorities is to “get rid of the influence of money in politics.” According to Tom Anderson, director of NLPC’s Government Integrity Project, “These are not minor or technical violations. We are talking about real money here. In all my years of studying FEC reports, I’ve never seen a more ambitious operation to circumvent reporting requirements. Representative Ocasio-Cortez has been quite vocal in condemning so-called dark money, but her own campaign went to great lengths to avoid the sunlight of disclosure.” NLPC helped expose irregularities in the use of campaign funds by ex-Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), who Ocasio-Cortez defeated for re-election in 2018.
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff accused of hiding more than $1 million in campaign cash

Postby smix » Tue Mar 05, 2019 5:07 pm

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff accused of hiding more than $1 million in campaign cash
Washington Times

URL: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/20 ... at-chakra/
Category: Politics
Published: March 4, 2019

Description: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s top aide illegally funneled campaign donations to two companies he owned, according to a complaint filed Monday with the Federal Elections Commission. Saikat Chakrabarti set up Brand New Congress PAC to collect and bundle donations for newbie politicians including Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. He then diverted more than $1 million to two of his companies that did campaign work, skirting reporting requirements, said the complaint by the National Legal and Policy Center. “These are not minor or technical violations. We are talking about real money here,” said Tom Anderson, director of NLPC’s Government Integrity Project. “In all my years of studying FEC reports, I’ve never seen a more ambitious operation to circumvent reporting requirements.” He added that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, “has been quite vocal in condemning so-called dark money, but her own campaign went to great lengths to avoid the sunlight of disclosure.” The PAC money went to Mr. Chakrabarti’s Brand New Congress LLC and Brand New Campaign LLC, entities that, unlike PACs and candidate campaigns, do not have to report or itemize their spending. The Ocasio-Cortez campaign also was paying Brand New Congress LLC for “strategic consulting.” Mr. Chakrabarti, a Silicon Valley tech millionaire who delved into far-left politics, was instrumental in Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s long-shot win over veteran politician Rep. Joseph Crowley and was rewarded with the chief of staff job in her congressional office. Another FEC complaint by filed last week by the Coolidge Reagan Foundation alleged Brand New Congress PAC was involved in a scheme to funnel money to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s live-in boyfriend, Riley Roberts. At the same time Mr. Roberts, a 29-year-old web developer, received payments totaling $6,000 as a “marketing consultant” for the PAC, the Ocasio-Cortez campaign was paying Brand New Congress LLP for strategic consulting. Asked about the payments, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez focused on the legal entities handing the cash. “He’s not on my payroll. They were not working for me and they are two separate entities here,” she told The Washington Times. “This is the difference between an LLC and a PAC.” The Coolidge Reagan Foundation, a conservative Washington nonprofit focused on free speech and campaign finance, said it looked like a shell game. “The timing and amounts of these transactions, the use of two affiliated entities as intermediaries, the vague and amorphous nature of the services Riley ostensibly provided, the magnitude of these transactions compared to both the limited funds the campaign had raised at the time and the total amount of its expenditures, and the romantic relationship between Ocasio-Cortez and Riley collectively establish reason to believe these transactions may have violated campaign finance law,” said the group’s complaint.
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The Congresswoman Loves the Swamp

Postby smix » Tue Mar 05, 2019 5:47 pm

The Congresswoman Loves the Swamp
Medium

URL: https://medium.com/@ltthompso/the-congr ... 3296ec251e
Category: Politics
Published: February 20, 2019

Description: Her Wealthy Chief of Staff used a PAC to Pay Her Boyfriend

congresswoman-loves-the-swamp.jpg

Last Friday, my mentions died for your sins. I posted a screen grab of Riley Roberts’s House Microsoft Outlook card, including his official house.gov email address, office phone number, and his designation as “Staff”. Roberts is the boyfriend of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Congresswoman was upset. Throwing caution to the wind, she stormed into my mentions, asserting this was just a way to give Mr. Roberts access to her official calendar. Her Chief of Staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, soon followed, reiterating the calendar claim and accusing me of doxxing Mr. Roberts by posting his publicly available LinkedIn profile (which he deleted) and his official government address and the office phone number. Neither AOC nor Chakrabarti said why Roberts needs access to her official calendar. Regardless, hordes of her howling minions followed. I was briefly suspended by Twitter for revealing personal information, only to be released with an apology when I pointed out that everything I posted is government property and public. My brief stint as a digital political prisoner turned into something of a cause célèbre on the right, inviting wave upon wave of MAGA-enthusiasts to battle back on my behalf against the forces of digital socialism. My timeline is still a wasteland. During my suspension I talked to a Congressional spouse, a few reporters, and some staffers from both parties. AOC hasn’t exactly been winning friends lately, which is how I got Roberts’s Outlook screen grab in the first place. A rumor on the Hill was circulating that Roberts had attended a Congressional Progressive Caucus meeting. A tipster looked to see if he’d been given staff credentials. It appeared he had. All agreed this was irregular if he was just a spouse. Per the House Admin office, a family member can, in special circumstances, get a house.gov email address. But Roberts is not a family member, and although AOC referred to him as her partner in November of last year, she omitted him from her mandatory candidate financial disclosures for 2017 and 2018. Perhaps they’ve gotten married since. If so — if he is her spouse now — we should see his finances disclosed along with hers in her 2019 disclosure form due in May. But to be clear, AOC did not disclose Roberts’s finances as a spouse during her campaign. Regardless, absent a wavier from House Ethics, family members have to be volunteers. AOC’s office apparently doesn’t believe in having unpaid workers, as according to Chakrabarti they have no volunteers in the office. So Roberts is designated as staff but also isn’t on AOC’s staff, even though he showed up Friday morning in the House directory as processing into her personal office as a staffer. In other words his staff status, like his spouse status, is akin to Schrodinger’s cat. This ought to have been enough to make it clear that AOC’s story didn’t add up. More importantly, I’d clearly hit a nerve. Chakrabarti spent much of the day in my mentions insisting that everything was on the up-and-up with Roberts. Instead of asking if Roberts had been supplied with the badge and pin appropriate to a Congressional spouse, evidence of which her office should have been able to produce easily, AOC’s worshipful stenographers in the press went into overdrive witlessly repeating her talking-points. Jeff Stein over at the Washington Post even woke up Saturday to keep it going in my mentions, as did Chakrabarti himself. And, of course, AOC had decided to get into it. That’s a lot of time and effort spent “refuting” a GOP consultant known to a tiny corner of the internet for posting cat pictures and bitching about the doctrine of coequal branches. So I went to the FEC, did a little searching, and discovered that, lo and behold, there’s more to the story. Now, during the original kerfuffle, some folks noticed that AOC’s campaign had paid Roberts $1,750. That’s not quite what transpired. Roberts was “paid” only as a means of keeping accounting in order. In the first half of 2018, Roberts did some free work for the campaign. That work got put on the books as an in-kind contribution and then discharged as an expenditure for accounting purposes. That’s perfectly normal. It’s a way to keep people from circumventing federal contribution caps by providing discounted or free services. But that’s not the only political work Roberts ostensibly did during the cycle. Nor would it be the first time Chakrabarti had hired Roberts. He’s done so at least once before, in 2017, although it’s unlikely Roberts was hired to do any actual work in that case. At the beginning of 2017, Chakrabarti created Brand New Congress, an organization dedicated to shaking things up in Democratic primaries. It’s a rather ingenious organization, but one that dwells in a legal gray-area as far as campaign finance law is concerned. It facilitates campaigns on shoestring budgets by providing a single clearinghouse for campaign services, generally filed under the banner of “strategic consulting”. But, as a result, it limits the meaningfulness of FEC disclosures by those campaigns. Additionally, it means that Brand New Congress, unlike most PACs, spends most of its budget on overhead and makes relatively few actual contributions to candidates. Additionally, Brand New Congress is not one thing, but rather two. It’s a nonqualified political action committee — a PAC — that can raise and bundle campaign contributions for candidates. Donations and expenditures from PACs, like those to and by candidates, are publicly disclosed. However, Brand New Congress is also a LLC, owned by Chakrabarti, that provides campaign services to candidates to help lower the barriers to entry. LLCs do not have to disclose or itemize their spending. Here’s Chakrabarti’s own write-up:

brand-new-congress-pac-faq.png

This is a clever way to try to make running for office easier and to place a lot of small bets on a lot of insurgent candidates and hope for a few lucky wins. And that pretty much seems to be what happened. According to FEC records, the PAC was founded in mid-January of 2017. At the end of February, it affiliated with Justice Democrats, a collaboration between Chakrabarti and Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks. The two organizations are inextricably linked. Chakrabarti lists himself as a Co-Founder of both Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats on his LinkedIn page.

Chakrabarti-cofounder.png

This is a clever way to try to make running for office easier and to place a lot of small bets on a lot of insurgent candidates and hope for a few lucky wins. And that pretty much seems to be what happened. According to FEC records, the PAC was founded in mid-January of 2017. At the end of February, it affiliated with Justice Democrats, a collaboration between Chakrabarti and Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks. The two organizations are inextricably linked. Chakrabarti lists himself as a Co-Founder of both Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats on his LinkedIn page. Over the course of the cycle, Justice Democrats would pay Brand New Congress LLC $605,849.12. They would also share an address. In May, Brand New Congress changed the address for its custodian of records to 714 South Gay Street in Knoxville, TN. In August, it switched addresses again, but in December of 2017, Justice Democrats registered at the address. AOC also used the Knoxville address in her first candidate filing, which incorrectly registered her to run in New York’s 15th Congressional District.

statement-of-candidacy.png

Five days later, she switched to the 14th district and added her campaign committee, registered to an address in the Bronx. Two months after that, the campaign committee’s address was changed to 714 South Gay Street as well. A quick tour through AOC’s campaign expenditures reveals the extent to which Brand New Congress midwifed her campaign into existence, precisely as the FAQ described above would have it. But AOC’s campaign was different from the others backed by Brand New Congress PAC, and not simply because she won. Like other candidates, AOC paid Brand New Congress LLC for strategic consulting, in her case totaling $18,880.14. Unlike in the other cases, Brand New Congress PAC turned around and paid her boyfriend as a “marketing consultant”. Indeed, while Brand New Congress PAC’s ten largest expenditures were paid to Brand New Congress LLC for “strategic consulting,” a sum that totaled $261,165.20 over the course of the campaign, its eleventh and twelfth largest expenditures were paid to Riley Roberts. Brand New Congress PAC paid Roberts $3,000 on August 9th: Eighteen days later, AOC’s campaign paid Brand New Congress LLC $6,191.32: A month later Brand New Congress PAC then turned around and paid Riley Roberts another $3,000. Why would Chakrabarti, a founding engineer at Stripe and a wealthy veteran of Silicon Valley, be hiring a no-name “UX Experience” guy with little discernible marketing experience to serve as Brand New Congress PAC’s sole marketing consultant? The answer seems to be that Chakrabarti was funneling money paid to him by AOC’s campaign back to Roberts and by extension to AOC. At the beginning of October, more than four months into her campaign, AOC’s fundraising had been anemic. Excluding an in-kind contribution from Chakrabarti, she’d raised only $3,032.75 but had already spent $27,591.27 — more than half of which she’d paid to Chakrabarti’s Brand New Congress LLC. By the end of 2017 she’d spent $37,249.94 but raised only $8,361.03. That’s a lot of money to stick on a credit card. Since no loans are recorded on her campaign books, presumably either AOC or Roberts was fronting the necessary cash. It looks to me like Chakrabarti was effectively reimbursing AOC for a third of her expenses with Brand New Congress LLC, perhaps so that she would stay in the race despite her mounting debt. The shadiness of the whole business may also explain why Roberts lists his residence as Arizona for the expenditure, rather than New York. Roberts is from Arizona, but was living in New York with AOC. His other contributions to her campaign, both cash and in-kind, list New York as his residence. Regardless of whether or not Roberts was officially AOC’s spouse at that time, it seems probable Chakrabarti was reimbursing her for her campaign expenses off-books. Brand New Congress PAC simply served as a pass-through to do so. When AOC won, she then hired Chakrabarti, her strategist/patron, as her Chief of Staff. Taking money from a rich guy, trying to hide it by passing it through a PAC, and then giving her benefactor a government job. That’s definitely unethical and potentially illegal. Chakrabarti may have made an illegal campaign contribution in excess of federal limits. Regardless, it raises questions about Chakrabarti’s hiring as AOC’s Chief of Staff after her election. Maybe add that to your next lightning round, Congresswoman. Finally, all of the above is based on public information. It took me a couple of hours to pull it all together and write it up. I suppose this could be called muckraking, but it’s really just minimal reporting that nobody in the press decided to do. I can’t emphasize enough how easy it was to find all of this information. It’s literally just sitting there. But no reporter bothered to read it. Democracy dies in darkness? Nah. Reporters are just lazy.
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Uh Oh: AOC Has Another Complaint Filed Against Her...This One Can Impact Her Social Media Usage

Postby smix » Fri Mar 08, 2019 10:02 pm

Uh Oh: AOC Has Another Complaint Filed Against Her...This One Can Impact Her Social Media Usage
Townhall

URL: https://townhall.com/tipsheet/bethbauma ... r-n2542803
Category: Politics
Published: March 7, 2019

Description: Government watchdog group the Foundation for Accountability and Civil Trust (FACT) on Thursday sent a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics saying Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) used taxpayer-funded resources for political purposes. One of FACT's primary complaints stems from Ocasio-Cortez's use of official floor and committee videos. "Her posts prominently displayed both official House photographs and video footage, on which she commented and instructed viewers to watch the videos. Ironically, in one of the posts she discussed the ethics standards to which she should be held," the complaint said. "Additionally, on Ocasio-Cortez's political Instagram page, she directly links to her official House Instagram account and includes a link for political contributions, alongside the posts of official video footage and her comments on official action. There are numerous ethics rules violated in this case, all of which require separation between official action and resources and political action and fundraising." “In a way, it’s a straight forward complaint,” Kendra Arnold, executive director of FACT, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Broadly speaking, the rules clearly define that politics and government works cannot overlap. There are reasons for that: mostly because we don’t want our taxpayer dollars going toward campaigns." "One is influencing the other,” Arnold said, referring to what she believes is the New York Democrat’s penchant for using Twitter as a form of cross promotion. “Once we elect … you cannot use whatever the government provides you for political purposes. Part of the issue is one violation stacked on another.” This isn't the first complaint Ocasio-Cortez has received. A few days ago, the National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming AOC's chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabart, allegedly created multiple LLCs to funnel campaign contributions from various political action committees. Naturally, the Congresswoman denied the allegations.
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AOC-Backing PAC Paid $300K to Company Founded by PAC’s Founder

Postby smix » Sun Mar 17, 2019 5:11 pm

AOC-Backing PAC Paid $300K to Company Founded by PAC’s Founder
Washington Free Beacon

URL: https://freebeacon.com/politics/aoc-bac ... s-founder/
Category: Politics
Published: March 15, 2019

Description: Justice Democrats PAC considered a 'slush fund' for AOC's now-chief of staff
A left-wing political action committee instrumental in the election of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) paid $300,000 to a company cofounded by one of the PAC's founders. The Justice Democrats PAC—which was cofounded by Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, who also acted as her campaign chair—helped power her surprise victory over Joseph Crowley during the Democratic primary. Chakrabarti founded the group with former Sanders campaign adviser Zack Exley, YouTube host Cenk Uygar, and leftwing talk show host Kyle Kulinski. The PAC raised $2.5 million in contributions and disbursed around the same amount during the midterms. Filings with the Federal Election Commission show the PAC paid $300,000 for fundraising consulting to Middle Seat Consulting LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that supports "campaigns, organizations, and causes fighting for racial justice, climate action, immigrant rights, intersectional feminism, economic justice." The money was disbursed to Middle Seat between March 2017 and December 2018. Exley, who worked alongside Chakrabarti on the Sanders campaign before launching Justice Democrats, is a cofounder of Middle Seat, according to his LinkedIn profile. Middle Seat does not disclose the individuals who are associated with the firm on its site. However, the LLC was incorporated in D.C. in early 2017 and lists Kenneth Pennington and Hector Sigala as its governors, according to business records filed to D.C.'s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Kenneth Pennington was the digital director for Sanders's 2016 campaign and also worked alongside Chakrabarti and Corbin. Hector Sigala acted as Sanders's digital media director and ran Sanders's Twitter account during this time. Middle Seat counts Ocasio-Cortez as a client on its website and her campaign committee paid the firm $33,666 for email consulting from early August to mid-November last year. Around this time, Corbin Trent—Ocasio-Cortez's then-campaign spokesman and current communications director—was receiving overlapping payments from Justice Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez's campaign. "They've found a way to dodge transparency," said Tom Anderson, the director of the National Legal and Policy Center's (NLPC) Government Integrity Project when asked about the payments to Middle Seat. "This is the ultimate dark money machine. If you want to go to school to learn how to make a dark money machine in politics, go to these guys because they've mastered it. And this is an example of it." The NLPC recently filed an ethics complaint against Chakrabarti and Ocasio-Cortez over the group's payments to limited liability companies established by the congresswoman's chief of staff. Throughout the 2018 election cycle, the Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress PACs, also launched by Chakrabarti in 2016 alongside Exley and Trent, sent nearly $1 million to Chakrabarti's LLCs, according to a complaint that was filed last week to the Federal Election Commission by the NLPC. The group alleged that Chakrabarti ran a "slush fund" by diverting contributions to the companies in an "elaborate scheme to avoid proper disclosure of campaign activities." The Daily Caller recently found that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti obtained majority Control of the Justice Democrats PAC in late 2017 and still appear to maintain that control. Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti did not disclose this relationship to the FEC, which a former FEC commissioner said could get a candidate into "big trouble" with potential violations. "If the facts as alleged are true, and a candidate had control over a PAC that was working to get that candidate elected, then that candidate is potentially in very big trouble and may have engaged in multiple violations of federal campaign finance law, including receiving excessive contributions," Hans von Spakovsky, a former FEC commissioner, told the Caller. When asked what work they performed for both Justice Democrats and the Ocasio-Cortez campaign, Pennington said that Middle Seat works for a variety of clients and their services includes building websites, graphic design, online advertising, and email marketing. Justice Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez's campaign did not respond to inquiries on Middle Seat Consulting.
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