The Federal Election Commission is investigating Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D., N.Y.) former chief of staff for potential campaign finance violations according to a report from The New York Post. The investigation into Saikat Chakrabarti, who abruptly resigned last Friday, concerns two political action committees co-founded by Chakrabarti.
Chakrabarti has made headlines for his public attacks on House Democratic leadership and also worked on Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) 2016 presidential run before leaving to co-found the now-embattled PACs.
The two PACs, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, were established in order to shift the Democratic Party to the left. Justice Democrats was successful in helping propel Ocasio-Cortez and Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) to victory in 2018, along with other far-left candidates.
In March, an FEC complaint accused Chakrabarti of directing almost $1 million in donations from the two PACs into two of his private companies. The FEC requires donations of more than $200 to be reported, and also requires disclosures concerning how funds are used for activities like events, advertisements, and fundraisers. The PACs may have also violated FEC limits on donations of more than $5,000 from federal PACs to individual candidates, according to the Washington Examiner.
By funneling the money into his two private companies, named "Brand New Congress LLC" and "Brand New Campaign LLC," Chakrabarti would not have had to disclose how the funds were used in those LLCs, and the PACs claimed that the money was simply used for "strategic consulting," according to The New York Post.
The two PACs raised around $3.3 million in 2016 and 2017, meaning that approximately one-third of the money was transferred into Chakrabarti's private companies. The Post also notes that Chakrabarti took a pay cut to a salary of $80,000 as Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff, which means that he was not required to disclose his outside income, as congressional rules require individuals with salaries above $126,000 to disclose external sources of income.
Justice Democrats also paid $200,000 to a digital consulting firm run by Zack Exley, who co-founded Justice Democrats with Chakrabarti and worked on Sanders's 2016 campaign.