Feds step up investigation into AOC’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti amid sudden resignation

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If socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and her former chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, thought that his sudden resignation from her office last week would inspire federal authorities to drop their investigations into their seemingly unscrupulous financial habits, they thought wrong.

On Saturday, a day after The Intercept confirmed that Chakrabarti has stepped down from his post, federal sources confirmed to the New York Post that the investigations are still ongoing.

“The inquiry centers on two political action committees founded by Saikat Chakrabarti, the top aide who quit along with Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent, the sources said. Trent left to join the congresswoman’s 2020 re-election campaign,” the outlet reported.

The report continued, “The two PACs being probed, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, were both set up by Chakrabarti to support progressive candidates across the country.”

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While Saturday marks the first time that federal officials have provided confirmation that investigations are ongoing, it’s been known for awhile now that their eyes have been on him. How so? Because of all the Federal Election Committee complaints that have been filed against him.

The complaints began pouring in five months ago, when the National Legal and Policy Center filed one accusing AOC’s then-chief of staff of laundering close to $1 million in campaign donations from his PACs to two of his private companies.

The transfers were made under the guise that his companies had provided “strategic consulting” to the PACs:

“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,” Fox News reported at the time.

That report continued, “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.”

Whereas PACs are required to publicly document their every expenditure, private companies are not. Moreover, PACs are only allowed to contribute $5,000 to a candidate per election. A primary election and general election each count separately, meaning Chakrabarti’s PACs were only allowed to contribute $10,000 each to AOC’s 2018 election campaign.

But by transferring all the extra money to his own private companies, Chakrabarti may have bypassed these rules.

The Post further notes that federal authorities are also examining “new salary rules imposed by Ocasio-Cortez when she took office earlier this year, and whether they were put in place to let Chakrabarti dodge public financial-disclosure rules, according to sources.”

A month after AOC took office, she capped her staff salaries at $80,000. This was $46,000 less than the $126,000 cutoff level at which congressional staffers are required by federal law to publicly disclose their finances.

It’s been suggested by some that the congresswoman may have purposefully capped her staff salaries to protect Chakrabarti, who it turns out is wealthy enough that last year he purchased a whopping $1.6 million home.

“The Harvard graduate and tech millionaire agreed to an annual salary of $80,000 — far less than the $146,830 average pay for his position,” the Post notes. “Because his salary was less than $126,000, congressional rules exempted the chief of staff from having to disclose his outside income.”

According to reports, Justice Democrats is also under investigation. This has been known since at least May, when the FEC sent a request for additional information to the PAC regarding “potentially impermissible contributions that it made to a number of Democratic committees last year,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.

“The FEC state[d] that the [PAC’s July quarterly report from 2018] disclosed one or more contributions to federal candidates for the ‘retirement of debts incurred during the 2018 Primary election campaign’ and that the committees that received the payments themselves had ‘insufficient debts to warrant such a contribution‘ from the PAC,” they reported.

It’s also been suggested that Brand New Congress, one of the two sketchy private companies that Chakrabarti formed, has a virtually empty building in Tennessee fraudulently listed as its headquarters so as to take advantage of the state’s low-tax laws.

AOC herself is also reportedly under investigation over shady payments made to her boyfriend.

Vivek Saxena

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