Earlier today, The Washington Examiner reported that the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) will be investigating Saikat Chakrabarti, who currently serves as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s current Chief of Staff, for funnelling $1 million of donations to his own private companies through the use of two political action committees that he founded. Both Chakrabati and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been named respondents in this FEC complaint about the mismanagement of these PAC funds.
Chakrabarti started the PACs “Brand New Congress” and “Justice Democrats” in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Shortly after the formation of the PAC in 2016, he went on to start the Delaware based company “Brand New Campaign LLC” which the FEC has reported had nearly $605,000 transferred to it from his other PACs for reasons such as “strategic consulting.” In 2017, Chakrabarti started a second company, Brand New Congress LLC (which, it should be noted, appears to lack registration in any state) to which he moved even more funds from the political donations he acquired.
These movements of political donations are being treated as highly suspicious by the FEC. By obscuring the funds in this way Chakrabarti has not only undermined the very transparency that many of the progressive candidates he’s helped (such as when he was a political organizer for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election or his successful campaigning to get Ocasio-Cortez elected in the Congressional Mid-terms) but may have violated the federal cap for PAC donations of $5000.
Adav Noti, senior director at the Campaign Legal Center and former FEC lawyer, stated that there were only two possible reasons for this course of action. “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.”