Ocasio-Cortez and her puppet-master Chakrabarti Scandal #1: Admission of illegal control of a PAC supporting her candidacy

Two separate but related scandals are rocking Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her puppet-master Saikat Chakrabarti — the man who recruited, trained, and financed her election victory, and who now is her chief of staff.

Scandal number one is well explained by Andrew Kerr of the Daily Caller News Foundation.  In essence, federal campaign finance law allows donations larger than the $2,500 limit for contributions to actual campaigns if they are sent to a political action committee (PAC) but strictly forbids control of PACs by candidates or campaigns.  There is strong evidence that Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti controlled just such a PAC and may have made deliberate efforts to conceal that.  The concealment would be a key issue in determining whether a civil penalty (fines) or criminal penalties (prison) would be in order if the violations are proven.

Saikat Chakrabarti (photo credit: Twitter).

Because of the complexity of campaign finance law, the article explaining the situation is long.  If you have the time, you should read the whole thing.  Some key excerpts:

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.

The lack of official disclosure is important in light of this admission:

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.

Political committees are affiliated if they are "established, financed, maintained or controlled by ... the same person or group of persons," federal election law states.

[Former Federal Election Commission member Bradley] 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.

I'd be surprised if prison terms result.  They are exceedingly rare in campaign finance cases.  But given the effort of Democrats to fabricate a criminal campaign finance violation case against President Trump via payments to Stephanie Clifford, AKA Stormy Daniels, they are definitely on the table now.

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