- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2019

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.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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