Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) insisted on Tuesday that she did not violate any campaign finance laws after a conservative government watchdog filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that she and her chief of staff funneled nearly $1 million to his own companies.
Ocasio-Cortez has painted herself as congresswoman who is in touch with her constituents, who is fighting for transparency in government — and who is fighting for accountability against “dark money.”
But the Virginia-based National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) filed a complained with the FEC alleging that Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, orchestrated “an extensive operation to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign spending during the 2018 campaign.”
Fox News obtained the complaint.
When a Fox News reporter asked Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday if she violated campaign finance laws, she insisted, “There is no violation.”
When asked if she had been connected to “dark money,” the congresswoman replied, “No, no.”
NLPC claimed the hundreds of thousands of dollars “were expended in support of 10 or more congressional candidates by a for-profit entity called Brand New Congress LLC, apparently operated by Chakrabarti.”
The watchdog alleged that Chakrabarti’s LLC “served as a ‘cutout,’ for at least $885,735 received from Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and two federal political action committees, Brand New Congress (BNC) PAC and Justice Democrats (JD) PAC.”
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But any expenditures made “were never reported to the FEC,” NLPC claimed.
Chakrabarti may have exceeded the $5,000 contributions limit the Federal Election Campaign Act stipulates.
“These are not minor or technical violations. We are talking about real money here,” Tom Anderson, director of NLPC’s Government Integrity Project, said in a statement. “In all my years of studying FEC reports, I’ve never seen a more ambitious operation to circumvent reporting requirements.”
“Representative Ocasio-Cortez has been quite vocal in condemning so-called dark money, but her own campaign went to great lengths to avoid the sunlight of disclosure,” Anderson alleged.
Chakrabarti defended himself on Twitter on Monday.
He wrote in response to The Intercept’s Ryan Grim, “The JD and BNC websites had this explainer on it before @ryangrim ever asked us. We were doing something totally new, which meant a new setup. So, we were transparent about it from the start. Here’s me talking about it on MSNBC in May 2016.”
The JD and BNC websites had this explainer on it before @ryangrim ever asked us. We were doing something totally new, which meant a new setup. So, we were transparent about it from the start. Here's me talking about it on MSNBC in May, 2016. https://t.co/0fSoOiuWus https://t.co/VFBvBSgi41
— Saikat Chakrabarti (@saikatc) March 5, 2019
He linked to a video clip in which he explained the idea behind this “new set-up” of a “unified” national campaign to elect congressional progressives to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
But Anderson warned, “They believe their cause is so great that they don’t have to play by the rules. They believe that they are above campaign finance law.”
Check out more in the video below: