Questions arose in recent weeks about the fact that Democrat New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti were named as controlling board members of a political action committee closely affiliated with the congresswoman’s campaign, an arrangement that appeared to be a potential campaign finance violation.
In the wake of those reports and with no public explanation offered, both Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff were quietly removed from the board of the Justice Democrats PAC on March 15.
Removed from the PAC’s board
Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti — who also served as Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign manager during the 2018 election — became board members of Justice Democrats in Dec. 2017.
In accordance with their board positions, the pair held “legal control over the entity” at the same time that the PAC played a key role in supporting the congressional campaign.
Attorneys for Ocasio-Cortez initially stated that she was removed from the board in June 2018, but the PAC’s corporate documentation had Ocasio-Cortez listed as an “entity governor” up until March 14, just one day prior to her formal removal from the board as revealed by a filing with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).
No explanation given
The PAC did not respond to requests for comment as to why it took eight months for Ocasio-Cortez to be officially removed from the board.
Further, no explanation was supplied as to why it was never disclosed to the Federal Election Commission that both Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti were on the board of a PAC that was affiliated with and supporting the now-congresswoman’s campaign contemporaneously.
According to the DCRA filing, the congresswoman and her chief of staff were replaced on the PACs board by two other individuals closely linked to the congresswoman, Alexandra Rojas and Demond Drummer.
Rojas, the newly-installed executive director of Justice Democrats, previously served as a field organizer for Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign while simultaneously serving as the PAC’s campaign director. Drummer is the executive director of a non-profit organization known as New Consensus, which has been credited with playing a significant role in the development of the Green New Deal famously championed by the congresswoman.
Potential FEC violations
The Daily Caller noted that former FEC commissioner Brad Smith opined that if the FEC were to determine that the campaign and the PAC were truly operating as affiliated entities without the fact being disclosed, there would be “massive reporting violations” and possibly even jail time involved.
Hans von Spakovsky, another former FEC commissioner, suggested that there was already sufficient public information available to support opening a criminal investigation into the arrangement between the campaign and PAC.
It remains to be seen if these revelations will result in any serious trouble for Ocasio-Cortez. However, the fact that she and Chakrabarti were quietly removed as board members so soon after the controversial arrangement was made public has the distinct feel of a belated ploy designed to cover their tracks.