by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In one of her many viral social-media moments, freshman Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio last month played a so-called “corruption game,” grilling witnesses at a House Oversight Committee hearing about the influence of super PACs and “dark money.” By some measures, the video of her questioning became the “most-viewed Twitter video of any politician,” including President Trump.
For her, the optics were perfect. Here was an idealistic young socialist using clever cross-examination techniques to expose for all the world the way in which savvy political operators can conceal misdeeds and hide from the public the sources of their financial support. …
… Fast-forward one month. …
… You can read the FEC complaint yourself, but in a nutshell: It describes an arrangement where Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, co-founded two PACs — Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress — and then funneled large sums of money from those PACs into limited-liability companies he controlled, without disclosing Ocasio-Cortez’s involvement and without disclosing how that money was ultimately disbursed. Further, the complaint claims that Ocasio-Cortez was a board member of Justice Democrats when it disbursed these funds.
In fact, as a comprehensive report by Andrew Kerr at the Daily Caller News Foundation notes, Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti had legal control over the Justice Democrats PAC while it was supporting Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign.
What’s wrong with this? Well, apart from the obvious potential for financial self-dealing, Ocasio-Cortez’s team may well have violated disclosure laws and contribution limits. Moreover, as we know from Michael Cohen’s guilty plea and the ongoing campaign-finance investigation of President Trump, if evidence emerges that Ocasio-Cortez or Chakrabarti committed knowing or willful violations of campaign-finance law, then they could face criminal prosecution.