by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., sat on the board of a political action committee that operated the type of “soft money” group she wants to abolish through a constitutional amendment, according to federal records reviewed by the Washington Examiner.
“Soft money” is cash that goes to an interest group or PAC. This means it is largely unregulated and avoids the firm limits placed on “hard money” that usually goes directly to candidates or parties.
Ocasio-Cortez was a board member of Justice Democrats, a group that sought to get progressive candidates elected, from November 2017 to 2018. The group was founded by Saikat Chakrabarti, a Harvard graduate and technology entrepreneur who became an organizer for Bernie Sanders during the socialist’s 2016 presidential campaign, and progressive media personality Cenk Uyger. Chakrabarti is now Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff
During the 12-month period, Justice Democrats operated both a federal PAC, which is limited by law to taking contributions of $5,000 or less, and a separate tax-exempt organization known as a “527 group” that can accept unlimited contributions from corporations and super PACs.
The 527 committee, called “Justice Democrats Non-Federal,” was able to participate in election politics but is unregulated by the Federal Election Commission. 527 “soft money” groups are often criticized by supporters of campaign finance reform.
In addition, Justice Democrats merged with a registered Super PAC, a move that also appears to conflict with Ocasio-Cortez’s public objections to these types of unlimited fundraising committees. The Justice Democrats website does not mention the existence of the 527 organization and implies that it only operates a federal PAC that is subject to contribution limits and restrictions on corporate donations.