Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is facing a 21-count Federal Election Commission complaint that alleges she broke federal campaign finance laws in her upset win over Rep. Joe Crowley in the 2018 primaries.
The complaint, filed by The Coolidge Reagan Foundation, claims Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti had full legal control of the Justice Democrats PAC, which provided millions in support of her campaign. She did not disclose that arrangement to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), a violation of campaign finance laws.
Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti were two of the three members of the board of directors for the Justice Democrats PAC, ensuring they had full control over its activities. She served on the board from 2017 through the end of her primary campaign.
In the complaint, the Coolidge Reagan Foundation claims Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti “engaged in a brazen scheme involving multiple political and commercial entities under their control to violate federal election law, circumvent federal contribution limits and reporting requirements, and execute an unlawful subsidy scheme.”
The “subsidy scheme” detailed in the complaint claims Justice Democrats and other affiliated organizations provided over $3 million in services to several Democratic candidates, including the Ocasio-Cortez campaign. However, those campaigns only paid for a fraction of those services. The Ocasio-Cortez campaign in particular only paid $60,000 for the services they received. That excess services they received above payment qualify as a campaign donation, which poses a legal problem. The excess services may have violated the federal limits in donations a campaign can receive. The campaigns could also face repercussions for failing to disclose the donation.
Even more problematic is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the only candidate that controlled the activities of the PAC. That could signal a willful intent to mislead or dodge federal campaign laws.
Ocasio-Cortez resigned from the Justice Democrats PAC board just days after her primary election win, but that may be too little, too late.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Coolidge Reagan Foundation President Dan Backer said “No matter how they try to frame their scheme, the activities of [Justice Democrats] PAC and [Ocasio-Cortez] for Congress resulted in coordinated expenditures millions of dollars beyond the contribution limits that they failed to properly report, violating contribution limits, disclaimer requirements, and reporting requirements.”
Backer also said he will sue the FEC if they do not act on his complaint. An investigation could force Ocasio-Cortez to answer for her actions, possibly in court.
Former Republican FEC commissioner Hans von Spakovsky told The Daily Caller “If the facts as alleged are true, and a candidate had control over a PAC that was working to get that candidate elected, then that candidate is potentially in very big trouble and may have engaged in multiple violations of federal campaign finance law, including receiving excessive contributions.”
Ocasio-Cortez has not commented on the complaint.
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