FEC lets AOC campaign off the hook after probe finds it failed to ‘properly’ disclose expenses

Following a two-year investigation, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) found that the campaign of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), as well as Ocasio-Cortez’s former chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, failed to “properly” disclose some of its expenses — and then the FEC voted to dismiss the complaint.

In 2019, a conservative watchdog group called The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) alleged that Chakrabarti and campaign treasurer Frank Llewellyn, among others, funneled more than $1 million in political contributions to Democrats through Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats — two political action committees under Chakrabarti’s control during Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 run for Congress, the Daily Mail reported.

Filings made public this week reveal that the FEC did find that the PACs “did not properly disclose the purpose of the disbursements,” however the six-panel, bipartisan investigations panel then voted to dismiss the complaint, stating that the Ocasio-Cortez campaign did not accept and returned any cash transfers from the PACs that may have violated the$5,000 limit for contributions to federal candidates.

While Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign did receive a 2018 contribution in the amount of $5,650, the FEC found that the campaign refunded the cash.

The details behind the FEC’s decision come more than 30 days after they closed the matter in late February, prompting a lawsuit last month from the NLPC, which claims the delay may have been an effort to prevent a legal challenge.

In a statement released on its website, the NLPC writes:

“NLPC’s 2019 complaint alleged that AOC and company failed to properly disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in fundraising expenses and violated campaign contribution limits by using Chakrabarti’s Brand New Congress LLC to essentially operate her campaign without disclosing and itemizing campaign expenses over $200 as required by law. Instead, almost a million dollars were disclosed simply as ‘strategic consulting.'”

“In a February 23, 2022 letter to NLPC, the FEC simply stated that it dismissed the complaint a month earlier without giving a reason, although it promised to do so at an unspecified future date,” the NLPC continued.

“This wasn’t dark money,” said NLPC Chairman Peter Flaherty. “It was pitch-black money.”

“This appears to be a scheme to spend hundreds of thousands to elect ‘progressive’ candidates without any of the required disclosure for any expenditure of $200 or more,” he added.

NLPC counsel Paul Kamenar, who filed the lawsuit, was highly critical of the FEC’s decision.

“It is outrageous that the FEC would dismiss NLPC’s complaint that even former FEC Commissioners have indicated raise civil if not criminal violations,” Kamenar said. “We look forward to prevailing in court.”

“It was highly irregular for the FEC to release its statement of reasons after the deadline for us to file suit,” Tom Anderson, director of the NLPC’s Government Integrity Project, told the New York Post. The NLPC did not wait for the FEC’s findings before filing its legal challenges, Anderson added.

“The FEC has gone after a whole host of people whose violations are dwarfed by the scale of this scheme,” Kamenar told The Post. “It appears to be not prosecutorial discretion, but prosecutorial favoritism.”

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