Not one, but two of AOC’s top aides will be leaving her office in the coming weeks after federal probes are expected to be launched into her campaign.
Saikat Chakrabarti will be leaving Ocasio-Cortez’s side as her chief of staff on Friday. He will then begin work for New Consensus, a nonprofit company, in an attempt to give aide to the Green New Deal as well as other climate change initiatives.
In addition, AOC’s communications director, Corbin Trent, will be departing her congressional office. Although, he is not expected to go very far, as the New York congresswoman has asked him to join her for the 2020 campaign for the same role.
AOC told The Intercept that he is “shifting to our campaign side so we can work on some ambitious comms projects we’ve been looking forward to working on.”
It is unsure exactly when Trent will leave her office, but he has mentioned that he plans to finish out the month of August there.
The announcement of not one but two of her top aides leaving in such close succession leaves many to believe that something else is going on within the office. And those suspicions have not gone unwarranted.
But not for the reasons that many may assume.
Chakrabarti is no stranger to the criticism that abounds within Congress and was recently publicly humiliated after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chastised him for making tweets and segregationist remarks about herself and other congressional members and his outrage for their compromise on specific plans.
In June he tweeted that Pelosi and other moderate Democrats seemed “hell-bent to do to black and brown people today what the old southern Democrats did in the 40s.”
Pelosi admonished the remarks and the use of public discourse about such matters, with many people believing she would call for his resignation.
However, it seems he is resigning for an entirely different matter.
Soon after the resignation announcement, the New York Post reported that a federal probe is likely to be launched into both men on allegations of mishandling campaign finances.
The probe will look into two political action committees (PACs) that were founded and run by Chakrabarti, who is the mastermind behind AOC’s surprise election last year and is the frontrunner of her Green New Deal climate change proposal. Both PACs – Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats – were meant to bring support to progressive candidates all across the nation.
However, according to federal campaign filings from 2016-2017 and a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission in March, nearly a third of the funds raised during that time were transferred to two private companies owned by the outspoken Chakrabarti.
It is estimated that over $1 million of the $3.3 million in political donations brought in had been funneled to Brand New Congress LLC and Brand New Campaign LLC, his companies with strikingly similar names to the PACs.
PACs are required to follow stringent federal regulations related to fundraising and spending; however, in contrast, the rules for LLCs are much more relaxed and not nearly as black and white. According to the complaint, it appears the LLCs had been set up to obscure federal reporting requirements.
In addition, it seems that the campaign also violated the $5000 contributions limit from federal PACs to candidates. When AOC took office in January of this year, she helped change the salary rules of federal employees that affected her staff. And it is believed by many that those new rules were put in place so that her chief of staff could successfully redistribute funding elsewhere without being noticed.
While her junior staffers’ salaries were raised to $52,000 a year, Chakrabarti appears to have taken a rather substantial pay cut. The average pay for his position is $146,830 annually, and yet, the tech millionaire and Harvard graduate only received $80,000.