Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff may have committed multiple Federal Election Commission violations for receiving campaign contributions from a political action committee that they had control over, according to a Daily Caller report.
The report focuses on the relationship between the Ocasio-Cortez campaign and a PAC called Justice Democrats. The congresswoman and her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, took over majority control of the PAC in December 2017, and records show they likely still have that control.
According to The Daily Caller's report by Andrew Kerr, Ocasio-Cortez's campaign could be forced to repay large amounts of potentially illegal campaign contributions, and if the FEC violations are serious enough and found to be willful circumventions of the rules, Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti could face jail time.
"If this were determined to be knowing and willful, they could be facing jail time," said former FEC commissioner Brad Smith to The Daily Caller. "Even if it's not knowing and willful, it would be a clear civil violation of the act, which would require disgorgement of the contributions and civil penalties. I think they've got some real issues here."
Breaking down the numbers
The large amount of money raised by Ocasio-Cortez's campaign and Justice Democrats could result in many campaign finance violations, if the FEC found that the two organizations were operating as affiliated committees. Kerr writes:
And if the FEC concludes that Ocasio-Cortez's campaign and Justice Democrats were operating as affiliated committees, "then anyone who contributed over $2,700 total to her campaign and the PAC would have made an excessive contribution," which is a campaign finance violation, Smith told TheDCNF.
Ocasio-Cortez's campaign and Justice Democrats raised a combined $4.6 million during the 2018 midterm election cycle, FEC records show. There's a maximum five-year prison sentence for anyone who knowingly and willfully receives a collective $25,000 or more in excessive campaign contributions in a single calendar year.
Justice Democrats raked in far more than $25,000 from individual contributors of over $2,700 after Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti took control, according to FEC records.
Justice Democrats supported 12 candidates during the 2018 election, with a stated goal of getting at least one of them to unseat an establishment Democratic incumbent. Ocasio-Cortez was the only one to succeed.