Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upstart campaign was simply a grassroots effort, totally organic – right?
As with most things originating on the Left, perhaps not.
The backstory: GOP consultant and sometime blogger Luke Thompson posted a screenshot from AOC’s boyfriend Riley Roberts’ LinkedIn profile that listed Roberts’ house.gov email account on Valentine’s Day, concluding that Roberts was on AOC’s payroll. “Hordes of howling minions” went into action decrying Thompson’s “doxxing” of Roberts, AOC and her staff replied that Roberts just needed to see his girlfriend’s calendar and was not employed by his woman (as that would violate ethics rules), and Thompson was briefly suspended from Twitter.
The response of a writer at Refinery 29 represents the typical left-media response:
“Just a hint of the possibility that Ocasio-Cortez would do something as corrupt as hiring her partner as a congressional staffer and draw his salary from taxpayers’ dime seems like a godsend to those hellbent in discrediting her….Maybe it’s time conservatives engage in intellectually honest critiques of Ocasio-Cortez’s ideas and put their conspiracy theories to bed.”
AOC apologists seem to have missed the fact that Roberts processed in to Ocasio-Cortez’s House office Friday morning as a staffer:
Thompson might have brought this to light on Twitter at the time, had he not been unfairly suspended – a suspension AOC and her cronies might come to regret. Numerous media outlets pounced on AOC’s claim that it’s routine for “family members” to have access to house.gov email accounts so they can keep up with the Member’s calendar. Not true, according to Thompson.
“During my suspension I talked to a Congressional spouse, a few reporters, and some staffers from both parties….A rumor on the Hill was circulating that Roberts had attended a Congressional Progressive Caucus meeting. A tipster looked to see if he’d been given staff credentials. It appeared he had. All agreed this was irregular if he was just a spouse.”
According to the House Admin office, Thompson says, a family member can obtain a house.gov email address in special circumstances. Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t cited any special circumstances, and Roberts isn’t a family member. AOC refers to him as her “partner,” and the two have lived together for several years so they may qualify as common-law spouses.
If Ocasio-Cortez wants to claim Roberts is her common-law spouse, she encounters a different set of problems. First, if he’s her spouse, she should have been listing him on her financial disclosure forms. Second, spouses/family cannot draw a salary from a Member; they must be volunteers. Third, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, claimed Friday that the office doesn’t use unpaid workers, so, following logic, Roberts isn’t volunteering in the office.
But wait, there’s more. Because of the magnitude of the reaction, Thompson thought there must be even more to the story.
“That’s a lot of time and effort spent ‘refuting’ a GOP consultant known to a tiny corner of the internet for posting cat pictures and bitching about the doctrine of coequal branches.”
Over the weekend he dug, and dug some more. His in-depth findings, posted to his Medium.com account, show that AOC’s about as astroturf as the Occupy movement, Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, and more.
The TL;DR summary, in bullet point form:
- Roberts, a web developer by trade, did some work for his girlfriend’s campaign, which was properly accounted for.
- AOC’s chief of staff, Chakrabarti, in January 2017 “created Brand New Congress, an organization dedicated to shaking things up in Democratic primaries.”
- Brand New Congress is both a PAC and an LLC. As a PAC it can raise and bundle campaign contributions, which must be disclosed. As an LLC “that provides campaign services to candidates to help lower the barriers to entry,” owner Chakrabarti “doesn’t have to disclose expenditures or itemize its spending.”
- In February 2017 Brand New Congress “affiliated with Justice Democrats, a collaboration between Chakrabarti and Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks.”
- Chakrabarti also lists himself as a co-founder of Justice Democrats.
- Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress shared a physical address in Nashville, TN, which was also listed on AOC’s “first candidate filing, which incorrectly registered her to run in New York’s 15th Congressional District.”
- AOC’s correct candidate filing, in New York’s 14th Congressional District, originally listed an address in the Bronx, but two months later listed the Nashville address.
- AOC’s campaign account paid Brand New Congress, LLC, $18,880.14 during the campaign cycle for “strategic consulting,” approximately $6,000 of which was paid in August 2018.
- In August 2018 Brand New Congress PAC paid Riley Roberts, who listed an Arizona address, $6,000.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or someone with a degree from Boston University (such as this author) – to figure out that there’s something extremely shady about this arrangement.
“When AOC won, she then hired Chakrabarti, her strategist/patron, as her Chief of Staff. Taking money from a rich guy, trying to hide it by passing it through a PAC, and then giving her benefactor a government job.
“That’s definitely unethical and potentially illegal. Chakrabarti may have made an illegal campaign contribution in excess of federal limits. Regardless, it raises questions about Chakrabarti’s hiring as AOC’s Chief of Staff after her election. Maybe add that to your next lightning round, Congresswoman.”
As Thompson notes, it only took him a few hours to go through this public information and connect the dots. One would think that career journalists would have already done so, but that would require suspending bias, something today’s mainstream media journalists are loath to do.