Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikrat Chakrabarti resigned suddenly last week amid reports that the feds were looking into possible campaign finance misdeeds committed by him.
Chakrabarti, who led Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and headed up the bartender-turned-lawmaker’s proposed Green New Deal environmental bill, raised ire in the party by bashing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and declaring in a tweet that Democrats who voted for a border bill were like “Southern Democrats” who opposed desegration in schools.
Now, the democratic socialist from New York is backing away from her former top aide.
“I think it was divisive,” Ocasio-Cortez said of the tweet during an interview with the New York Daily News. “I believe in criticizing stances, but I don’t believe in specifically targeting members.”
Chakrabarti in June compared members of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition to “Southern Democrats” in the early 20th century who opposed civil rights. The Blue Dogs voted for a $4.6 billion emergency border funding bill that did not address how to handle detained migrant children.
“They certainly seem hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s,” Chakrabarti wrote on Twitter.
Ocasio-Cortez told The Daily News that her team had an “internal conversation” about the post. “We’ve corrected it,” she said. “He immediately took the tweet down.”
Also in June, Chakrabarti wrote on Twitter that Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), a Native American, was enabling a racist system after she voted for a Senate border bill opposed by progressives.
The House Democratic Caucus was furious, writing a response on its own Twitter account.
“Who is this guy and why is he explicitly singling out a Native American woman of color? Her name is Congresswoman Davids, not Sharice. She is a phenomenal new member who flipped a red seat blue. Keep Her Name Out Of Your Mouth,” the Caucus wrote.
The Federal Election Commission has begun a probe into alleged campaign finance violations involving Chakrabarti and two political action committees he helped create, but Ocasio-Cortez dismissed that investigation as purely political.
“All of these things were filed by these fringe, Republican groups. It’s a tactic they use and it’s very common,” she said. “It’s a form of legal trolling.”
The two PACs under investigation, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, channeled more than $1 million in political donations to the two PACs Chakrabarti controlled, FEC filings say.
Chakrabarti, a Harvard graduate and tech millionaire, was paid an annual salary of $80,000, far less than the $147,000 average pay for the position of chief of staff. And because his salary was less than $126,000, rules in Congress said he did not have to disclose any outside income.
“While PACs must follow stringent federal rules on disclosure of spending and fundraising, private companies are not subject to the same transparency,” the New York Post wrote. “Federal authorities are looking at new salary rules imposed by Ocasio-Cortez when she took office earlier this year, and whether they were put in place to let Chakrabarti dodge public financial disclosure rules, according to sources.”