Payments to Ocasio-Cortez boyfriend spur FEC complaint from Republican group

A Republican group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday alleging that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's campaign may have illegally funneled thousands of dollars through an allied PAC to boyfriend Riley Roberts.

Members of the Washington, D.C.-based Coolidge Reagan Foundation allege in their complaint that when the Brand New Congress PAC (BNC) -- a political arm of Brand New Congress LLC, a company that was hired by Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to run and support her campaign -- paid Roberts for marketing services, it potentially ran afoul of campaign finance law.

OCASIO-CORTEZ-ALIGNED PAC PAID BOYFRIEND

“It’s not illegal for [Ocasio-Cortez] to pay her boyfriend, but it appears that they created some sort of scheme to avoid claiming the money [as a campaign expense],” Dan Backer, a D.C.-based attorney who filed the complaint on behalf of the foundation, told Fox News. “What exactly did he do for that money?”

It was first reported last week that the Brand New Congress PAC paid Roberts during the early days of the Ocasio-Cortez campaign. According to FEC records, the PAC made two payments to Roberts – one in August 2017 and one in September 2017 – both for $3,000.

The FEC complaint specifically cites the use of "intermediaries" to make the payments, "the vague and amorphous nature of the services Riley ostensibly provided," the relatively small amount of money raised by the campaign at that stage and "the romantic relationship between Ocasio-Cortez and Riley" in asserting the transactions might violate campaign finance law.

The Coolidge Reagan Foundation -- a 501(c)(3) -- is requesting that the FEC look into the payments for potential violations on relevant campaign finance laws that state that campaign contributions “shall not be converted by any person to personal use” and that “an authorized committee must report the name and address of each person who has received any disbursement not disclosed.”

File photo - Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., arrives for a House Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019.

File photo - Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., arrives for a House Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Officials with BNC claimed in a previous statement, however, that everything was on the up and up regarding payments.

“[Roberts] is a professional digital marketing and growth consultant who specializes in social media presence and subscriber engagement,” said BNC’s Communications Director Zeynab Day, adding that his hiring was based “on his experience managing successful advertising and social media campaigns.”

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“He was hired through a 2 month trial period, beginning on August 3, 2017, and worked through the end of September 2017,” she added. “Services to the Brand New Congress PAC consisted of advertising strategies for potential growth, developing metrics, and aiding in execution of strategy to increase brand awareness for the PAC as a whole.”

Wednesday's complaint comes after a blog post on Medium by political consultant Luke Thompson, who first flagged the payments to Roberts.

His screed prompted pushback from Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti as it also included unverified speculation of legal impropriety and an incorrect claim that the Democrat’s campaign raised only about $3,000 while spending nearly $28,000 by October 2017 – ignoring that the campaign also raised more than $33,000 from small donors.

The congresswoman fired back on Twitter last week, saying, “The conspiracy machine is in full effect & it’s been disappointing to watch professionals get duped + amplify unvetted Medium posts as truth, treating journalism like it’s a high school LiveJournal rumor mill or something. No, I don’t shadily pay my boyfriend. Come on & VET.”

News of the payments came after it was discovered that Roberts was recently given a congressional email account, with some suggesting it was an ethics violation as boyfriends might not reach the level of partners or spouses who might otherwise be given such access. The spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, David O'Boyle, told Fox News that “from time to time, at the request of members, spouses and partners are provided House email accounts for the purposes of viewing the member’s calendar.”

Ocasio-Cortez said the account was given so he could have access to her calendar, dismissing another claim by Thompson that he was on staff as "nonsense."

Fox News has reached out to Ocasio-Cortez's office for comment on the latest FEC complaint.

Fox News' Lukas Mikelionis contributed to this report.