Ocasio-Cortez's embattled chief of staff leaving post after controversies
Saikat Chakrabarti, the embattled chief of staff for freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is leaving his position following series of controversies that contributed to public divisions within the House Democratic Caucus.
“Saikat has decided to leave the office of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to work with [nonprofit group] New Consensus to further develop plans for a Green New Deal,” Corbin Trent, Ocasio-Cortez director of communications, told The Intercept Friday.
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“We are extraordinarily grateful for his service to advance a bold agenda and improve the lives of the people in NY-14. From his co-founding of Justice Democrats to his work on the Ocasio-Cortez campaign and in the official office, Saikat’s goal has always been to do whatever he can to help the larger progressive movement, and we look forward to continuing working with him to do just that," he continued.
Chakrabarti's last day was Friday, the news site reported. His departure had been rumored around Capitol Hill for days.
Chakrabarti, who helped manage Ocasio-Cortez’s upstart 2018 campaign, drew the ire of Democrats last month when he publically criticized party moderates during policy spats between progressive members and party leadership.
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In June, he tweeted that Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, one of the first two Native American women to serve in Congress, enabled a racist system after she voted in favor of a Senate border bill not backed by progressives.
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“Who is this guy and why is he explicitly singling out a Native American woman of color?” the House Democratic Caucus' official account tweeted last month. "Her name is Congresswoman Davids, not Sharice," the House Democrats added. "She is a phenomenal new member who flipped a red seat blue."
"Keep Her Name Out Of Your Mouth," the tweet concluded with interspersed emojis of clapping hands.
In July, Chakrabarti described centrist Democrats who blocked a liberal-backed emergency border bill as the "new Southern Democrats."
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They “certainly seem hell bent [sic] to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s,” he tweeted in a now-deleted post.
Tensions within the party were reflected when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took a swipe at Ocasio-Cortez along with Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts -- whom she called "four people" who don't have any following.
Ocasio-Cortez said they were singled out because they are newly elected women of color, further deepening divisions within the party. Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, asked Ocasio-Cortez to fire Chakrabarti in an attempt to start over.
Chakrabarti has also been at the center of legal controversy. In April, he and Ocasio-Cortez were named in a Federal Election Commission complaint accusing them of overseeing a "shadowy web" of political action committees (PACs) that allowed them to raise more cash than they could have legally. The complaint also alleged that a limited liability company (LLC) was created to avoid federal expenditure requirements by offering Ocasio-Cortez and other Democratic candidates political consulting services at a price so low that the company apparently shut down before the election was even over.
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The complaint centers on Brand New Congress LLC, a now-defunct company owned by Chakrabarti that aimed to recruit up to 400 left-wing candidates for national office. Dan Backer, the conservative attorney behind the complaint, said Brand New Congress LLC was guilty of providing campaign contributions known as "in-kind" expenditures by only charging candidates for a portion of the total cost of the service. Essentially, Backer claimed the company operated at a loss to provide its approved candidates with campaign services on the cheap.
Backer said Chakrabarti “was on all sides of the scheme.” He owned Brand New Congress LLC, sat on the board of the Justice Democrats PAC and co-founded the Brand New Congress PAC — all while serving as Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign manager.
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The previous month, Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti were removed from the board of left-wing activist group Justice Democrats after previously holding “legal control over the entity" in late 2017 and early 2018. Documents obtained by The Daily Caller indicated that the two were only officially removed from the board on March 15 of this year, almost eight months after attorneys had said she was removed.
Another FEC complaint filed in March accused Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti of apparently violating campaign finance law by funneling more than $885,000 in contributions to the Brand New Congress PAC and Justice Democrats PAC to the Brand New Campaign LLC and the Brand New Congress LLC -- companies controlled by Chakrabarti that, unlike PACs, are exempt from reporting all of their significant expenditures. The PACs claimed the payments were for "strategic consulting."
Ocasio-Cortez has denied any wrongdoing, telling reporters in April: "It's conservative interest groups just filing bogus proposals."
Fox News' Adam Shaw, Gregg Re and Andrew Keiper contributed to this report.