Media Ignores, Mishandles Allegations Of Campaign Finance Violations By Ocasio-Cortez

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Amber Athey Podcast Columnist
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Media outlets are largely ignoring or mishandling reports that Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff were controlling a PAC at the same time the PAC was working to get her elected.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reported Monday that Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff retained control of the Justice Democrats PAC, which is credited with propelling Ocasio-Cortez to victory, while running to unseat incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley in 2018. Former FEC commissioners told the DCNF that if Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign was operating in affiliation with the PAC, the former bartender could be opened up to “massive reporting violations.” (RELATED: Former FEC Commissioner Says Ocasio-Cortez And Her Chief Of Staff ‘Could Be Facing Jail Time’ If Their Control Of PAC Was Intentionally Hidden)

The report also noted that Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff did not disclose their control of Justice Democrats to the FEC. Experts say it could be a felony if Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff knowingly and intentionally withheld this information to skirt campaign contribution limits. PACs and campaigns must share a contribution limit when being controlled by the same person or group of persons.

The media has ignored the explosive allegation, instead lumping it in with a complaint to the FEC that Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff funneled nearly $1 million from PACs he controlled to private LLCs that he also controlled. That complaint was outlined in a report by the Washington Examiner, but is a separate issue from the allegations laid out by the DCNF.

NBC News fact-checked the FEC complaint by the National Legal and Policy Center, reaching the conclusion that there is “no evidence of wrongdoing.” However, in their fact check, NBC falsely claimed that the DCNF said Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff could face jail time over the complaint. A former FEC official who spoke to the DCNF suggested they could face jail time over her legal control over the Justice Democrats PAC, not over the separate allegations made by NLPC.

NBC issued a correction on their fact check after an inquiry from an editor at the DCNF, but still did not accurately characterize the DCNF’s reporting.

NBC News Correction (Screenshot: March 7, 2019)

NBC News Correction (Screenshot: March 7, 2019)

“One conservative outlet suggested the freshman representative and Chakrabarti could face jail time over ties to the PAC,” NBC reporter Jane Timm claimed.

As pointed out by a DCNF editor in a follow-up inquiry to NBC News, the issue cited in the DCNF report is Ocasio-Cortez’s legal control over the PAC, not her “ties” to it. Additionally, the DCNF never suggested jail time — those were determinations by a former FEC commissioner quoted in the reporting.

The Washington Post also reported on the FEC complaint and conspicuously left out any mention of the allegations in the DCNF report.

A lawyer for Ocasio-Cortez confirmed to The Washington Post that Ocasio-Cortez had legal control of Justice Democrats PAC until June 30, 2018 — a central claim in the DCNF’s reporting — but the Post opted not to mention that to their readers.

Other outlets didn’t bother to mention the DCNF report or its implications, including Business Insider, ABC News and CNN.

Ocasio-Cortez has brushed aside both the FEC complaint and the suggestion that she could face jail time.

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