Last week, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a draconian campaign finance proposal, H.R. 1, that many groups — even the American Civil Liberties Union — have opposed.
This came days after news broke that a conservative government watchdog organization filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff were involved in “an extensive off-the-books operation to make hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenditures in support of multiple candidates.”
The irony that might be delicious — if we didn’t have a dual system of justice that punished conservatives and let big-government Democrats off the hook — is that AOC was role-playing the “bad guy” in congressional committee hearings for H.R. 1 last month.
The “socialist it girl” and crusader against automobiles, airplanes, and cow farts — along with her chief of staff, Saikat Charkrabarti — allegedly utilized a mix of tax-exempt political committees and for-profit companies in ways that evade clear law about reporting receipts and expenditures related to political campaigns.
The complaint, filed by National Legal and Policy Center, claims the respondents “were aware or should have been aware of the sweeping and apparent illegal nature of the enterprise.” It explains that AOC and Charkrabarti were PAC principals even as the Ocasio-Cortez campaign committee was raising money, leading to questions about illegal coordination under campaign finance laws.
This scheme even looks like it was set up to create confusion. For example, they used the same name, “Brand New Congress,” for a political action committee and for a limited liability company. At one moment the PAC had the employees and provided services to a network of campaigns; the next moment it was a for-profit company with the employees providing the services.
The for-profit Brand New Congress eventually received over $800,000 for “strategic consulting,” raising questions of how money was actually spent in accordance with FEC law, and whether donors knew their money would finance what looked like a shell game.
Charkrabarti is a high-tech millionaire and an experienced campaign professional from the Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run. He should know the rules. But dark-money inquisition, role-playing bad girl Ocasio-Cortez told Fox News with an air of defiance, “There is no violation.”
If past is prologue, the big-government Democrats will skate with barely a slap on the wrist. Contrast this with the tale of conservative Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, whose appeal is being prepared as he sits in jail for a ten-year sentence on criminal violations.
Stockman was a constant and highly public whistleblower on the Obama administration’s corruption. His sad and shocking battle with the dual system of justice began when he filed a House Resolution demanding the arrest of now-former IRS official Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress. Two weeks later, the FBI was at his door. Then came a three-year Department of Justice nightmare that traversed four (yes, four) grand juries, where three did not indict, but a fourth finally did.
This Russian roulette-style justice finally found its bullet for Stockman in a system stacked against him. Ocasio-Cortez, whose support for what I describe as Lois Lerner’s dream campaign finance legislation, will assuredly receive no such unfair treatment.
Stockman’s so-called crimes involved raising money from two donors, one of whom was deceased by the time the trial occurred. He wanted money for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that had designs on purchasing a building in Washington, where conservative values would be made available in the swamp itself. That may have been strike one. Not enough money was raised for the purchase, so what the nonprofit did is what every nonprofit legally does, which is spend the money on other parts of its mission. This happens every day.
Stockman made other decisions involving his campaign and his assistance to nonprofit organizations that landed him in hot water. They were what I would call, in retrospect, unwise for a conservative crusader operating in the world of the deep state and liberal-dominated administrative state. Had I been advising him, I’d have told him what he’s doing is legal, but he should have papered the events better.
At his trial, I am told, the judge denied Stockman’s motions, and prohibited the mention of politics or Lois Lerner. So his legal defense was silenced. His associate was pressured with criminal prosecution to testify against him. Where have we heard that recently?
Stockman was ultimately sentenced for numerous frauds, money laundering, conspiracy, and campaign finance violations. To reach some of the cascading criminal sentencing, it appears the judge made a serious error of law about what constitutes “express advocacy” under FEC regulations.
It has been reported to me that an FBI agent was heard to have said, “You know, Lois Lerner is our former colleague.” Whether that admission of retribution is true, it nevertheless appears Stockman was unfairly treated and railroaded.
Lois Lerner was never prosecuted by Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder, and now H.R. 1 is dream legislation for partisan deep state operatives like her. Oh, and AOC sure knows how to butter her bread. The irony isn’t so delicious for Steve Stockman and small-government, constitutional conservatives in this dual system of justice.
Mark J. Fitzgibbons is president of corporate affairs at American Target Advertising, Inc., America’s oldest and largest conservative direct marketing and fundraising agency. He has litigated constitutional cases, and is co-author with Richard Viguerie of the e-booklet The Law That Governs Government: Reclaiming The Constitution From Usurpers And Society’s Biggest Lawbreaker.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.