Ocasio-Cortez Hit with New Ethics Complaint for Congressional Email Server Abuse
Watchdog files new complaint over AOC's boyfriend's access to congressional server
Following recent allegations that radical freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and her chief of staff may have illegally funneled $1 million in "dark money" campaign funds, the controversial Democrat has now been hit with another ethics complaint for potentially abusing her congressional email server access.
Aside from the $1m slush fund complaint, Ocasio-Cortez was also recently accused of funneling thousands of dollars from her campaign to her boyfriend, Riley Roberts, through an allied PAC.
Now a new complaint has been lodged with the Office of Congressional Ethics on Thursday over the congresswomen granting Roberts access to the congressional email server.
The latest ethics complaint was filed by The Coolidge Reagan Foundation, a political nonprofit, alleging that the New York Democratic socialist lawmaker used her newly acquired privileges as a member of Congress in an unethical manner when she set up the House email address for Roberts.
“This Complaint alleges Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez improperly converted U.S. House resources to her non-official, personal use by obtaining an official ‘@mail.house.gov’ e-mail address for her boyfriend, despite the fact he was not employed by her congressional office,” reads a line from the complaint obtained by Fox News.
“Moreover, it appears she obtained the e-mail address for him by falsely designating him a ‘staff’ member.”
According to Fox News, attorneys for the foundation allege that Ocasio-Cortez violated restrictions on personal use of House services and equipment—as outlined in the House Ethics Manual.
They maintain that the provision of an official House-based email address for Roberts is a violation of rules that prevent outside individuals from having an official account.
“To my surprise, no one else had acted on this information,” foundation attorney Dan Backer told Fox News, “and while media coverage of misconduct is good, [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] has to be held accountable.”
“On this matter, only OCE [Office of Congressional Ethics] has the investigative authority to do so.”
Officials for Ocasio-Cortez's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but the congresswoman made public statements last month when news of Roberts' email account surfaced saying the account was given so he could have access to her calendar.
"Congressional spouses get Gcal access all the time. Next time check your facts before you tweet nonsense," she tweeted.
Asked about the arrangement last month, David O'Boyle, the spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, told Fox News:
"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."
But Jason Chaffetz, former GOP chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Ocasio-Cortez' claims don’t stack up.
"It’s totally naïve and inappropriate – you wouldn’t allow it in most companies, let alone the House of Representatives. There should be real consequences,” Chaffetz told Fox News.
The newly filed complaint is the latest to question the operations of Ocasio-Cortez's campaign and congressional office.
It was first reported last month that the allied 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.
A week later, the Coolidge Reagan Foundation filed its first complaint with the Federal Election Commission, requesting that the agency 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.”
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.
“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],” Backer told Fox News at the time.
“What exactly did he do for that money?”
A separate complaint was filed with the FEC from another group alleging that the congresswoman and Saikat Chakrabarti, her chief of staff, apparently violated campaign finance law by funneling nearly $1 million in contributions from political action committees Chakrabarti established to private companies that he also controlled.
The FEC complaint asserts that Chakrabarti established two PACs, the Brand New Congress PAC and Justice Democrats PAC, and then systematically transferred more than $885,000 in contributions received by those PACs to the Brand New Campaign LLC and the Brand New Congress LLC -- companies that, unlike PACs, are exempt from reporting all of their significant expenditures.
The PACs claimed the payments were for "strategic consulting."
Although large financial transfers from PACs to LLCs are not necessarily improper, the complaint argues that the goal of the "extensive" scheme was seemingly to illegally dodge detailed legal reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which are designed to track campaign expenditures.
"It appears 'strategic consulting' was a mischaracterization of a wide range of activities that should have been reported individually," the complaint states.