It appears that the ranks of the far-left progressive movement are going through a realignment. Saikat Chakrabarti, the former chief of staff for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), has left his position. His departure comes amid several controversies, causing one to ask whether this apparent withdrawal is genuine, or merely a strategy to prevent his publicly elected colleagues from losing face.
Chakrabarti’s decision to resign raises several questions about the future of Justice Democrats, the political action committee responsible for Ocasio-Cortez’s ascension to Congress. While it appears the political operative will no longer be directly involved with A-O-C’s team, he will reportedly remain active in politics, with plans to further the progressive agenda.
It was not Chakrabarti himself who announced his exit, but Corbin Trent, Ocasio-Cortez’s director of communications. Trent, himself a Justice Democrats string-puller, simultaneously announced that he would also be leaving A-O-C’s congressional office, to work full-time on her 2020 election campaign. He told The Intercept that Chakrabarti “has decided to leave the office of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to work with New Consensus [a nonprofit group] to further develop plans for a Green New Deal.” The former official is a key proponent of Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed legislation, which would overhaul major elements of American society and government.
“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,” Trent added.
Chakrabarti is a controversial figure in Democratic circles. He came under fire in July after criticizing moderate party officials, and Justice Democrats have targeted several establishment Dem politicians for primary challenges in the 2020 elections. Chakrabarti’s actions have resulted in a fiery backlash from the Democratic Party establishment, especially the Congressional Black Caucus, with some suggesting this is the reason he has been pushed out of the congressional offices. As if that weren’t enough, the former chief of staff is also facing possible legal trouble.
Chakrabarti’s Legal Woes
Earlier this year, Chakrabarti and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez were named in a complaint against Brand New Congress LLC, a company the pair co-owned before it was dissolved. The company’s purpose was to recruit left-leaning candidates for office, but it was engaged in some shady activity involving campaign donations according to Dan Backer, the attorney who filed the complaint. Backer claimed the company provided “in-kind” campaign contributions by substantially undercharging their chosen candidates for campaigning services. The attorney alleged that Chakrabarti “was on all sides of the scheme.”
But this is not the only allegation confronting the former official. Brand New Congress has also been accused of illegally funneling funds to political action committees. Liberty Nation’s Graham Noble explains that Chakrabarti:
“Set up two shell companies, Brand New Campaign LLC and Brand New Congress LLC, to which a combined total of $1 million – from political donations to the two PACs – was funneled. Ocasio-Cortez did not disclose her legal control of the Justice Democrats PAC, and both she and Chakrabarti have since separated themselves from the group. Former FEC officials have indicated that the arrangements between the two PACs and the shell companies appear strange and seem to violate campaign finance laws.”
Moving Back into the Shadows?
Chakrabarti apparently plans to take a more behind-the-scenes role in promoting the Justice Democrats’ flagship legislation, the Green New Deal.
Even a cursory glance reveals what Chakrabarti has already admitted: the Green New Deal is not about climate change. The proposal is about pushing a far-left agenda, including government control over health care, “free” college, and federally-guaranteed jobs. Chakrabarti might be going back into the shadows, but it is clear that his role in the mission to move the United States closer to socialism is far from over.
As the “Squad,” whose ranks include Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), continues to gain more influence, the Democrats could well become more agreeable to adopting parts of the bill.
The fact that Chakrabarti is no longer working closely with Ocasio-Cortez means nothing in this context; he will be just as involved in the process as he was previously. This realigning of key players is essential in shielding the Justice Democrats’ most famous superstar from negative publicity, but it could also be a clever way to allow the operative to do his work under the radar.