Ethics Enforcers Protect ‘Squad’ Members, Perpetuate Double Standard

Gabe Kaminsky writes in the Washington Examiner:

Democratic members of the “Squad” in Congress continue to raise ethics concerns and red flags among watchdog groups, who have often urged government bodies to investigate their alleged misconduct.


The latest situation earning the ire of watchdogs is Rep. Cori Bush’s (D-MO) newly announced marriage to a security guard for her campaign, despite her husband, Cortney Merritts, reportedly not holding a St. Louis private security license. Bush’s marriage, which was quietly inked in January, is part of a string of alleged ethics issues for Squad members, which include the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and five other Democrats, watchdogs say.

The article continues:

“The Squad members have become left-wing celebrities, and it’s given them a level of protection,” Peter Flaherty, CEO of the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative watchdog, told the Washington Examiner. “There’s a huge double standard.”


Flaherty added: “The media goes easy on them. In the case of the Justice Department, even when it’s headed by Republicans, they don’t want to go after a Squad member because they’re afraid of the reaction.

FEC Covers for AOC

AOC is currently being investigated by the House Ethics Committee after a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics, apparently on the basis of a Complaint filed by NLPC regarding the 2021 Met Gala, at which she flaunted the “Tax the Rich” dress, but last year she escaped much more serious allegations on which the Federal Election Committee refused to act.

The allegations were contained in an FEC Complaint filed by NLPC in March 2019 against AOC and her then-chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti. It alleged that they orchestrated an extensive operation to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign spending during the 2018 campaign.

The funds were apparently spent in support of thirteen far-Left Congressional candidates by a for-profit entity called Brand New Congress LLC, operated by Chakrabarti. The Complaint alleges that it served as a “cutout” for at least $885,735 received from Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and two federal political action committees, Justice Democrats PAC and the similarly named Brand New Congress PAC.

Tom Anderson, director of NLPC’s Government Integrity Project, uncovered the scheme. He said, “These are not minor or technical violations. We are talking about real money here. In all my years of studying FEC reports, I’ve never seen a more ambitious operation to circumvent reporting requirements.”

Scam PAC?

The Federal Election Campaign Act requires all expenditures of $200 or more to be disclosed to the FEC, and their purpose identified. The political committees simply reported large payments to Brand New Congress, LLC as “strategic consulting.” There is no way of telling where all the money went. It could have been pocketed or used by the LLC for an extensive off-the-books campaign operation.

Even liberal campaign finance experts recognized the violations. Adav Noti of the Soros-funded Campaign Legal Center told the Washington Examiner, “I can only think of really two likely possibilities for this sort of pattern of disbursements. One is the scam PAC possibility — they’re really just paying themselves and they’re concealing it by using the LLC. The other is that there’s actually another recipient, that the money is going to the LLC and then being disbursed in some other way that they want to conceal.”

In February 2022, NLPC received a letter from the FEC stating that it dismissed the complaint a month earlier without giving a reason, although it promised to do so at an unspecified future date.


In response, NLPC filed suit against the FEC in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleging that the Complaint had been unlawfully and arbitrarily dismissed. The lawsuit was later rendered moot when the FEC published its reason, that it had exercised “prosecutorial discretion” in dismissing the Complaint, in part because some of the alleged violations took place in 2017, beyond the five-year statute of limitations.

The FEC admitted that its own Office of General Counsel, which investigated the allegations, had found reason to believe that AOC had violated the law, and recommended enforcement action. While it is true that for some period of time the FEC lacked a quorum and that COVID slowed the investigation, the bottom line is that the FEC dragged its feet in investigating AOC and then claimed it ran out of time.

Double Standard

“The FEC has gone after a whole host of people whose violations are dwarfed by the scale of this scheme,” said NLPC Counsel Kamenar, “It appears to be not prosecutorial discretion, but prosecutorial favoritism.”

When NLPC exposed AOC’s scheme in 2019, a number of observers, including former FEC Commissioners, noted that the violations were likely to trigger a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. To date, there is no indication of a Justice Department investigation.

photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite





Tags: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Federal Election Commission, House Ethics Committee, Ilhan Omar, Office of Congressional Ethics