There was a pitched battle on Twitter last week after a conservative political researcher named Luke Thompson posted a screenshot showing that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ boyfriend, Riley Roberts, had been given his own House email address and was listed as “Staff.” Under House rules, spouses of congresspeople can be given House email addresses if they volunteer in their spouses office, but as far as anyone knows Riley Roberts is not AOC’s spouse, just her boyfriend. Thompson was also rebuked by AOC:
Actually this cal designation is a permission so he can have access to my Google Cal. Congressional spouses get Gcal access all the time.
Next time check your facts before you tweet nonsense.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 15, 2019
After Thompson posted the information, he was suspended by Twitter, possibly on the grounds that he was posting private information. AOC’s Chief of Staff Saikat Chakrabarti specifically claimed he’d violated Twitter’s rules by doxxing Roberts:
He started doxxing him. That's a violation of terms in Twitter.
— Saikat Chakrabarti (@saikatc) February 15, 2019
In fact, everything Luke Thompson has posted was public information. House emails are public and the phone number listed was one of AOC’s public numbers. Eventually, Twitter relented and agreed Thompson had done nothing wrong. I don’t know if anyone ever worked out who had reported Thompson to Twitter in the first place but at least one of AOC’s fans proudly claimed he’d done it (it appears he wasn’t the only one).
In any case, Thompson felt the pushback was a bit disproportionate to the question he raised and started digging further:
AOC hasn’t exactly been winning friends lately, which is how I got Roberts’s Outlook screen grab in the first place. A rumor on the Hill was circulating that Roberts had attended a Congressional Progressive Caucus meeting. A tipster looked to see if he’d been given staff credentials. It appeared he had. All agreed this was irregular if he was just a spouse.
Per the House Admin office, a family member can, in special circumstances, get a house.gov email address. But Roberts is not a family member, and although AOC referred to him as her partner in November of last year, she omitted him from her mandatory candidate financial disclosures for 2017 and 2018. Perhaps they’ve gotten married since. If so — if he is her spouse now — we should see his finances disclosed along with hers in her 2019 disclosure form due in May.
Is she married?
Absent a wavier from House Ethics, family members have to be volunteers. AOC’s office apparently doesn’t believe in having unpaid workers, as according to Chakrabarti they have no volunteers in the office.
So Roberts is designated as staff but also isn’t on AOC’s staff, even though he showed up Friday morning in the House directory as processing into her personal office as a staffer. In other words his staff status, like his spouse status, is akin to Schrodinger’s cat.
Looking further into the financial relationship between AOC, Chakrabarti, and boyfriend Riley Roberts, Thompson found a money trail which seemed unusual. Chakrabarti runs a PAC called Brand New Congress whose goal is to centralize campaign services and make it easier for first-time candidates to run for office. Associated with the PAC is an LLC also run by Chakrabarti. Over the course of her campaign, AOC raised less than $9,000 but spent more than $37,000 with much of that going to Brave New Congress LLC. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Riley Roberts was being paid by the PAC as a marketing consultant, in fact, he appears to have been their top consultant:
Like other candidates, AOC paid Brand New Congress LLC for strategic consulting, in her case totaling $18,880.14. Unlike in the other cases, Brand New Congress PAC turned around and paid her boyfriend as a “marketing consultant”.
Indeed, while Brand New Congress PAC’s ten largest expenditures were paid to Brand New Congress LLC for “strategic consulting,” a sum that totaled $261,165.20 over the course of the campaign, its eleventh and twelfth largest expenditures were paid to Riley Roberts.
Roberts was paid two installments of $3,000 each. That’s not a lot of money relative to what the PAC was spending but it does work out to about a third of what AOC’s campaign was paying the LLC. The PAC listed Roberts’ address as Arizona, which is where he’s from, but at the time he was being paid as a consultant he was living with AOC in New York. Of course, it’s possible that Roberts was doing some real marketing work for the $6,000 he was paid that had no direct connection to AOC, but what was it?
Why would Chakrabarti, a founding engineer at Stripe and a wealthy veteran of Silicon Valley, be hiring a no-name “UX Experience” guy with little discernible marketing experience to serve as Brand New Congress PAC’s sole marketing consultant?
Regardless of what he was doing, is it just a coincidence that the PAC run by AOC’s soon-to-be Chief of Staff hired her boyfriend as its top consultant at a time when she was struggling to stay afloat? No doubt we’ll be getting some pushback on this from AOC’s office fairly soon.