On Wednesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Gill spoke with Kerpen who is an American free-market policy analyst and political organizer. He is the president of American Commitment, a conservative 501c organization which he founded in 2012.
The Tennessee Star Report spoke to Kerpen about his recent Twitter feed wherein a Knoxville location on Gay Street was the hub for the newly elected freshman congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which allegedly funneled funds through the location between PAC and campaign accounts through corporations.
Gill: Yesterday I was reading through the twitter stream of Phil Kerpen who previously was vice president of American’s for Prosperity is now President of the American free market policy group, American Commitment. It’s a conservative 501 organization that he founded in two thousand and twelve. He and I actually ran into each other repeatedly at Grover Norquist’s regular weekly meetings and through American’s for Prosperity. So anyway I’m reading through Phil’s Twitter and there’s a picture of a building in Knoxville, Tennessee and I’m going, “Wait a minute, I’m from Knoxville, I know that building.” And then you kind of read through the rest of it and you realize that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff has been operating some sort of a scam a scheme out of this little building in Knoxville Tennessee where they ran about fifteen, sixteen, seventeen liberal Democrat congressional campaigns. Yeah, Knoxville, Tennessee! And at the same time were shuffling money from corporations to campaign accounts, paying AOC’s boyfriend which makes it look like it was just sort of slush fund and we thought we’d get Phil on to kind of give us the nutshell of what the heck is going on here. And Phil good morning and welcome in.
Kerpen: Hey good morning Steve. Great to be with you.
Gill: You know it’s amazing when you just start pulling a thread what continues to unravel. You find this building in Knoxville and then you start checking at what other companies are located there. And you found what, a dozen or more Democrat liberal congressional campaigns being operated by this new American Congress scheme operated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff whose being paid less than most chief of staff so they don’t have to disclose his financial dealings.
Kerpen replied that it was amazing that they have these ultra-liberal extreme socialist campaigns for the far left and at least a dozen of these campaigns all across the country and put the entire back office campaign apparatus on Gay Street in Knoxville. In addition to that Kerpen added that this would enable them to put an official campaign headquarters paying personnel in Knoxville and avoid paying any income tax. He also stated that they were getting a lot of money into the building, LLC’s in the PAC called Justice Democrats and this PAC was paying into the two corporate entities that were running all of the staff for the twelve Democratic campaigns. Also, Kerpen added that AOC and her chief of staff were two of the three board members getting paid on the PAC force and that typically when a vendor is doing work for both campaigns and for PAC, there must be an internal firewall between both staff and campaign if engaged in the same race. Kerpen begged the question of, “How can you have a firewall when it’s literally the same personnel on both sides?”
Kerpen: I think they have a huge problem there.
Gill: And generally Phil, the PAC, and the campaign wouldn’t be located in the same exact facility. Not only would they not have the same people, they wouldn’t be operating out of the exact same offices. The PAC would be one place and the campaign would be operating somewhere else. You wouldn’t have a physical co-existence in addition to the personnel co-existence.
Kerpen: That would be very unusual. I mean, I have seen it where like they have different floors of the same building which raises eyebrows that they claim that they maintain a firewall. Here we don’t see anything like that. I don’t see how they could even claim that there was a firewall between PAC and campaign personnel because they’ve got all these public statements on their own website saying, “Everything we did was for all our clients. Everything we built was for all the candidates.” And they are getting paid in by PAC dollars. So I do think they have a coordination problem here. They also have apparent reporting violations and they could have enormous issues as well because as you mentioned her boyfriend was getting paid by one of these entities.
Gill: And we don’t know how much he may have been being paid. It may have been just to shuffle money to her. Now this chief of staff who ran this operation who is now the chief of staff for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. No indication that he was like living or working in Knoxville. That’s just where the entities were doing their business but this Saikat Chakrabarti is now the chief of staff for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But they’re paying him way below what other chiefs of staffs are being paid so that he doesn’t have to fill out all the documents that reveal what he’s invested in, where his money comes from, what insider trading he may be doing. He’s basically operating almost off book to hide what he’s doing.
Kerpen agreed and stated that AOC’s big announcement was that she was going to overpay her staff and that she would underpay her senior staff. He added that the the point here that’s been raised by the National Legal and Policy Center is that by lowering the senior staff pay it enables them to put that staff below the threshold amount for filing financial disclosures which in turn means that they could be getting paid by other outside entities or sources of income that are not being disclosed. Gill clarified that part of the scheme is that they’ve recruited candidates to run against Democratic candidates in an effort to beat them in primaries and that AOC was the only one of those that won. He added that a reality show type casting call was put out where you would submit a video which was aimed at seeking charismatic people that they could then craft a campaign for. Gill compared it to like qualifying to get on a reality show like Survivor.
Kerpen: Yeah. Their concept was that they were going to essentially re-create the Bernie Sanders campaign but for congressional elections and run it through this centralized operation there in Knoxville. And then they were just going to sort of have a franchise, a front man or woman in each congressional district and they would sort of just plug them into this existing back end that they were building you know, through these LLC’s and PACS.
Gill: So essentially the candidates were fungible. They were just trying to pick somebody who looked good, that sounded good and then you know, plug in and say whatever they wanted them to say.
Kerpen: I don’t think they expected them to win any of these races. I think this was more an organizing effort they were going to build up their sort of their left-wing advocacy grassroots capacity. And I think they were probably as surprised (Gill laughs) as any of us that they actually won one of these races. That might be why their legal structure is so questionable. They didn’t expect the scrutiny that comes with winning.
Gill: And nobody would look if they lost. Well, know you’ve got Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying she’s making her list, checking it twice. I guess she sounded like the evil Santa to figure out what Democrats have stepped out of line that she and this crew want to primary. I assume they won’t re-locate again on Gay Street in Knoxville just because the heat and the scrutiny are on. But it sounds like they’re going to do the same scheme to take on Democrats who’ve stepped out of line in their view.
Kerpen: Yeah, they’re gone from that location. And it’s unclear to me whether they actually ever took occupancy in that address or whether they just used it as a mail drop. People have sort of suggested both ways. I’m trying to get to the bottom of that right now. We do know they have at least one staffer on the ground there in Knoxville. A guy named Corbin Trent, who was a Knoxville resident and ran Knoxville for Bernie Sanders who’s now moved to Washington and is AOC’s communications director. So the one person we know for a fact was in Knoxville has moved to Washington to go on her staff. I don’t think they’ll set up in Knoxville again. But yeah look, they want to do this to other Democrats. They want to challenge them. As I said there’s very space to the left of those Democrats these days so when you go sort of full communism, hardcore socialist, you can get to the left of even most Democrats. And that’s their game plan is to try to scare them even further left than they already are and to serve as enforcers. But as you pointed out, it’s pretty hard to actually pull this off successfully. There’s a reason it only worked in one of the fifteen or twenty races they targeted last time. And it was the one where they sort of had an incumbent who was asleep at the wheel.
The men ended the segment pondering how much power AOC actually has and how she has put out the insane Green New Deal and were in disbelief about the other presidential candidates that have signed on to it. They noted that Senator Hirono from Hawaii was one of them and seemed to be sabotaging her tourism economy. Kerpen talked about his favorite cabinet member, Elaine Chao, who is the United States Secretary of Transportation and how she got a letter out in three working days demanding money back. Both men agreed that the timeline of this was amazing.
“I really want to see this question of coordination addressed and whether this structure, having the same personnel on the PAC side and the campaign side payment to a vendor could (Inaudible talk). I think that’s where there is a potential problem for them,” concluded Kerpen.
Listen to the full segment here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Phil Kerpen” by Phil Kerpen.