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AOC, a dark money critic, linked to questionable campaign finance tactic

Politicians who challenge the status quo must remember they live in a very large glass house, their critics always poised to throw the first stone. It's one reason why so few members openly challenge the ethical or ideological baselines in Congress, lest they become vulnerable to being pilloried as hypocrites.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is an exception that proves the rule on this front, her eagerness to passionately challenge convention topping the reasons why she stands apart as the most prominent and polarizing first-term House member in decades. The self-described democratic socialist has already parried charges of duplicity on several symbolically resonant fronts — making tabloid headlines in recent days, for example, by choosing a car over the subway back home in New York while championing a Green New Deal as her signature issue.

Now comes a charge of hypocrisy that's maybe more serious.

Saikat Chakrabarti, who's now chief of staff after running the Ocasio-Cortez campaign last year, helped create a pair of political action committees that paid his political consultancy, Brand New Congress, more than $1 million in 2016 and 2017, federal campaign finance records show. Chakrabarti's firm also got $18,880 from the campaign in its early stages, after which he worked as a volunteer.

But that arrangement, "first reported by conservative outlets, left hidden who ultimately profited from the payments — a sharp juxtaposition with Ocasio-Cortez's calls for transparency in politics," The Washington Post noted.

A conservative group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday alleging the PACs wrongly shielded the spending from disclosure.

An attorney for the PACs, the consulting firm and the congresswoman's campaign, David Mitrani, said in a statement Tuesday that none of his clients did anything illegal. But watchdog groups suggested the arrangement was unduly evasive, especially for someone aligned with a politician who has labeled dark money "the enemy to democracy."

"In a normal situation, if all you saw was a PAC that disbursed hundreds of thousands of dollars to an affiliated entity to pay the salaries of people who were really working for the PAC, that looks like ... a PAC that takes in money to engage in political activity but is actually enriching its owners," Adav Noti, a former Federal Election Commission lawyer who is now a transparency advocate at the Campaign Legal Center, told The Post.

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We can and must embrace our diversity as the operating system of our nation, write the leaders of the Bridge Alliance.

Diverse people must be in every room where decisions are made

Molineaux and Nevins are co-founders of the Bridge Alliance, a coalition of 100 democracy strengthening organizations. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)

As we look to history, it has always been the mystics and scientists, innovators and outliers who saw the future most clearly and acted to push — or call — society forward, to awaken from our slumber of the way things are and envision a better future. The stories of their personal transformation inspire us to be better individually and collectively. With this inspiration, we can and must transform our nation into a more perfect union.

As co-founders of the Bridge Alliance, we are inspired and challenged by the problems facing our country. Our 100 member organizations work daily to protect the ideals of our American Dream so we can create healthy self-governance that has never fully existed before. Our members work to harness the tension of our differences as we enact our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, balancing individual and community needs.

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The Federal Voting Assistance Program assists military members who need to vote via absentee ballot. A spokeswoman for the Defense Department said there would be "minimal disruptions" if the United States pulls out of the international postage agency.

Costs to mail ballots may skyrocket for civilians, military living overseas

Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration's trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections.

The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years.

Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don't cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service.

With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting.

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