Person

Saikat Chakrabarti

Occupation:

Political Activist

Saikat Chakrabarti is a far-left political activist currently serving as chief of staff in the office of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Before Ocasio-Cortez’s election in 2018, Chakrabarti led Brand New Congress (a predecessor organization to Justice Democrats), worked on the 2016 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and helped build the payment technology platform Stripe.

Early Career

After graduating from Harvard University in 2007, Chakrabarti moved to California where he co-founded a tech startup, Mockingbird, and later became a founding engineer for the payment processing company Stripe.[1]

Political Activism

After several years of working in the tech industry in California, Chakrabarti transitioned into left-wing political activism.  By 2015, Chakrabarti was a director of organizing technology for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.[2] After the end of Sanders’s campaign, Chakrabarti and former Bernie Sanders campaign staff founded Brand New Congress, a political action committee (PAC) created to support left-wing congressional candidates in 2018 midterm elections.[3]

Brand New Congress

Brand New Congress is a centralized platform for progressive candidates to coordinate campaign staff, mailing, fundraising, and strategy. Brand New Congress recruited and trained approximately 400 candidates for the 2018 elections.[4] Brand New Congress ultimately endorsed 30 candidates for primaries and general elections; eight of 27 won primaries and one of eleven won general elections.[5]

The one Brand New Congress candidate who won a general election in 2018 was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She won an upset of longtime incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) in a functionally determinative Democratic primary election.[6] Brand New Congress spent over $600,000 during the 2018 election cycle.[7]

Justice Democrats

By mid-2017, Chakrabarti and fellow Brand New Congress co-founders Alexandra Rojas and Zack Exley left Brand New Congress to help found Justice Democrats, a new left-wing PAC, where Chakrabarti would serve as Executive Director.[8] Justice Democrats was also founded with The Young Turks’s Cenk Uygur and Kyle Kulinski, with the aim of recruiting progressive working-class political candidates to challenge incumbent Democrats.[9]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the only candidate of the 12 candidates sponsored by Justice Democrats to win an election. Justice Democrats worked with Brand New Congress[10] and spent over $2.5 million during the 2018 election cycle.[11]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Chakrabarti supported the candidacy of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez through Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats; he became her campaign chair following her primary election victory.[12] After Ocasio-Cortez won the general election, she appointed Chakrabarti chief of staff in her congressional office.[13]

With Chakrabarti serving as Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Ocasio-Cortez released the highly controversial far-left policy initiative known as the Green New Deal.[14] Ocasio-Cortez’s office, led by Chakrabarti, released an “FAQ” which it withdrew after criticism for its extremist positions, including appearing to demand the elimination of animal agriculture, replacing commercial aviation with “high-speed rail,” and providing “economic security for all who are . . . unwilling to work.” [15] Chakrabarti was forced to admit the office’s authorship of the FAQ after Green New Deal supporters retweeted by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez asserted quotes from the document about “unwilling to work” were fabricated.[16]

Politico’s “Playbook Power List” 2019, which “highlights politicians, activists and operatives across the country who are positioned to play a critical role in the political landscape leading up to 2020,” included Chakrabarti.[17]

References

  1. “Saikat Chakrabarti.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.linkedin.com/in/saikatc
  2. “Saikat Chakrabarti.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.linkedin.com/in/saikatc
  3. Progressive Coders Network. “Saikat Chakrabarti: Brand New Congress.” Youtube. August 24, 2016. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdt8GWdP_JE
  4. Bowman, Bridget. “What’s Next for Sanders Backers? Replace the Entire Congress!” Roll Call. July 29, 2019. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.rollcall.com/news/whats-next-sanders-backers-replace-entire-congress
  5. de la Fuente, David. “2018 Endorsement Scorecard.” Third Way. December 5, 2018. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.thirdway.org/memo/2018-endorsement-scorecard
  6. Remnick, David. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Historic Win and the Future of the Democratic Party.” The New Yorker. July 23, 2018. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/07/23/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-historic-win-and-the-future-of-the-democratic-party
  7. “Brand New Congress.” Open Secrets. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00613810&cycle=2018
  8. “Saikat Chakrabarti.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.linkedin.com/in/saikatc
  9. Freelander, David. “‘There Is Going to Be a War Within the Party. We Are Going to Lean Into It.’” Politico Magazine. February 4, 2019. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/02/04/the-insurgents-behind-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-224542
  10. Freelander, David. “‘There Is Going to Be a War Within the Party. We Are Going to Lean Into It.’” Politico Magazine. February 4, 2019. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/02/04/the-insurgents-behind-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-224542
  11. “Justice Democrats.” Open Secrets. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00630665&cycle=2018
  12. “Saikat Chakrabarti.” LinkedIn. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.linkedin.com/in/saikatc
  13. Adragna, Anthony and Colman, Zack. “‘It’s crazy. It’s loony’: Republicans giddy as Democrats champion Green New Deal.” Politico. February 9, 2019. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/02/09/gop-sees-political-advantage-in-green-new-deal-1160725
  14. Adragna, Anthony and Colman, Zack. “‘It’s crazy. It’s loony’: Republicans giddy as Democrats champion Green New Deal.” Politico. February 9, 2019. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/02/09/gop-sees-political-advantage-in-green-new-deal-1160725
  15. “Green New Deal FAQ.” February 7, 2019. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/5729035/Green-New-Deal-FAQ.pdf.
  16. Re, Gregg. “Ocasio-Cortez Adviser Admits He Falsely Claimed Green New Deal Didn’t Promise Security for Those ‘unwilling’ to Work’.” Fox News. February 10, 2019. Accessed February 11, 2019. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/ocasio-cortez-adviser-admits-he-falsely-claimed-green-new-deal-didnt-promise-security-for-those-unwilling-to-work.
  17. “Politico Playbook Power List: 19 to Watch in 2019.” Politico. Accessed February 11, 2019.  https://www.politico.com/interactives/2018/politico-power-list-2019/
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