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.
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.
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. 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.
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. Brand New Congress ultimately endorsed 30 candidates for primaries and general elections; eight of 27 won primaries and one of eleven won general elections.
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. Brand New Congress spent over $600,000 during the 2018 election cycle.
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. 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.
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 and spent over $2.5 million during the 2018 election cycle.
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. After Ocasio-Cortez won the general election, she appointed Chakrabarti chief of staff in her congressional office.
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. 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.”  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.
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.