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The House Office of Congressional Ethics found there is “substantial reason to believe” that New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might have violated federal law when she accepted “impermissible gifts” linked to her 2021 attendance at the Met Gala.
Ocasio-Cortez went viral at the time when she attended the star-studded event wearing a dress that had the words “Tax the Rich” across the back of it.
“The circumstances surrounding Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (or AOC) attendance – and, more importantly, her wardrobe choices and cost – at the exclusive 2021 Met Gala last year may have broken federal law and House rules, the bipartisan Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics decided in a 5-0 vote,” MSN reported.
The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics found in its ruling: “The Board finds that there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez accepted impermissible gifts associated with her attendance at the Met Gala. Accordingly, the Board recommends that the Committee further review the above allegation that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez accepted impermissible gifts associated with her attendance at the Met Gala.”
Here’s more from the report:
The rental of her “Tax the Rich” dress cost $1,200. The matching shoes cost $635. The handbag rental cost $170 for a total of $2,283, including sales tax. A Sept. 9, 2021, bill was provided by a publicist for Brother Vellies, which provided Ocasio-Cortez’s outfit for the Met Gala, to one of the congresswoman’s campaign staffers.
A revised bill dated Sept. 20 reduced the gown rental to $300 and the overall rental to $990. The committee interviewed the campaign staffer about the discrepancy between the first bill and the second bill and was unable to explain the change. Brother Vellies declined to cooperate with the committee.
AOC was supposed to have paid the invoice for the rental but only did so after the committee began its investigation. The rental company and the woman who did the congresswoman’s hair identified $5,799.99 worth of unpaid bills related to Ocasio-Cortez’s gown rental, transportation, room rental, shoes, and bowtie rented by Ocasio-Cortez’s boyfriend.
Conde Nast Transportation paid the outstanding $5,799 on May 10, 2022.
The report stated that “Rep. Ocasio-Cortez may not have paid for several thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services provided to her” had it not been for the committee investigation.
AOC, who has denied any wrongdoing, rented the dress for the occasion, as well as accessories and hair and makeup services she received but apparently didn’t pay for until after the formal review had been initiated against her.
The Office of Congressional Ethics concluded that if Ocasio-Cortez “accepted impermissible gifts, then she may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”
Lauren Hilt, a spokeswoman for Ocasio-Cortez, said they are confident the lawmaker did not violate House rules.
“Though no Ethics violation has been found, the Office of Congressional Ethics (‘OCE’) did identify that there were delays in paying vendors for costs associated with the Congresswoman’s attendance at the Met Gala. The Congresswoman finds these delays unacceptable, and she has taken several steps to ensure nothing of this nature will happen again,” she said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.
“However, while regrettable, these delayed payments definitively do not rise to the level of a violation of House Rules. Even after OCE’s exhaustive review of the Congresswoman’s personal communications, there is no record of the Congresswoman refusing to pay for these expenses. To the contrary, there are several explicit, documented communications, from prior to OCE’s review, that show the Congresswoman fully understood that she had to pay for these expenses from her own personal funds — as she ultimately did,” she added.
— New York Post (@nypost) March 2, 2023
Late last year, Ocasio-Cortez was referred to the House Ethics Committee over the allegations that she accepted “impermissible gifts” regarding the 2021 Met Gala.
She reportedly was invited as a guest of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and did not keep the dress. The New York Congresswoman, who won her seat in 2018 following a shock primary victory over Joe Crowley, a senior House Democrat, quickly emerged as a leading figure among progressives. Ethics watchdogs have accused AOC of violating House rules by improperly accepting other gifts.
Lawmakers are, in fact, allowed under chamber regulations to take free tickets to charity events directly from organizers — and The New York Post has reported that Ocasio-Cortez and her now-fiancé Riley Roberts were directly invited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yet, some watchdogs counter that the allowance wouldn’t apply to the Met Gala, since the invitations are controlled by a for-profit company – in this case, media conglomerate Conde Nast – while the tables, which cost $300,000, are sponsored by corporate entities.
At the time, a spokesperson for the Congresswoman said: “The Congresswoman has always taken ethics incredibly seriously, refusing any donations from lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests. We are confident that this matter will be dismissed.”