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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 nonpartisan watchdog’s board recommended in June 2022 that the House review the allegations against Ocasio-Cortez, according to documents released on Thursday. The Ethics Committee announced in December that it was investigating Ocasio-Cortez, though it did not disclose the subject of its inquiry at the time. The move led to speculation, acknowledged on Thursday, that the review had to do with her attendance at the gala,” according to the Washington Examiner.
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.
AOC’s ‘Tax the Rich’ Met Gala appearance likely violated law: ethics panel https://t.co/yGD6RZScap pic.twitter.com/BQ9UNq2wlC
— 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.
“Pursuant to House Rule XI, clause 3(b)(8)(A), and Committee Rules 17A(b)(1)(A),17A(c)(1), and 17A(j), the Acting Chairwoman and Acting Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics have jointly decided to extend the matter regarding Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was transmitted to the Committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics on June 23, 2022,” said a press release from the committee on Dec. 7.
“The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee. The Committee will announce its course of action in this matter following its organizational meeting and adoption of Committee Rules in the 118 th Congress,” the release noted further.
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.”