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Newly uncovered emails reveal that New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s staff was warned by an anti-corruption lawyer against accepting an invite from Vogue to attend the Met Gala in 2021.
“The lawyer warned that Vogue’s parent company, Advance Media Publications, was a registered lobbyist and appeared to suggest that she could attend the gala if she had an invite from event organizers. Ocasio-Cortez and her boyfriend accepted the tickets to the gala,” the Washington Examiner reported.
“The Congresswoman could accept an invitation from [the Met], but not from Vogue,” the lawyer wrote, according to documents released by the Congressional Ethics Committee. “Since Advance Publications is a registered lobbyist, we’ll need to be extra careful!”
“Hope the [C]ongresswoman had a great time last night! … [W]e have had a number of inquiries … Mainly from Page Six … Given that she was a guest of [V]ogue, we were planning to say … she was a guest of Anna [Wintour]’s. … wanted to check with you,” the email said, according to the New York Post.
The outlet added:
A slew of watchdog groups filed complaints after revelations emerged that she and her boyfriend, with whom she has since become engaged, scored tickets that cost $35,000 apiece. There were also questions about Ocasio-Cortez’s “borrowed” dress, her sitting at a sponsored table possibly valued up to $300,000, and having a limousine ride.
Documents from the Congressional Ethics Committee trove clarified that the invitation information Ocasio-Cortez and her boyfriend received showed they were “guests of Vogue.” Following her outing, a Vogue staffer contacted Ocasio-Cortez’s team and suggested they describe her as a guest of Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief.
Last week, the House Office of Congressional Ethics reported that it found “substantial reason to believe” that 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.
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 118th Congress,” the release noted further.
She reportedly was invited as a guest of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and did not keep the dress. 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.”