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Tipsheet

House Ethics Board Finds 'Substantial' Evidence AOC Accepted 'Impermissible Gifts' at Met Gala

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Remember when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez popped up at the 2021 Met Gala wearing a dress emblazoned with "TAX THE RICH" in a tremendous show of her lacking self-awareness? Well that glitzy outing for the progressive Squad member has landed her in more hot water thanks to a referral from the House's Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

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According to a report made public on Thursday, OCE found "substantial reason to believe" Rep. Ocasio-Cortez "accepted impermissible gifts associated with her attendance" at the Met Gala. 

Documents released by OCE on Thursday follow a unanimous June 17, 2022, vote by its board to adopt the report noting "If Rep. Ocasio-Cortez accepted impermissible gifts, then she may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law." 

In a recounting of their investigation, OCE reported that its "preliminary review" began on February 19, 2022. On March 1, AOC was notified of the review. By March 13, "at least three members of the Board voted to initiate a second-phase review" which began on March 21. The second-phase review was extended once before its completion on May 18. The Board then voted on June 17 to adopt its report and refer the matter to the Ethics Committee for "further review."

In its report, the Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics cited House rules, House Gift Guidance, Committee Precedent, and even federal law, including 5 U.S.C. § 7353(a) which states that "no Member of Congress...shall solicit or accept anything of value from a person— (1) seeking official action from, doing business with, or (in the case of executive branch officers and employees) conducting activities regulated by, the individual’s employing entity; or (2) whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the individual’s official duties."

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OCE further recounts in its report how "Rep. Ocasio-Cortez received a series of goods and services which she did not pay for until the OCE opened this review":

In 2021, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was invited to and attended the Met Gala with [her now-fiancée] Mr. Roberts. As part of her attendance, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was provided with a couture dress, handbag, shoes, and jewelry. She also received hair, makeup, transportation, and ready-room services. Riley Roberts received a bowtie and shoes in advance of the event. 

While Rep. Ocasio-Cortez appears to have now paid for the rental value of the attire she wore to the Met Gala and for the goods and services she and her partner received in connection with this September 2021 event, payment for these goods and services did not occur until after the OCE contacted her in connection with this review. But for the OCE opening this review, it appears that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez may not have paid for several thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services provided to her.

Among those goods and services, according to OCE, was transportation from her home to Carlyle Hotel; access to a ready room at the Carlyle Hotel on the day of the Gala (and also the Saturday before the Met Gala for dress fitting purposes); hair and makeup services; a dress, handbag, shoes, and jewelry from Brother Vellies; and transportation to the Met Gala from the Carlyle Hotel. Brother Vellies also provided a pair of shoes and a bowtie for Riley Roberts.

Notably, OCE reported that, despite AOC's statements committing to pay for the services she received associated with her attendance at the Met Gala, she had not made such payments until after she came under investigation. As the OCE complaint explains, "despite various efforts to address compliance concerns in advance of the Met Gala through counsel, and despite representations to the Committee regarding compliance with House rules, it appears several thousands of dollars’ worth of services may have remained unpaid absent the OCE initiating this review."

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The full OCE report lays out in exhaustive detail how AOC evidently failed to complete timely repayment for the goods and services she received through her attendance at the Met Gala:

Stay tuned for what's likely to be a lively reaction to both the OCE report and media coverage of its findings from Ocasio-Cortez.

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