A Congressional investigation into a member of Congress from New York is set to go forward — and no, this one doesn’t have to do with Rep. George Santos.
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) said Thursday it will continue looking into NYC Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was initially launched in June 2022. The investigation by the House Ethics Committee centers on allegations that AOC accepted gifts that lawmakers are not allowed to receive, related to her appearance at the Met Gala in 2021.
At issue are whether she violated any federal laws, House rules or standards of conduct.
Ocasio-Cortez, who represents part of the Bronx and Queens, notably wore a pricey white dress that had the words “tax the rich” written on the back in red. The congresswoman said in an Instagram post after the event that she did not own dress, but rather it was “borrowed” from a Brooklyn designer. In addition to the dress, she was provided with a handbag, shoes and jewelry for the event, along with hair and makeup services.
There were also questions surrounding the value of the tickets she received to the event, which conservative watchdog group American Accountability Foundation said can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The AAF is the group that filed the complaint about AOC in 2021, following the glitzy Upper East Side bash.
“Claiming her attendance to the $35,000 a plate event was part of her ‘official duties,’ there are serious questions about whether or not her ticket — donated or purchased with campaign funds — was permissible under the code of congressional ethics,” the group said when it filed the complaint.
The Ethics Committee received the referral in June 2022 and previously extended the review this past December.
Ocasio-Cortez’s office released a statement Thursday saying that no violations had been found, but the OCE identified “delays in paying vendors for costs associated with the Congresswoman’s attendance at the Met Gala.” The statement said that the delays were “unacceptable” and that AOC has taken steps to ensure they would not occur again.
But AOC’s office also denied that the delays in payment were any sort of violation.
“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,” the statement read. “To the contrary, there are several explicit, documented communications, from prior to OCE’s review, that show the Congresswoman understood that she had to pay for these expenses from her own personal funds – as she ultimately did.”
It’s not uncommon for NYC lawmakers to be invited to Vogue’s annual event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as Mayor Eric Adams and other previous mayors have attended, as has former Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney.
However, Maloney herself was recently revealed to be the subject of a House Ethics investigation as well. The panel said into whether she “may have solicited or accepted impermissible gifts associated with her attendance at the Met Gala” in 2016 and 2020.
Even if a member of the House didn’t use donated or campaign funds to pay for a ticket to the event, rules state they are not allowed to request a free ticket for things they are not invited to. Maloney’s attorneys responded to the investigation into her attendance, denying she explicitly requested a ticket either year in question.