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AOC begged to go to Met Gala, even if it meant breaking the rules

Courtesy of an ongoing Congressional ethics investigation into Bronx Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we now know the trick to socialism: don’t pay for stuff. When AOC marched up the Met Museum steps in her famous dress 18 months ago, the slogan in red painted on the back, instead of reading “TAX THE RICH,” should have read “STIFF THE PROLETARIAT.” 

AOC really wanted to attend the September 2021 Met ball – a charity event for its Costume Institute, yes, but also the world’s number-one social event for the rich, famous, and beautiful. 

But $35,000 tickets for two people (she wanted her boyfriend to go, too) would cost nearly six figures (if the exclusive ball even approves you). Members of Congress can attend non-profit events, but the Met normally doesn’t invite all of Congress, and this isn’t AOC’s district.  

So AOC came by the biggest part of her Met Gala grift the old-fashioned way: trading off of the elected position with which Bronx and Queens voters entrusted her.  

AOC snagged two free tickets (after much prodding by her campaign staffer) by cozying up to Vogue’s Anna Wintour, who runs this show for the Met. AOC’s written invitation specifically informed her that she and her boyfriend were “guests of Vogue.”  

Little problem: members of Congress can’t take near-seven-figure gifts from companies that employ lobbyists. Vogue is part of a sprawling media firm, including the firm that owns a big piece of Spectrum, our highly regulated internet provider.  

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (L) and Aurora James attend The 2021 Met Gala.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Aurora James attend The 2021 Met Gala.
Getty Images

As AOC’s anti-corruption lawyer warned her staff, “the Congresswoman could accept an invitation from [the Met], but not [italics his] from Vogue . . . Since Advance Publications is a registered lobbyist, we’ll need to be extra careful!”  

Extra careful . . . the morning after. As a Vogue staffer informed AOC’s office the day after the ball, “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.”  

Cue hours of highly paid butt-covering. As the bi-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics found last week, “documents” – emails between the Met and AOC’s office to “thread” the “needle,” in one Met staffer’s phrasing – “suggest that there was some attempt to obfuscate Vogue’s role.”

C’mon: AOC solicited and procured a gift worth nearly six figures from a regulated corporate entity, and then colluded with the corporation and the museum to lie about it. 

Anna Wintour.
AOC snagged two free tickets to the Met by allegedly cozying up to Vogue’s Anna Wintour.
Getty Images

Getting to the ball, though, thanks to repeated false statements, accomplished only part of AOC’s goal. It costs money to be a Kardashian-level celebrity: transportation, dress, hair, makeup, hotel room, manicure, shoes, handbag, jewels, boyfriend accessories.   

As AOC’s lawyer assured Congressional ethics officials just after the gala, “the Congresswoman is paying personally for all other benefits including the rental value of her dress, handbag, and accessories, … shoes …, hair and makeup, transportation, and … hotel room … for staging.”  

Oh, no! What to do? Just … don’t pay for these things, and hope no one notices.  

How? The fashion industry is famously exploitative. Struggling designers need exposure, and work for cheap to get it.  

So AOC got herself a haute couture dress – consultation, design, fittings, materials, and day-of styling, likely well above a ten-thousand-dollar value – from a Brooklyn designer for a billed cost of a $1,300 “rental.” 

Good deal! But did she pay the $1,300? No. Her campaign staff called the designer to talk the price down to $300. That’s how much AOC values weeks worth of labor.  

AOC’s staff “could not explain why the gown rental costs were reduced,” ethics investigators found. (The designer refused to cooperate with the probe, and will now be subpoenaed.)  

Shoes? No good socialist pays $635 to “purchase” bright-red ribbon pumps, to be worn only once.  

AOC got that part of the bill knocked down, too, after the event, by changing a “purchase” to a spurious “rental.” (The resale value of used shoes is basically zero.)

And, gross: an AOC staffer texted the dress designer, writing, “just confirming you’re thinking of providing [AOC’s boyfriend] with a tie/cummerbund? There is no restriction on Riley btw.”  

The staffer later confirmed to investigators that by “restriction,” she was referring to Congressional ethics rules. Translation: give us more free stuff – especially stuff we don’t have to report.  

Even with these heavy discounts, AOC tried to weasel out of paying this vendor, and multiple other hard-working New York City small-business people. “It appears several thousands of dollars’ worth of services may have remained unpaid absent the [Office of Congressional Ethics] initiating this review,” investigators have found (so far).  

Makeup: $344.85. AOC didn’t pay it for six months, after the ethics investigation started. The makeup artist sent the bill to a collection agency, which said it was “EXTREMELY overdue.”  

Hair: $477.73. After months of non-payment – also until the start of the ethics investigation — the hairstylist’s rep emailed AOC’s staff that “it would look terrible if we had to file a complaint with the NY Dept of Labor against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”  

Transportation from the Bronx to the Carlyle Hotel? $586.84 (including idling time – good for the planet!). It wasn’t until May 2022 – eight months after the gala – that AOC reimbursed Conde Nast for her $180 share. Why they split this bill four ways is unclear — the other three people in the car were there for her

Hotel? $4,602.92 – not reimbursed to the designer until May 2022.  

AOC’s boyfriends shoes and bowtie? $406.09 – not reimbursed until May 2022 (under investigation, her staff suddenly decided he shouldn’t receive free gifts).  

Car service from the Carlyle to the museum? $571.59 – not reimbursed until May.  

The only person who got paid the full value of her services was the manicurist – because, as AOC’s staffer told investigators, “the woman there said she … would need to be paid by cash” … immediately. (Smart lady, she probably read Hayek.) 

As one AOC staffer instructed the designer before the ball, “she shouldn’t look ‘rich.’” One way of not looking rich is not to pay your bills.  

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.  

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