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AOC Likely Violated Law With Met Gala Appearance: House Ethics Office

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) likely violated ethics laws for accepting “impermissible gifts” linked to her attendance at the Met Gala in 2021.

Ocasio-Cortez “received a series of goods and services which she did not pay for until the OCE opened this review,” according to a review issued by the House Office of Congressional Ethics on Thursday (pdf). It cited her dress—which had the slogan “TAX THE RICH” written on it—hair styling, makeup, and transportation.

“Based on the foregoing information, the Board finds that there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez accepted impermissible gifts associated with her attendance at the Met Gala in 2021,” the review concluded, adding that the House ethics office review the matter further.

Ocasio-Cortez’s office acknowledged those payments, although the lawmaker doesn’t believe she violated any House ethics rules. A letter written by Ocasio-Cortez’s staff director, Tom Rust, stated (pdf) that “this matter definitively does not rise to the level of a violation of House Rules or of federal law.”

“The congresswoman finds these delays unacceptable, and she has taken several steps to ensure nothing of this nature will happen again,” her spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, told Forbes a statement on Thursday. The Epoch Times has contacted her office for comment.

“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,” Hitt’s statement added. “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. We are confident the Ethics Committee will dismiss this matter.”

In December, the House Ethics Committee, chaired by Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), announced it was investigating the matter after receiving a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics. The 10-member House Ethics panel, which differs from the non-partisan House Office of Congressional Ethics, the has the ability to sanction and subpoena lawmakers.

After Ocasio-Cortez wrote the dress, she drew considerable blowback from not only Republicans but progressives who believe that by turning up at the Met Gala—which includes a range of celebrities and business luminaries—she was being a hypocrite. Tickets to the Met Gala reportedly cost $35,000 each, although a spokesperson for the Met told news outlets in 2021 that Ocasio-Cortez was invited as a guest of the museum.

The Black Lives Matter Greater NY, for example, blasted the lawmaker as “performative” and “not very socialist” by wearing the dress at the gala. “If you wanted to party with celebs … we get it,” a statement from the group said at the time. “But this right here cannot be excused.”

In response, the self-described socialist lawmaker wrote on social media that “NYC elected officials are regularly invited to and attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing our city’s cultural institutions that serve the public. I was one of several in attendance. Dress is borrowed.”

“Ultimately the haters hated and the people who are thoughtful were thoughtful,” she also wrote. “But we all had a conversation about Taxing the Rich in front of the very people who lobby against it, and punctured the fourth wall of excess and spectacle.”

Also Thursday, the House Ethics Committee unanimously voted to investigate allegations against Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who has been accused of lying about his work history and fabricating details about his life. The panel will now determine whether Santos “engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House.”

In response, Santos wrote on Twitter that he “is fully cooperating” with the contours of the investigation. No other details were fiven.

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