New documents from the congressional ethics committee’s investigation into Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s attendance at the 2021 Met Gala revealed that her lawyers warned her not to attend for fear she would violate congressional code.
AOC’s anti-corruption attorney told the congressman’s team she could attend the event, but only if she was listed as a guest of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and not a guest of Vogue magazine, the organizer of the event.
The lawyer feared that if she were listed as a Vogue guest, she could violate congressional rules that prohibit representatives from accepting gifts from companies that use lobbyists, which Vogue’s parent company, Advance Media Publications, is doing.
Despite those warnings, records showed that the congresswoman accepted a pair of $35,000 gala tickets and was listed as a guest of Vogue on the night of the gala, but that the next morning employees began to spin to say she was a personal guest of Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
The damning documents also show how AOC managed to pay just $300 for her $1,300 dress emblazoned with the phrase “Tax the Rich” — along with the hours of design work, fittings and styling — and then took months to complete it. paltry amount to pay back. .
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) attends the Met Gala in her ‘Tax the Rich’ dress
After the gala, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s staff said she was a guest of Anna Wintour’s
In a message to her staff, an attorney for AOC’s attorney warned of the risks of her presence and advised her on how to do so legally.
“The congresswoman could accept an invitation from (the Met) but not from Vogue,” he wrote. “Since Advance Publications is a registered lobbyist, we have to be extra careful!”
Nevertheless, AOC and her boyfriend both accepted cards from Vogue that explicitly stated they were “guests of Vogue,” according to the New York Post.
However, the day after the gala, Vogue employees contacted AOC’s office to inform them that they had received a number of questions from the media about the nature of the congressman’s presence, and to say they told outlets that she had been Wintour’s personal guest instead of saying she was a guest at the magazine.
“Hope the (C)ongresswoman had a great time last night!” one Vogue contributor wrote. “We have had a number of questions about AOC’s invitation and whether she has paid for her ticket. Mainly from page six.
“We have also warned the museum. Since she was a guest at Vogue, we planned to say in the background that she was a guest at Anna (Wintour). Of course I just wanted to check with you before I respond.’
The documents showed that Met staffers were even aware that AOC’s presence at the event was questionable, with one staffer writing: “We think this needle could be threaded with the following: Anna Wintour – a Met Trustee and organizer of the event – invited AOC as a guest of the museum.’
An email from a Vogue employee asking the team at AOC how they intend to tell the press that the congressman attended the Met Gala
A message asking for a back payment of a portion of the cost of AOC’s clothing for the Met Gala
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the 2021 Met Gala. Her bag matched her ‘Tax the Rich’ dress
The documents also showed that AOC managed to pay a fraction of the cost of her Tax the Rich dress, along with all the work it took to make it for her and prepare her for the night, and months after that. needed to pay it all back.
AOC was billed just $1,300 for the dress, billing the Brooklyn-based designer who arranged for the dress as “rent,” according to the Post.
The congressman’s staff managed to save $1,000 on that price tag, along with knocking down the $635 price of her shoes by also offering them as rentals.
And in a text message to the designer, an AOC employee asked if tuxedo accessories would be provided for the congressman’s boyfriend, Riley Roberts.
“Just confirm that you’re thinking of getting (AOC’s friend) a tie/belt? By the way, there is no restriction for Riley,” the text read.
The staffer told investigators that the “restrictions” she was referring to were under Congressional Post Codes of Ethics.
AOC subsequently failed to timely pay back thousands of dollars in bills from the evening, including $344.85 in makeup fees that were eventually passed on to a collection agency. The agency contacted its staff to say the bill was ‘EXTREMELY overdue’.
She also took so long to pay back $477.73 in hair styling, a stylist rep contacted her staff and said, “It would look awful if we had to file a complaint with the NY Dept of Labor against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”
More than $1,000 for transportation paid by Conde Nast went unpaid for eight months, as did $4,602.92 in bills at the evening’s Carlisle Hotel, according to the Post.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shows off her ‘Tax the Rich’ dress that took her months to pay for
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) and with her boyfriend, Riley Roberts (right)
An Ocasio-Cortez spokesperson told Forbes that when the investigation began in 2022, she was confident the case would be dismissed.
GIFT RULES FOR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have specific rules about gifts that may be accepted by members or employees.
The term “gift” covers any tip, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan or other item of monetary value. In particular, the term includes services, training, transportation, accommodation and meals, whether provided in kind, ticket purchase, advance payment or reimbursement after the expense has been incurred.
Generally, a member or employee of Congress may accept a gift if it is unsolicited and is less than $50 in value.
Tickets for sporting or entertainment events must be billed at face value or at the highest price if there is no face value, and must not be artificially reduced to meet the gift limit.
“The congresswoman has always taken ethics incredibly seriously and has declined all donations from lobbyists, corporations or other special interests,” the AOC spokesperson said.
At least three conservative groups filed complaints with the House Ethics Committee after Ocasio-Cortez attended the Met Gala on Sept. 13, 2021.
She denied responsibility for the delay in refunding her outfit’s designers.
“And I would never, never, ever have allowed that, knowing what I learned, but that I wasn’t aware of the bills, wasn’t aware of the ones sent,” she told investigators.
And it’s just a very regrettable situation. I feel terrible for the small businesses in particular that were affected.”
She admitted to investigators that “a ball had fallen.”
In a statement, David Mitrani, Ocasio-Cortez’s attorney, said the congressman “deems these (payment) delays unacceptable and has taken several steps to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”
“While it is unfortunate, this case certainly does not rise to the level of a violation of house rules or federal law. Even after the OCE’s extensive review of the congressman’s personal communications, there is no evidence that she ever intended to avoid these expenses,” the statement continued.
“We are confident that the ethics committee will drop this case.”
The ethics committee is now considering the referral sent by the Office of Congressional Ethics, but they have yet to investigate, according to Lauren Hitt, communications director for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.