Is AOC’s Future in Question?: New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – who is often known simply as AOC – found herself under investigation by the House of Representatives ethics committee. The subject of the investigation hasn’t been revealed.
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Still, it has been widely suspected that it was the result of a September 2021 complaint filed by the Americans Accountability Foundation “for accepting an impermissible gift” to attend the Met Gala.
Earlier this month, acting chair, Rep. Susan Wild (D-Penn.) and acting ranking member, Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) released a statement that they “have jointly decided to extend the matter regarding Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was transmitted to the Committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics on June 23, 2022.”
They added, “The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee. The Committee will announce its course of action in this matter following its organizational meeting and adoption of Committee Rules in the 118th Congress.”
A spokesperson for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez responded, “The congresswoman has always taken ethics incredibly seriously, refusing any donations from lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests. We are confident that this matter will be dismissed.”
AOC: The Met Gala and Her Infamous Dress
AOC had made considerable waves not for just attending the high-profile Met Gala, where tickets for the social event cost a reported $35,000, but for her choice to wear a designer dress emblazoned with the slogan “Tax the Rich.”
She reportedly was invited as a guest of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and did not keep the dress.
The New York Congresswoman, who won her seat in 2018 following a shock primary victory over Joe Crowley, a senior House Democrat, quickly emerged as a leading figure among progressives. Ethics watchdogs have accused AOC of violating House rules by improperly accepting other gifts.
Lawmakers are, in fact, allowed under chamber regulations to take free tickets to charity events directly from organizers — and The New York Post has reported that Ocasio-Cortez and her now-fiancé Riley Roberts were directly invited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yet, some watchdogs counter that the allowance wouldn’t apply to the Met Gala, since the invitations are controlled by a for-profit company – in this case, media conglomerate Conde Nast – while the tables, which cost $300,000, are sponsored by corporate entities.
The American Accountability Foundation has claimed that Meta-owned Instagram had purchased access to the congresswoman that isn’t available to the average American citizen by sponsoring a table at the gala.
A second ethics complaint had also been filed by the National Legal and Policy Center over the dress she wore to the star-studded event. The Brother Vellies gown constituted an impermissible gift because it was “directly related to AOC’s ‘position with the House’ as a highly visible and controversial Member,” the complaint alleged.
“If AOC had not been a Member, she would not have been invited to the Gala,” the NLPC complaint read, “and even if she would have been invited as a private citizen, the designer would not have made a special dress for her to wear at the event.”
Then there is the fact that even if she didn’t keep the actual dress, she was gifted fashion accessories and provided various grooming services, which could be the issue in this case.
If that wasn’t the least of her problems, it should be noted there have been other complaints that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has failed to file required financial disclosure forms on time.
Witch Hunt or Actual Concern?
The question for many is whether this is a waste of taxpayers’ money and whether an investigation is actually warranted. Such violations seem minor in the grand scheme of things and aren’t on the scale of the Clinton Foundation selling access or Hillary Clinton hosting a dinner with potential donors while still secretary of state.
However, this is the state of our politics today.
Each side increasingly looks for the slightest misstep on the other side to pounce. In this case, if the goal of conservatives was to somehow bring down AOC, they’ll fail. There may be smoke but no fire. Instead, it will result in her supporters rallying to her and will likely put the Brother Vellies dress back in the spotlight.
You can’t buy that kind of publicity.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.