What is up with AOC and that ethics probe?
What sort of punishment is possible?
“Further review” for AOC’s ethics probe – After radio silence about the Congressional ethics probe into Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, more information was released.
AOC In Ethics Trouble?
In a brief announcement back in December, the House Ethics Committee announced that the Committee was extending its investigation into an ethics matter involving Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), which had been referred to it by the Committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics.
It was something of a strange story, both because it did not mention exactly what was at issue in the case, or what the Congresswoman known as AOC was potentially accused of doing.
Nor did the media ever uncover, at any point, what was the focus of the probe, although there was plenty of speculation, most of it focused on the idea that it involved her high-profile attendance at the Met Gala in September of 2021.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said at the time that she “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: What Did She Do?
The story remained quiet, even as the GOP took over the House at the beginning of this year. But there was finally a development in the case back in early March.
The Office of Congressional Ethics released a report which confirmed that the ethics matter does indeed center on Congresswoman’s Met Gala appearance, where she memorably wore a white dress that said “Tax the Rich.”
“Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may have accepted impermissible gifts associated with her attendance at the Met Gala in 2021,” the OCE report said. “If Rep. Ocasio-Cortez accepted impermissible gifts, then she may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”
The vote was 5-0 in favor of the recommendation. The board’s consideration of the matter took place throughout 2022, although the existence of it didn’t become public until December.
The board’s recommendation was that the House Ethics Committee “further review the above allegation concerning Rep. Ocasio-Cortez because there is substantial reason to believe that she accepted impermissible gifts associated with her attendance at the Met Gala in 2021.”
According to the report, AOC attended the Met Gala in 2021, after she had been invited the previous two years; the event did not take place in 2020 due to the pandemic. While she attended, the Congresswoman was provided with “a couture dress, handbag, shoes, and jewelry. She also received hair, makeup, transportation, and ready-room services.”
She went on to pay in full for those services, although not until after the OCE began looking into the matter.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez had been invited to the event as a guest of longtime Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
The Congresswoman maintains, per the report, that she had retained counsel at the time to make sure her attendance met ethical requirements.
“Rep. Ocasio-Cortez told the OCE that a determination was made, in advance of the Met Gala and in conjunction with her team and counsel, that she would be personally paying for the attire and services she received in connection with the Met Gala (as opposed to paying with campaign or official funds.”
The ticket to the event itself, which was provided by the organizers of the event and not by a third party, appears to be permissible, in part because the Met Gala is a charity event. And the Congresswoman is claiming that a campaign staffer had been tasked with arranging the agreed-upon payments, but had not done so as of months after the event. The staffer attempted to make the payment in February for the styling services, but the payment was rejected.
“I just never, ever, ever would have allowed that to happen knowing what I have learned, but that I wasn’t privy to the invoices, wasn’t privy to the ones that had been sent,” AOC said in a statement back in March. “And it is just a deeply regrettable situation. I feel terrible for especially the small businesses that were impacted.”
As of now, no more information has come out about the investigation. As they say, stay tuned.
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Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.