Washington — Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York may have “accepted impermissible gifts” related to her appearance at the prestigious Met Gala in 2021, a congressional oversight body said in a report released Thursday.
The Office of Congressional Ethics found in a report prepared last June that there was “substantial reason” to believe Ocasio-Cortez received improper gifts, and recommended the House Ethics Committee review the matter further in a 5-0 vote. The committee has been examining the allegations since then and extended its review on Thursday, when it released the report and supporting material.
“If Rep. Ocasio-Cortez accepted impermissible gifts, then she may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law,” the board said.
The allegations stem from Ocasio-Cortez’s attendance at the ritzy fundraising gala in September 2021, an annual event that draws some of the fashion world’s most prominent figures to benefit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Ocasio-Cortez wore a white off-the-shoulder gown by designer Brother Vellies with bold red lettering that said, “Tax the Rich.”
As part of her attendance, the designer provided the congresswoman with a couture dress, handbag, shoes and jewelry, the report said. She also received hair and makeup services, a hotel room and transportation, while her now-fiancé received a bowtie and shoes.
“While Rep. Ocasio-Cortez appears to have now paid for the rental value of the attire she wore to the Met Gala and for the goods and services she and her partner received in connection with this September 2021 event, payment for these goods and services did not occur until after the OCE contacted her in connection with this review,” the report said.
The rental price for Ocasio-Cortez’s dress and shoes as well as the cost of her hair and makeup services totaled about $1,800, according to the report. The cost of the hotel room, transportation and her fiancé’s accessories was more than $5,500, the report said.
The report noted that the congresswoman had met with a lawyer ahead of the gala to discuss potential ethics concerns and determined that she would pay for the services with personal funds, but a campaign staffer would be responsible for making the actual payments.
The bills weren’t fully paid until May 2022, the report said.
In a letter to the House committee in February that was also released Thursday, a lawyer for Ocasio-Cortez acknowledged “there were delays in paying vendors for costs associated” with her Met Gala attendance.
“The Congresswoman finds these delays unacceptable, and she has taken several steps to ensure nothing of this nature will ever happen again,” the letter said.
The letter pushed back on whether it rose to a violation of House rules or federal law.
“Even after OCE’s exhaustive review of the Congresswoman’s personal communications, there is no evidence that she ever intended to avoid these expenses,” it said. “We are confident the Committee on Ethics will dismiss this matter.”