Ocasio-Cortez likely under Ethics Committee investigation over 2021 Met Gala attendance and gifts

It was announced a couple of weeks ago that the House Ethics Committee had opened an investigation into a referral against progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), though the exact subject matter of that probe was not revealed.

There has been plenty of speculation about what Ocasio-Cortez is being scrutinized for by the committee, and a recent report has detailed the most likely reason — improper acceptance of gifts related to the congresswoman’s attendance of the 2021 Met Gala event in New York City, according to the Conservative Brief.

Extension of investigation announced

It was on Dec. 7 that the Democratic chair and Republican ranking member of the House Ethics Committee issued a statement to announce that they had “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.”

“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 statement added. “The Committee will announce its course of action in this matter following its organizational meeting and adoption of Committee Rules in the 118th Congress.”

As noted, that announcement did not reveal what “matter” was being probed by the committee, nor did a response statement from a spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez.

“The Congresswoman has always taken ethics incredibly seriously, refusing any donations from lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests,” spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said in the statement, according to Business Insider. “We are confident that this matter will be dismissed.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s attendance at the Met Gala in 2021

Business Insider surmised at that time that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s attendance at the 2021 Met Gala seemed to be the most likely subject of the committee’s announced investigation, given that multiple watchdog groups had filed formal complaints in that regard.

Now veteran journalist Peter Suciu of the website 19FortyFive, though unable to confirm that precisely, has nonetheless put forward ample evidence to suggest that that is the case.

A watchdog group known as the American Accountability Foundation had filed a complaint that accused Ocasio-Cortez of accepting improper gifts, namely the pair of $35,000 tickets she received as well as the donated designer dress that read “Tax the Rich” that she had worn.

Members of Congress are permitted to accept free tickets to charity events, which is what the Met Gala is, though only if the gifted tickets come directly from the organizer. In this case, however, while Ocasio-Cortez may have been invited to attend by the nonprofit Metropolitan Museum of Art, the actual organizer of the event was the for-profit media conglomerate Conde Nast.

Furthermore, the table that the congresswoman had a reserved seat at was sponsored by Meta’s Instagram for $300,000, and the complaint alleged that the table sponsorship could be constituted as the social media platform improperly buying access to Ocasio-Cortez.

“Smoke but no fire”

19FortyFive’s Suciu also noted that a separate complaint was filed by the National Legal and Policy Center watchdog group with respect to the donated dress she wore, not to mention the donated fashion accessories and grooming services she received for the event, and alleged that, were she not a popular member of Congress, Ocasio-Cortez never would have received an invitation or any of the donated dress and accessories if she were just a private citizen.

Unfortunately, Suciu predicted that little would come from the investigation in terms of actual punishment for ethical wrongdoing, as “There may be smoke but no fire” here.

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