A conservative group has requested that the Office of Congressional Ethics start an investigation of New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for accepting free tickets to Monday’s Met Gala, the Daily Mail reported.
Ocasio-Cortez attended the $35,000-a-head Met Gala as guests of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she wore a custom gown that said “Tax the Rich.”
American Accountability Foundation founder Thomas Jones said that Ocasio-Cortez broke House rules by accepting “an impermissible gift” of free tickets to attend the annual gala.
Although House rules permit legislators to accept free tickets to charity events directly from the organizers, Jones argued that the Met Gala does not fall into that category, because the guest list is curated by a private company, media giant Condé Nast, the New York Post reported.
Jones added that Istagram, which is owned by Facebook, “was able to purchase access to Representative Ocasio-Cortez that is unavailable to average citizens” by sponsoring a table at the Gala.
Jones did not mention in his complaint any possible ethics problems concerning the custom gown worn by Ocasio-Cortez, which was created by designer Aurora James.
Ocasio-Cortez defended her participation in the event, writing on Instagram that she was “proud to work with [James,] a sustainably focused, Black woman immigrant designer who went from starting her dream [company]at a flea market in Brooklyn to winning [a Council of Fashion Designers of America award] against all odds — and then work together to kick open the doors at the Met.”
The congresswoman added that “the time is now for childcare, healthcare, and climate action for all. Tax the Rich. And yes, BEFORE anybody starts wilding out – NYC elected officials are regularly invited to and attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing our city’s cultural institutions that serve the public. I was one of several in attendance. Dress is borrowed.”
In her Instagram, Ocasio-Cortez also discussed the negative reaction she received for wearing the dress, writing that “I thought about the criticism I’d get, but honestly I and my body have been so heavily and relentlessly policed from all corners politically since the moment I won my election that it’s kind of become expected and normalized to me.”
She added that “the irony is that when women in power take the prospect of criticism to be cautious in their actions, they are then criticized for being ‘inauthentic’ and ‘too calculated.’ Ultimately the haters hated and the people who are thoughtful were thoughtful.”
Ocasio-Cortez emphasized that unfair criticism of women is part of a wider problem, stating that “our culture is deeply disdainful and unsupportive of women, especially women of color and working class women (and LGBTQ/immigrant/etc) from the bottom up – whether it’s lack of childcare support of especially reserving pillory for elected women and femme people.”
House ethics information available online states that legislators can borrow works of art (such as the dress) if there is a written agreement with the owner specifying that it’s not a gift and will be returned.
The Office of Congressional Ethics can refer complaints to the House Ethics Committee for further review.