AOC’s lawyer warned she was NOT allowed to accept her $35,000 Met Gala ticket from Vogue

New documents from the Congressional ethics committee investigation into Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s attendance at the 2021 Met Gala revealed her lawyers cautioned her against attending over fears that she might be in violation of congressional code.

AOC’s anti-corruption lawyer told the congresswoman’s team that she could attend the event, but only if she was listed as being a guest of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and not as a guest of event organizer Vogue magazine.

The attorney feared that if she were listed as a guest of Vogue, she could be in violation of congressional rules which prohibit representatives from accepting gifts from companies that use lobbyists which Vogue’s parent company, Advance Media Publications, does.

Despite those warnings, records showed the congresswoman accepted a pair of $35,000 gala tickets and was listed as a guest of Vogue the night of the gala, but that the following morning staffers began pivoting to say she was a personal guest of Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

The damning documents also show how AOC managed to pay a mere $300 for her $1,300 dress emblazoned with the phrase ‘Tax the Rich’ – along with the hours of design work, fittings, and styling – and then took months to pay back the paltry sum.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) attends the Met Gala in her 'Tax the Rich' dress

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) attends the Met Gala in her ‘Tax the Rich’ dress

After the gala, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's staff said she was a guest of Anna Wintour's

After the gala, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s staff said she was a guest of Anna Wintour’s

In a message to her staff, an attorney for AOC’s attorney warned of the risks of her attending, and advised how she could do about doing it legally.

‘The Congresswoman could accept an invitation from [the Met], but not from Vogue,’ he wrote. ‘Since Advance Publications is a registered lobbyist, we’ll need to be extra careful!’

Nevertheless, AOC and her boyfriend both accepted tickets from Vogue which explicitly stated they were ‘guests of Vogue,’ according to the New York Post.

The day after the gala however, Vogue staffers reached out to AOC’s office to inform them they had received a number of media inquiries about the nature of the congresswoman’s attendance, and to say they were telling outlets she had been Wintour’s personal guest instead of saying she was a guest of the magazine. 

‘Hope the [C]ongresswoman had a great time last night!,’ a Vogue staffer wrote. ‘We have had a number of inquiries re: AOC’s invitation and if she paid for her ticket. Mainly from Page Six.

‘We also alerted the musuem .Given that she was a guest of Vogue, we were planning to say on background that she was a guest of Anna [Wintour]’s. Of course wanted to check with you before responding.’

The documents showed that staffers from the Met were even aware that AOC’s attendance was at the event was dubious, with one staffer writing ‘We think this needle can be thread with the following: Anna Wintour – a Met Trustee and organizer at the event – invited AOC as a guest of the museum.’

An email from a Vogue staffer asking AOC's team how they would like to tell the press the congresswoman attended the Met Gala

An email from a Vogue staffer asking AOC’s team how they would like to tell the press the congresswoman attended the Met Gala

A message asking for overdue payment for some of the costs of AOC's attire for the Met Gala

A message asking for overdue payment for some of the costs of AOC’s attire for the Met Gala

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Met Gala in 2021. Her bag matched her 'Tax the Rich' dress

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Met Gala in 2021. Her bag matched her ‘Tax the Rich’ dress

The documents also showed that AOC managed to pay a fraction of the cost of her Tax the Rich dress, along with all the labor that went into making it for her and preparing her for the night, and then took months to pay everything back.

AOC was billed just $1,300 for the dress, with the Brooklyn based-designer who made it invoicing the dress as a ‘rental,’ according to the Post. 

The congresswoman’s staff managed to cut $1,000 cut off that price tag, along with getting the price of her $635 shoes knocked down by listing them as rentals too.

And in a text to the designer, and AOC staffer asked about whether tuxedo accessories would be provided for the congresswoman’s boyfriend, Riley Roberts.

‘Just confirming you’re thinking of providing [AOC’s boyfriend] with a tie/cummerbund? There is no restriction on Riley btw,’ the text read.

The staffer told investigators that the ‘restriction’ she was talking about were Congressional ethics codes, according to the Post.

AOC then failed to pay back thousands of dollars in bills from the night in a timely fashion, which included $344.85 in makeup costs which were eventually passed on to a collections agency. The agency reached out to her staff to say the bill was ‘EXTREMELY overdue.’

She also took so long to pay back $477.73 in hair styling, a rep for the stylist reached out to her staff and said ‘it would look terrible if we had to file a complaint with the NY Dept of Labor against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.’

Over $1,000 for transportation paid for by Conde Nast went unpaid for eight months, as were  $4,602.92 in bills at the Carlisle Hotel from the evening, according to the Post.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shows of her 'Tax the Rich' dress which she took months to pay for

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shows of her ‘Tax the Rich’ dress which she took months to pay for

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) and with her boyfriend, Riley Roberts (right)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) and with her boyfriend, Riley Roberts (right)

A spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez told Forbes that when the investigation began in 2022, she was confident the case would be dismissed. 

GIFT RULES FOR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have specific regulations concerning gifts that may be accepted by Members or staff.

The term ‘gift’ covers any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan or other item having monetary value. In particular, the term includes services, training, transportation, lodging, and meal, whether provided in kind, a ticket purchase, payment in advance, or reimbursement after the expense had been incurred.

Generally, a Member or employee of Congress may accept a gift if it is unsolicited and is valued at less than $50. 

Tickets to sporting or entertainment events must be billed at face value or the highest cost if there is no face value, and they cannot be artificially lowered to meet the gift limit. 

 SOURCE: Public Citizen

 

‘The Congresswoman has always taken ethics incredibly seriously, refusing any donations from lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests,’ AOC’s spokesperson said.

At least three conservative groups filed complaints with the House Ethics Committee after Ocasio-Cortez attended the Met Gala on September 13, 2021.

She denied culpability for the delay in paying back the designers of her outfit. 

‘And 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,’ she told investigators. 

‘And it is just a deeply regrettable situation. I feel l terrible for especially the small businesses that were impacted.’

She did acknowledge to investigators that ‘there was a ball that was dropped.’

In a statement, David Mitrani, Ocasio-Cortez’s lawyer, said the congresswoman ‘finds these [payment] delays unacceptable, and she has taken several steps to ensure nothing of this nature will ever happen again.’

‘However, while regrettable, this matter definitively does not rise to the level of a violation of House Rules or of 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,’ the statement continued.

‘We are confident the Committee on Ethics will dismiss this matter.’  

The Ethics Committee is now considering the referral that the Office of Congressional Ethics sent, but they have yet to investigate, according to Lauren Hitt, communications director for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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