A conservative group is asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to launch an investigation of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for accepting free tickets to Monday’s Met Gala, where she wore a custom gown that said “Tax the Rich.”
The self-declared socialist congresswoman drew broad social media scorn for partying at the elite $35,000-per-ticket event while presenting herself as their rabble-rousing foe.
Thomas Jones, founder of the American Accountability Foundation, wrote in an ethics complaint that he believes Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens, broke House rules by accepting “an
impermissible gift” of free tickets to attend the annual gala, which also was attended by fellow New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
Although House rules allow members to accept free tickets to charity events directly from event organizers, Jones argues that the Met Gala doesn’t count because the guest list is curated by a private company, media giant Condé Nast.
“[W]hile the individual’s invitations may bear the name of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum has ceded control over the invitations to a for-profit company, specifically Condé Nast, and to its Chief Content Officer, Anna Wintour,” Jones wrote.
He wrote that “the New York Times outlines that the Met does not have control over who is invited to the event, but rather the for-profit company, is in control of who gets invited.” The Times reported that “about 400 Chosen Ones” got to attend this year.
The gala is thrown ostensibly to raise money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. It has become known as a celebration of opulence and exclusivity.
Jones, a former aide to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), additionally claimed 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.
The Office of Congressional Ethics can refer complaints to the House Ethics Committee for further review.
Jones did not mention in his complaint any possible issues around the custom gown worn by Ocasio-Cortez. The “Tax the Rich” outfit was created by designer Aurora James.
James showed up to the gala in a four-person group including Ocasio-Cortez and her boyfriend Riley Roberts. James brought her own plus-one, Benjamin Bronfman of the wealthy Lehman Brothers family, whose father, ex-Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., just bought a $12 million mansion in exclusive Palm Beach, Fla.
Ocasio-Cortez defended her participation.
“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,” she wrote on Instagram.
The congresswoman added: “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.”
House ethics information available online says that members of Congress can borrow works of art — in this case the dress — so long as there’s a written agreement with the owner specifying that it’s not a gift and will be returned.
For gifts, House members can only accept $100 worth of items per year from a specific source.
The House Ethics Committee website says that for most charity events, the cost of the ticket for ethics purposes is not the same as the cost of the gift.
“The value of tickets to charity or political fundraisers is the value of the meal. The cost to the purchaser is not the ticket’s value,” the ethics committee says.