EXCLUSIVE — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s (D-NY) ethical violations during her Met Gala outing last year were “much worse” than those of her colleague Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) at the same gala, a counsel to a conservative watchdog claims.
Ocasio-Cortez’s much-publicized appearance at the 2021 gala has faced renewed attention after it emerged earlier this week she was facing a House Ethics Committee investigation. Although the committee did not divulge what she is alleged to have done, the referral had the same date as a complaint lodged against Maloney for her appearance at the Met Gala.
Multiple watchdog groups have lashed out at both congresswomen, alleging they flouted ethics rules at their respective Met Gala appearances, but Paul Kamenar, counsel to the National Legal and Policy Center, believes Ocasio-Cortez went further by borrowing a designer dress and possibly obtaining a free ticket for her boyfriend.
“My point is that AOC’s violations [are] much worse, both for getting the ticket for a boyfriend, getting the dress, getting the limo, and all the little accoutrements that go along with that,” Kamenar told the Washington Examiner. “With Maloney, that was a simple violation where she solicited a ticket from the gala.”
Like a slew of other conservative watchdog groups, the National Legal and Policy Center filed an ethics complaint against Ocasio-Cortez last year following the September 2021 fashion fundraiser. Kamenar’s group sent the complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics, which then makes referrals to the Ethics Committee.
Kamenar, who has not been in touch with the committee on its review because it’s “not their practice,” is hoping that it will ascertain further information about how the progressive firebrand gained admittance to the gala.
Maloney is facing allegations of improperly soliciting tickets to the gala in 2016 by purportedly calling a witness to “request an invitation” after not receiving one. She has denied wrongdoing. Over time, she helped secure over $2.75 million in federal funds for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which benefits from the gala, the OCE reported.
Ocasio-Cortez was allegedly invited to attend the Met Gala last year as a guest, where tickets went for as much as $35,000 apiece. Her boyfriend, with whom she is now engaged, attended the event without having to pay the $35,000, sources confirmed to the New York Post.
The National Legal and Policy Center went further than other watchdogs in alleging the flouting of rules on gifts by raising concerns about the congresswoman’s “borrowed” dress, sitting at a sponsored table possibly valued up to $300,000, having a limousine ride, using the Carlyle Hotel, and more during the lavish bash.
“It was not just borrowed. It was specifically made and designed for her and by a so-called friend who’s a clothing designer. And so she basically used AOC as billboard, so to speak, to advertise her clothing line,” Kamenar said of the dress. “That was because of AOC’s status as a congresswoman.”
A spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez shrugged off concerns about the ethics review but did not disclose specifics about what was being investigated.
“The congresswoman has always taken ethics incredibly seriously, refusing any donations from lobbyists, corporations or other special interests,” the spokesperson said, Forbes reported.
Kamenar rejected the notion that she is careful with ethics requirements, recounting how she previously violated congressional financial disclosure rules by missing a deadline to report her 2021 finances to the Ethics Committee and filing late.
“There’s only a handful of congressmen that [do] this kind of late filing. And so she’s out of the mainstream in terms of complying with the House ethics rules,” Kamenar argued. “[In] the report she did file back in September … she didn’t list the gifts from the gala.”
Like the head of the watchdog American Accountability Foundation, another group that filed a complaint over the Met Gala, Kamenar believes Ocasio-Cortez should be sanctioned by the House for her actions.
“She should be sanctioned. And there’s various levels of sanctions that the committee can impose, such as a reprimand, admonishment, etc. So it remains to be seen whether they sweep this under the rug or take it seriously and do a thorough investigation,” he said.
The Washington Examiner reached out to an Ocasio-Cortez spokesperson for comment. The OCE and Ethics Committee declined to comment.