The House Ethics Committee is investigating Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez though the focus of the investigation wasn’t immediately clear.
Pursuant to House Rule XI, clause 3(b)(8)(A), and Committee Rules 17A(b)(1)(A), 17A(c)(1), and 17A(j), the Acting Chairwoman and Acting Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics have 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 Committee will announce its course of action in this matter following its organizational meeting and adoption of Committee Rules in the 118th Congress.
As the statement notes, this was a mandatory disclosure based on an extension of the investigation which will now be taken up by the new congress next year once Republicans regain control. The statement also points out that an investigation is not an indication that a violation of ethics rules has occurred. That’s true but Forbes points out that a referral by the Office of Congressional Ethics is usually a sign that someone believes a rule was broken:
The nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics forwarded its inquiry into Ocasio-Cortez to the House ethics panel in June, according to the report. Typically, when that office refers an investigation, it is because the office has reason to believe an ethics law was broken.
So what is this about? The Washington Examiner suggests it could be about AOC’s appearance at the MET Gala in a designer dress (photo above):
Last year, an ethics watchdog called for a review of Ocasio-Cortez’s attendance at the Met Gala, in which she famously caused a stir by donning a dress bearing the slogan, “Tax the Rich.” The watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, underscored that House Rule 25 imposed restrictions on the types of gifts members of Congress could receive.
FACT implored the House Committee on Ethics to examine the matter, but it is unclear if the Met Gala controversy is connected to the investigation revealed Wednesday. Other members of the New York delegation, such as outgoing Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), appear to have landed in similar controversy over the Met Gala…
FACT harped on reports that Ocasio-Cortez was gifted tickets that are typically valued around $35,000 a piece and the congresswoman’s claims she “borrowed” a designer dress to attend.
The Examiner also points out that Rep. Maloney’s case was also referred to the committee on June 23, the same date mentioned in the letter above. Here’s how NBC News reported the ethics complaint last year:
A conservative watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday, claiming she violated congressional rules by attending the high-priced event.
“There are serious questions about whether or not her ticket — donated or purchased with campaign funds — was permissible under the code of congressional ethics,” said The American Accountability Foundation in a statement. “…
The event boasts Hollywood celebrities and influencers every year, and tickets for the event reportedly cost $35,000, while tables, which are typically sponsored by companies, range between $200,000 and $300,000.
A spokesperson for AOC expressed confidence the matter, whatever it is, would eventually be dismissed:
“The Congresswoman has always taken ethics incredibly seriously, refusing any donations from lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests,” said Hitt. “We are confident that this matter will be dismissed.”
The fact that the new Republican congress will be the one making the decision on this makes me wonder if a dismissal is really a given.