Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee, according to a statement the committee released on Wednesday.
The House Ethics Committee announced that the Office of Congressional Ethics referred questions to the Ethics Committee on June 23, 2022, suggesting the office believes that Ocasio-Cortez broke the House Ethics rules.
The statement from the committee explained that Acting Chairwoman Susan Wild (D-PA) and Acting Ranking Member Michael Guest (R-MI) “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 statement continued, “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 stated that it would “announce its course of action in this matter following its organizational meeting and adoption of Committee Rules in the 118th Congress.”
It isn't clear in the committee's report what the primary focus of the probe into Ocasio-Cortez is. But a variety of ethics watchdogs made complaints against her after the congresswoman was a guest at the Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year.
These ethics groups claimed that Ocasio-Cortez received “an impermissible gift” to attend 2021's Met Gala, for which she did not pay, even though tickets were reported to range between $35,000 and $50,000.
According to House Ethics rules, members of Congress cannot accept gifts, unless they are exempt under certain conditions, such as “widely attended events” or events for charity.
The American Accountability Foundation wrote in its September 2021 complaint against Ocasio-Cortez that: “Specifically, we believe Representative Ocasio-Cortez has violated clause 5 of Rule XXV of the Rules of the House of Representatives (commonly known as the Gift Rule) by accepting admission to the Met Gala, an event whose per seat costs is reported to range from $35,000 to $50,000, without having a permissible exemption to allow the acceptance of the lavish gift.”
Additionally, the ethics-focused watchdog Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) also requested an ethics investigation in relation to Ocasio-Cortez's presence at the Met Gala.
FACT Executive Director Kendra Arnold said at the time, “The gift rule for members of Congress is very clear and is in place for good reason. Members simply cannot accept anything of value that isn’t on the short list of permitted items. This is a case where the member’s own words should trigger an investigation—not only did she state that she did not pay for an item, she also implied that she was given the ticket because of her ‘responsibilities in overseeing’ the gift-giver. This entire situation is exactly what the House’s gift rule is designed to prevent.”
The office of the congresswoman stated that it was “confident” the House Ethics Committee will dismiss the probe. “The Congresswoman has always taken ethics incredibly seriously, refusing any donations from lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests,” Ocasio-Cortez’s spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, told Business Insider. “We are confident that this matter will be dismissed.”