(CBrief) – A two-year federal investigation found that New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s campaign failed to “properly” disclose some of its expenses, but the Federal Election Commission voted to let her off the hook.
Two political action committees — Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats — “did not properly disclose the purpose of the disbursements” to other shell companies that were set up by Ocasio-Cortez’s former chief of staff Chaikat Sakrabarti during her first run for Congress in 2018, the FEC found.
The FEC’s six-member panel voted 4-2 to dismiss a government watchdog complaint against the AOC despite the findings, which found several instances of failing to follow the rules and law.
“The National Legal and Policy Center, which sent its 36-page complaint to the FEC in March, 2019, filed a lawsuit against the federal agency in Washington DC federal court, blasting the investigations panel — made up of three Democrats and three Republicans — for not providing a reason for its dismissal of the complaint. Three Democrats and one Republican voted to dismiss the complaint, filings show,” the New York Post reported.
“The NLPC complaint alleged that AOC campaign treasurer Frank Llewellyn and Sakrabarti, among others, funneled more than $1 million in political donations into two companies controlled by Sakrabarti. Those cash transfers from two political action committees to Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats may have violated the $5,000 contribution limit to federal candidates, the original complaint alleged,” the Post added.
“The FEC has gone after a whole host of people whose violations are dwarfed by the scale of this scheme,” said Paul Kamenar, NLPC counsel. “It appears to be not prosecutorial discretion, but prosecutorial favoritism.”
“It was highly irregular for the FEC to release its statement of reasons after the deadline for us to file suit,” said Tom Anderson, director of the NLPC’s Government Integrity Project, adding that the group did not wait for the agency’s findings before filing its legal challenge.
That’s not the only legal trouble facing AOC.
The House Office of Congressional Ethics found there is “substantial reason to believe” that Ocasio-Cortez might have violated federal law when she accepted “impermissible gifts” linked to her 2021 attendance at the Met Gala.
Ocasio-Cortez went viral at the time when she attended the star-studded event wearing a dress that had the words “Tax the Rich” across the back of it.
“The circumstances surrounding Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (or AOC) attendance – and, more importantly, her wardrobe choices and cost – at the exclusive 2021 Met Gala last year may have broken federal law and House rules, the bipartisan Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics decided in a 5-0 vote,” MSN reported.
The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics found in its ruling: “The Board finds that there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez accepted impermissible gifts associated with her attendance at the Met Gala. Accordingly, the Board recommends that the Committee further review the above allegation that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez accepted impermissible gifts associated with her attendance at the Met Gala.”
Here’s more from the report:
The rental of her “Tax the Rich” dress cost $1,200. The matching shoes cost $635. The handbag rental cost $170 for a total of $2,283, including sales tax. A Sept. 9, 2021, bill was provided by a publicist for Brother Vellies, which provided Ocasio-Cortez’s outfit for the Met Gala, to one of the congresswoman’s campaign staffers.
A revised bill dated Sept. 20 reduced the gown rental to $300 and the overall rental to $990. The committee interviewed the campaign staffer about the discrepancy between the first bill and the second bill and was unable to explain the change. Brother Vellies declined to cooperate with the committee.
AOC was supposed to have paid the invoice for the rental but only did so after the committee began its investigation. The rental company and the woman who did the congresswoman’s hair identified $5,799.99 worth of unpaid bills related to Ocasio-Cortez’s gown rental, transportation, room rental, shoes, and bowtie rented by Ocasio-Cortez’s boyfriend.
Conde Nast Transportation paid the outstanding $5,799 on May 10, 2022.
AOC’s ‘Tax the Rich’ Met Gala appearance likely violated law: ethics panel https://t.co/yGD6RZScap pic.twitter.com/BQ9UNq2wlC
— New York Post (@nypost) March 2, 2023
The report stated that “Rep. Ocasio-Cortez may not have paid for several thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services provided to her” had it not been for the committee investigation.
AOC, who has denied any wrongdoing, rented the dress for the occasion, as well as accessories and hair and makeup services she received but apparently didn’t pay for until after the formal review had been initiated against her.
The Office of Congressional Ethics concluded that if Ocasio-Cortez “accepted impermissible gifts, then she may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”
Lauren Hilt, a spokeswoman for Ocasio-Cortez, said they are confident the lawmaker did not violate House rules.