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No, it is not an ethics violation for politicians to attend the Met Gala

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came under fire for attending the 2021 Met Gala. But she wasn’t the only politician to attend, and it’s not an ethics violation.

A conservative watchdog group condemned New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for attending the 2021 Met Gala on Sept. 13, claiming it may be an ethics violation. 

American Accountability Foundation, the watchdog group, stated they filed a complaint calling for an immediate investigation be opened against Ocasio-Cortez. The group states Ocasio-Cortez may have violated congressional ethics laws for accepting a ticket to the “$35,000 a plate event.”

THE QUESTION

Is it an ethics violation for politicians to attend the Met Gala?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, it is not an ethics violation for politicians to attend the Met Gala

WHAT WE FOUND

The Met Gala is a fundraiser for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The annual event is co-chaired by VOGUE Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, who is a museum trustee. 

Three elected officials from New York attended the gala -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Representative Carolyn Maloney. 

As members of Congress, Maloney and Ocasio-Cortez must adhere to guidelines set by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics, while De Blasio is bound by the ethical codes of New York City

According to New York City code, the mayor cannot accept gifts totaling more than $50 in a 12-month period from a business or individual. For members of the House of Representatives, the cap is $100. 

A spokesperson for the Museum of Metropolitan Art told VERIFY the Met offers tickets to some government officials every year. 

In a Twitter thread, Ocasio-Cortez wrote: “And before haters get wild flying off the handle, New York elected officials are routinely invited to and attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing and supporting the city’s cultural institutions for the public. I was one of several in attendance in [sic] this evening.”

The Met spokesperson said the elected officials who attended the 2021 gala were “guests of the Museum.” That means “the tickets are ‘not assigned a value, they are offered to government officials gratis,'" the spokesperson told VERIFY. 

According to the city code of New York, the mayor can attend a charity event as long as there are no contracts up for review by the organizing party. A spokesperson for the museum told VERIFY no contracts were currently under review, so there is no violation. 

According to the House rules, a charity event must meet the following criteria:

  • They are invited by the event organizer directly and the event organizer is the organization putting the event on, not a monetary event sponsor or table sponsor
  • The event’s primary purpose is to raise funds to benefit a qualifying organization, with at least half of the proceeds being tax-deductible charitable contributions. 

So, since the tickets were offered to the politicians by the Met and according to the Met, “the event is a fundraiser for The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and its primary source of annual funding,” politicians accepting the tickets are not in violation of House or New York City policy. 

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