The Democratic chair of the House Oversight Committee is under scrutiny after she allegedly “solicited or accepted impermissible gifts” when she tried to land a spot on the invite list to the swanky Met Gala in 2016.
The House’s Office of Congressional Ethics in June voted unanimously to investigate Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.) after it interviewed and reviewed emails from executives at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which hosts the gala, indicating the powerful Democrat tried to leverage her influence to get invited.
“I received a call this past week from Carolyn. She is unhappy to say the least that she is not receiving an invitation to the Party of the Year,” said Emily Rafferty, a former president of the museum, in a 2016 email to several museum executives obtained by the ethics office. “She went on about how much she does for the Met, always responsive when you call, and proactive re the institution’s concerns in DC. … I highly recommend you include Carolyn.”
Those communications suggesting Maloney tried to capitalize on her ability as a congresswoman to benefit the museum in order to get into the gala—a star-studded affair in which celebrities such as Beyoncé, Kanye West, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appear in extravagant outfits—inclined the ethics office to decide there is “substantial reason to believe” Maloney acted improperly.
The investigation is another dark spot on the Oversight chair’s record—she’s faced accusations of pursuing a vendetta in the committee’s investigation of the Washington Commanders NFL team, and she won’t return to office next year after losing to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) in the August Democratic primary. In 2009, she attracted controversy after she used the “N”-word in recounting a phone call she received.
The ethics office noted in its report that Maloney has secured millions in funding for the museum since 2003 and lobbied in March 2020 for billions in coronavirus funding for nonprofit museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Maloney’s office has also lobbied New York’s redistricting commission to include the museum within her district’s boundaries, according to communications obtained by the ethics office.
Maloney denied any recollection of requesting an invite in an interview with the ethics office. Maloney’s counsel played off her communications with museum executives as an attempt to resolve “confusion” about her absence on the invite list, trying “merely to understand her invitation status.”
The ethics office found evidence Maloney may have tried to secure a spot at the gala in 2020 as well. After asking a staffer in an email whether she had received an invite to the gala and being told no, Maloney asked the staffer for a way to contact a museum executive.
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