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Ethics office raps Rep. Carolyn Maloney over alleged Met Gala solicitation

Case may be closed since 15-term Democrat lost primary, is leaving Congress

New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney attends the Met Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sept. 13.
New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney attends the Met Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sept. 13. (Ray Tamarra/GC Images/Getty Images)

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney “may have improperly solicited or accepted impermissible gifts” by pressing the Metropolitan Museum of Art to invite her to the posh Met Gala, the Office of Congressional Ethics said in a June report that was released Monday.  

The office, which is run by appointees and employs investigators, recommended further action by the House Ethics Committee, which is composed of House members and has the authority to punish colleagues. The committee said Monday that it was extending its review, which could be the end of the case, since Maloney was defeated in this year’s Democratic primary and her term ends on Jan. 3. The committee released the OCE’s confidential 15-page report and 151 pages of exhibits.

A Maloney spokesperson said the 15-term Democrat from New York City was “confident the House Ethics Committee will dismiss this matter” and “disappointed by the unproven and disputed allegations in the report issued by the Office of Congressional Ethics and strongly disagrees with its referral.”

In the report, the OCE excerpts an email that describes how Maloney complained to Metropolitan Museum of Art officials when she wasn’t invited to the 2016 Met Gala, a fundraiser for the museum’s Costume Institute that is run in conjunction with Vogue magazine and is one of New York City’s glitziest events.

“I received a call this past week from Carolyn,” reads an April 2016 email from Emily Rafferty, a former museum president. “She is unhappy to say the least that she is not receiving an invitation to the Party of the Year. … 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. She has been coming to the party for years, and it is the one thing she cares about. Somehow she knows that the numbers are not smaller this year, so that should not be an issue.”

The report says Maloney’s efforts had an impact on future years, citing an Aug. 16, 2018, email from the museum’s former chief government relations officer about the importance of inviting local officials and how a past mandate to reduce seats and limit invitations to members of the museum’s board “bruised egos.”

“We added Carolyn Maloney to that list even though she does not have a seat on our Board,” the email says. “When she learned she would not be attending that year’s gala (2015) she actually pushed back. … We have ultimately secured one seat for her each year.”

When questioned by the OCE, Maloney said she attended the gala regularly and did not recall a year she wasn’t invited.

“After telling the OCE she had never requested to attend the Met Gala, Rep. Maloney was given an opportunity to refresh her recollection” by looking at the Aug. 16, 2018, email. After reading it, Maloney said that “she did not recall ever calling anyone at the Met regarding her invitation.”

The report says Maloney, whose district covers Manhattan’s Upper East Side, considered the Met part of her district even though for the past decade it had been just outside the 12th District boundary in Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s 10th District on the West Side. Nadler defeated Maloney in the August primary after the state’s districts were redrawn and put them each in the same district.

Members of Congress are allowed to attend charitable events, but ethics rules say they can only accept “unsolicited offers of free attendance,” according to the report.

“Even if otherwise acceptable under House gift rule exceptions, a gift of free attendance to a charitable event cannot be solicited and the solicitation renders the exception inapplicable. Moreover, federal law and House rules prohibit solicitation of a gift, even if Rep. Maloney never attended the underlying event,” the report states.

The statement from Maloney’s spokesperson said she “had never before been accused of any ethical improprieties” and that the OCE report “includes only one allegation related to inquiring about an event invitation six years ago.”

“This and other Met events regularly include attendance by other Members of Congress from both parties, New York City local officials, and state government officials,” the statement said.

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