Rep. Carolyn Maloney investigated over Met Gala invite
A congressional ethics board recommended the House Committee on Ethics investigate New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney for a possible breach of federal law connected to her solicitation of tickets to the Met Gala — the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual, star-studded fundraiser for its costume institute.
According to a report from the Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics — an independent, non-partisan investigatory body — Maloney’s congressional colleagues on the House ethics committee should investigate her “because there is substantial reason to believe that she solicited of accepted impermissible gifts with her attendance at the Met Gala.”
Federal law bars legislators from soliciting “anything of value from a person” impacted by the lawmakers’ official duties or who is “seeking official action from” or “doing business with” Congress.
Maloney, who is retiring from Congress after losing the Democratic primary to Rep. Jerry Nadler in August, denied any wrongdoing in a letter to the committee written by her attorneys.
The report alleges Maloney made a phone call in March 2016 to a former president of the museum, asking to be invited to that year’s gala after learning she was not invited. In an interview with investigators, Maloney said she was a frequent attendee at the Met Gala and could not recall not being initially invited to the 2016 celebration nor making calls to ask about her invitation.
“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,” former museum president Emily Rafferty wrote in an April 2016 email to executives still at the museum. The email was included in the report. “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,” Rafferty added, saying she told Maloney she would bring it to the attention of museum officials and that she “highly recommended” the longtime East Side politician be added to the guest list.
An internal museum memo from July 2015 obtained by investigators lists elected officials they planned to invite to the 2016 gala, with Maloney’s name crossed out. Museum executives interviewed said they did not recall Maloney specifically being excluded from the guest list, but one noted a reduction in a number of seats available may have been the reason.
“While witnesses agreed that Rep. Maloney should have been included on the guest list, the same witnesses recalled Rep. Maloney requesting to attend when learning that she was not invited to the event,” the report said.
The report notes that congressional representatives are allowed by House rules to attend charity events, but cannot actively solicit “offers of free attendance.”
In a letter to the House committee, Maloney’s attorneys wrote the museum “is an important institution in her community and she has had a relationship with it for decades.” The report noted she’s secured the museum millions in federal funding over the past 20 years.
Despite this, the Upper East Side institution has been outside her district for the ast decade, though the report also detailed her office’s efforts to recruit museum officials to appeal to the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission to include the museum in her district earlier this year.
Rep. Susan Wild, a Pennsylvania member of Congress and acting chair of the House Committee on Ethics, said in a statement her committee would continue their review of the report and work to gather more information.
The review of the referral by the Office of Congressional Ethics, Wild noted, “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred.”