Democratic party firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines in September 2021 when she attended the Met Gala, a party for America’s political, intellectual, and entertainment glitterati, wearing a gown embroidered with the now infamous slogan “Tax the Rich”.
The slogan struck a chord here in Mendocino County because the font was clearly a nod to the recognizable creation of the Velvet Bandit, a street artist that hails from Willits and has spread her unique brand of quirky, punny pop art throughout the North Coast.
Now, that same gown adorned with the Velvet Bandit’s slogan is at the center of an investigation being conducted by the United States House of Representatives Office of Congressional Ethics. The office is looking into claims that AOC accepted “impermissible gifts associated with her attendance at the Met Gala” including the “Tax the Rich” gown.
The House of Representatives prohibits lawmakers from accepting gifts valued greater than $50 and investigators assert AOC’s dress, handbag, shoes, jewelry, and make-up/hair services were given to her for free totaling thousands of dollars in goods and services. Her partner, Riley Roberts, even received a bow tie and shoes for the event.
The recent ethics report published by the Office of Congressional Ethics found that AOC did pay the rental value of the attire, but only after the ethics office began their investigation.
We reached out to the Velvet Bandit herself to see her reaction to the allegations AOC faces. She told us, “Honestly, I’m pretty bummed to hear that AOC didn’t pay her people (hairdressers and whatnot) for her appearance when she went to the Met Gala. It sounds pretty shady.”
Velvet recognized that “people make mistakes” but “coupled with the fact that the designer also borrowed my font for her dress I’m feeling a bit disheartened about the whole thing.” After seeing images of AOC’s dress recirculating online, Velvet said “It stings to see images of that dress in the news again and again not get any credit for it. “
Despite the controversy, Velvet still has hope for AOC’s role in America’s political process: “I do hope she continues to be a voice for low and middle-class Americans, and I still believe that we need to tax the rich- and churches while we’re at it.”