When you want to go into a fancy affair with a bold statement reflecting your personal agenda, there is nothing quite as effective as wearing a designer dress with a bold “Tax the Rich” message emblazoned on it; especially when that dress is worn at an event chock full of upper crust elites. Certainly, Congressional Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) received a great deal of attention last week for wearing such a dress at the Met Gala, an event known as “the fashion world’s Oscar Night.”

Of course, when people discover that your bold dress was designed by a person alleged to have multiple employment and tax violations, your message may be blunted just ever so slightly. 

It turns out the company owned by the woman who designed AOC’s now famous dress, with high profile clientele like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Meghan Markle, has a left a trail of unpaid taxes and employment law violations in its wake. In fact, the New York Post called the 37-year-old designer “a notorious tax deadbeat with unpaid debts dogging her in multiple states.”

According to the Post, her company “racked up three open tax warrants in New York state for failing to withhold income taxes from employees’ paychecks totaling $14,798…the company has been hit with 15 warrants in total since 2015.” They also report that “between April 2018 and April 2019, the Internal Revenue Service placed six federal liens” on her company for $103,220. The liens are for a failure to remit employee payroll taxes to the government.

That doesn’t necessarily mean she didn’t withhold those taxes from the employees, by the way.

Her company has also faced multiple legal challenges alleging habitual nonpayment of worker benefits. The New York State Worker’s Compensation Board fined her company $17,000 in 2019 for failure to provide workers’ comp coverage for its employees, and the company currently owes $62,722 to the state. 

Despite all this, she still managed to get almost $42,000 in pandemic relief aid from the government. 

I suppose she could have used that money to pay some of her past rent obligations. In August 2020 the designer’s landlord filed papers to evict her company from their location in Brooklyn and demanded $25,000 plus interest for staying beyond the end of her lease. She has also been sued by a previous landlord for more than $5,000 in unpaid rent at her shop’s previous address.

Oh, and about the same time she received the pandemic relief from the government, she bought a $1.6 million dollar home in Los Angeles. The county reports that taxes on the property are already in arrears.

There has been much controversy surrounding AOC’s appearance at the Met Gala. Tickets cost $35,000 each, and a sponsored table was reportedly $250,000. Questions remain about who gave the two-term congresswoman access and if any influence pedaling was involved. There have already been two ethics violations filed against her, and in our super-charged political environment there will no doubt be more.  

But the real lesson here is that both facts and ethics matter. If you really want to send a “tax the rich” message on a dress while hobnobbing with the elite, you should probably get your garment from someone who actually pays their taxes. And when that person may have a blatant disregard for the rights and protections of the working stiffs you claim to be representing, the message you end up sending may be entirely different than that which was originally intended. 

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