Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D., N.Y.) office says she isn’t married. But she has described her fiancé, Riley Roberts, as her "spouse" in forms filed with the House Ethics Committee in 2023, which has a strict definition of that term—"someone to whom you are legally married."
That could become a problem for the left-wing darling, since willful misrepresentations on the documents are a no-no—they could subject her to criminal prosecution, the forms state—and members of Congress are required to disclose the financial information of their spouses, which Ocasio-Cortez has declined to do.
But taken at face value, four legal filings submitted to the House Ethics Committee pertaining to AOC’s overseas travels in 2022 and 2023 suggest the pair have been legally married at least since Jan. 13, 2023. If that is the case, the "Squad" member can no longer leverage the so-called boyfriend loophole to evade public disclosure of his finances. While lawmakers are required to disclose financial information about their spouses, live-in romantic partners and fiancés are exempt from the rule.
If they are not, her forms were filed incorrectly. "They are not legally married," AOC spokeswoman Lauren Hitt told the Washington Free Beacon. "House Ethics has commonly recognized the term spouse to extend to long-term partners."
Hitt’s statement is false. The House Ethics Committee, which has sole jurisdiction over the Code of Official Conduct that governs the acts of members of the House, defines a spouse as "someone to whom you are legally married." Ocasio-Cortez had the option to describe Roberts as her fiancé in the forms to the committee, but instead, checked boxes representing him as her "spouse."
The House Ethics Committee declined to comment.
Ocasio-Cortez did not disclose any of Roberts’s reportable stock holdings, assets, liabilities, or income on her latest financial disclosure submitted in August, though she did make two references to her "spouse" in the filing.
It’s unclear why Ocasio-Cortez considers Roberts her spouse for the purposes of overseas travel but not when it comes to financial disclosure. It’s also unclear why Ocasio-Cortez never identified Roberts as her spouse in ethics disclosures prior to 2023, even though, according to her office, the legal status of their relationship has remained unchanged since she joined Congress in 2019.
It’s possible that Hitt was referring to the Office of Congressional Ethics, which considers long-term romantic partners of lawmakers to be "synonymous with a spouse." But the Office of Congressional Ethics is effectively subservient to the House Ethics Committee. As an independent entity, the Office of Congressional Ethics cannot make legally binding enforcement decisions against lawmakers; it simply makes enforcement recommendations to the Ethics Committee.
Regardless, Ocasio-Cortez has opened herself up to charges of hypocrisy, said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, the senior government affairs manager at the Project on Government Oversight. Hedtler-Gaudette called on the New York Democrat to "put her money where her mouth is" and disclose her household finances to the public.
"If Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is going to refer to Mr. Roberts as her spouse in the context of one kind of ethics disclosure, it would be logical and consistent for her to do so in the context of all ethics disclosures, including annual financial disclosures and periodic transaction reports," Hedtler-Gaudette told the Free Beacon.
Roberts, a web developer and growth consultant, has been a quiet fixture in Ocasio-Cortez’s life throughout her tenure on the Hill. The left-wing lawmaker announced her engagement to Roberts in May 2022 and has since said little about her wedding plans. She told Insider that she and Roberts were "taking some space to savor" their engagement before tying the knot.
The confusion surrounding Ocasio-Cortez’s finances comes as she has established herself as a champion of ethics and transparency in government. She introduced legislation in April that would ban members of Congress and their spouses from owning stocks.
Ocasio-Cortez has also attacked Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas for his supposed ethical transgressions. The "Squad" member led an effort in August calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to launch a federal investigation into the conservative justice’s "blatant disregard for judicial ethics" for "failing to report significant gifts he received from Harlan Crow and other billionaires."
The lawmaker has boasted that she does not hold stocks or cryptocurrencies so she can do her job "as ethically and impartially as I can." It is not clear if Roberts owns or trades stocks or crypto, however. Nor is it clear if Ocasio-Cortez intends to revise her ethics disclosures to reflect Roberts’s finances. Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not answer a series of follow-up questions from the Free Beacon.
If Ocasio-Cortez is indeed married to Roberts, she may have created other legal issues for herself, legal experts told the Free Beacon.
"If they were married then she would be required to disclose his finances on her 2022 financial disclosure," said Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust. "There is no exception to this rule."
Willful misrepresentations in congressional financial disclosure forms could result in civil penalties of up to $50,000, or, in extreme cases, imprisonment of up to five years, according to the House Ethics Committee. Ocasio-Cortez could also be reprimanded by the committee or be censured by a majority vote of the House if she intentionally concealed her husband’s finances from the public, said Paul Kamenar, an attorney for the National Legal and Policy Center.
Ocasio-Cortez first identified Roberts as her "spouse" when she requested authorization from the House Ethics Committee on January 13 for the pair to accept sponsored travel to Japan and South Korea the following month. Upon her return, Ocasio-Cortez again identified Roberts as her "spouse" in a signed disclosure to the committee dated March 13.
The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, which sponsored the trip, told the Free Beacon that Roberts accompanied Ocasio-Cortez to Japan and South Korea at his own expense.
Ocasio-Cortez again referred to Roberts as her "spouse" in a gift travel disclosure form submitted in September detailing her August travels to South America. Ocasio-Cortez said Roberts accompanied her on the trip, which was funded by George Soros’s Foundation to Promote Open Society.
The primary sponsor of that trip, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, confirmed to the Free Beacon that Roberts accompanied Ocasio-Cortez on her trip to South America on his own dime.
Ocasio-Cortez also made two references to her "spouse" in her 2022 financial disclosure. Ocasio-Cortez reported that she paid for their flight expenses to Venice, Italy, for a week-long vacation in August that year. During that trip, the pair appears to have attended a four-day art conference sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Mara Foundation, an obscure Los Angeles-based charity that awards prizes to artists, according to records obtained by the Free Beacon.
Mara Foundation CEO Kour Pour did not return a request for comment.
This is not the first ethical quandary Ocasio-Cortez has faced in her congressional tenure.
The Office of Congressional Ethics announced in March that Ocasio-Cortez likely violated federal law in connection to her attendance at the Met Gala in 2021. The office’s investigation found that Ocasio-Cortez dragged her feet for nearly eight months to repay the workers who helped make her infamous "Tax the Rich" dress. The House Ethics Committee is currently investigating the matter.