Heard on the Hill

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has arrived. But she’s not the only AOC in town

One is a hotshot newcomer. The other is a 226-year-old agency. Get ready for peak crossover

It’s freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first day on the job, and she’s already upending the Hill’s insider-speak. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Is there room in Washington for two AOCs? A couple of very different entities are using the moniker these days, and it’s stirred up some feelings among Hill workers and watchers.

One is a young, hotshot newcomer to Congress who’s been in the spotlight since an upset election victory over the summer. The other is a 226-year-old agency whose 2,000 employees keep the trees trimmed, the tours running and the lights on behind the scenes.

Over the weekend Bronx native Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a big step — she changed her official Twitter handle to @AOC.

That’s further tangling things for Hill denizens who see those familiar initials and can’t help but think of the Architect of the Capitol. The Legislative Branch agency, responsible for everything from fixing elevators to restoring historic works of art in the sprawling Capitol complex, has used AOC as its official shorthand for years. The agency’s website is even aoc.gov.

In a quest for clarity, some have tried using AoC to refer to the agency and AOC to refer to the lawmaker. That’s what the friendly bill trackers at POPVOX suggested when this reporter whined on Twitter about the confusion.

An informal Twitter poll by Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim asked, “What comes to mind first when you hear ‘AOC’?” Seventy-seven percent of the 7,928 respondents said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and 23 percent said Architect of the Capitol.

“You know our answer. Since 1793,” the Architect of the Capitol account responded.

But after two centuries of tending to Capitol Hill’s treasures, is it fair for the agency’s initials to be usurped?

Architect of the Capitol spokesperson Laura Condeluci told Roll Call that the agency goes by AOC for shorter reference. After seeing people start to use AoC instead, she wondered why.

Some in the agency are already sizing up the competition. When touring House offices during Congress’ new member orientation in November, Ocasio-Cortez rode an elevator with an Architect of the Capitol employee, according to the New York Post. “You’re the other AOC,” the employee reportedly said.

Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the first lawmaker to be known by three letters. Her Democratic colleague Debbie Wasserman Schultz is often referred to as DWS — a fact highlighted when WikiLeaks published piles of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee with subject lines like “DWS Meet and Greet.”

Another House lawmaker easily identified by her initials is Cathy McMorris Rodgers, once the lone woman in Republican leadership in the House. Her PAC is called CMR Political Action Committee, and her office’s Twitter handle is @TeamCMR. 

As someone who’s gone by my initials for much of my life, I can relate. So what’s the next chapter in the AOC quandary? Peak crossover will come whenever Ocasio-Cortez comments on a project under the Architect’s purview. Watch this space.

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