Congress

Ocasio-Cortez tells Bobby Berk of ‘Queer Eye’ to swing by her ‘bach pad/warehouse type’ office

Decorating and design advice from Berk could cross House Ethics rules

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., says her office could use the expertise of “Queer Eye” designer Bobby Berk. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says her office is looking like a bachelor pad or a warehouse and she hopes Bobby Berk, star of the Netflix show “Queer Eye,” can give her some help. But she might want to review House ethics rules and recent history first. 

“Hey @AOC! I’m in DC all week girl! Put me to work! ‘Have time... will work for democracy!’” Berk tweeted early Tuesday morning. 

Ocasio-Cortez told him to swing by her office, which she said doesn’t have much on the walls yet.

“We’ve got a bach pad/warehouse type situation out here,” she tweeted. 

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 When lawmakers move into an office, the bare essentials are provided by the Chief Administrative Officer and Architect of the Capitol, much of it recycled. New members are also entitled to a new paint job, but only a handful of colors are on offer — beige, eggshell, light blue, light gray or light yellow. The freshman New York Democrat’s office in the Cannon Building is likely suffering a fate similar to those of other newcomers with busy schedules and government-issued furniture: It’s a bit drab.

But getting help from a celebrity designer could land Ocasio-Cortez in hot water.

Let us remember another young rising star on Capitol Hill who wanted to spruce up his office: Illinois Republican Aaron Schock, the photogenic media sensation who joined the House at age 27 in 2009, becoming the first person born in the 1980s elected to Congress.

Schock got help from Annie Brahler, an interior decorator whose company is called Euro Trash, to turn his Rayburn Building space into a model of the PBS period drama “Downton Abbey.” Red walls, gold sconces, pheasant feathers and other lavish decor sparked weeks of news stories and questions about his spending habits.

It ultimately helped lead to his resignation and years of appointments in federal court with prosecutors. Last month, Schock struck a deal: The feds dropped charges. He agreed to pay back taxes and pay restitution. He has not ruled out a return to public life. 

Congressional office decorations can run the gamut from interesting to mundane. There are no ethics-specific rules about decorating, only about purchasing furniture and services to do so. 

Restrictions of the House’s gift rule do not apply to “anything for which the [official] pays the market value” (House Rule XXV, clause 5(a)(3)(A)). In Schock’s case, it appears that the “free” services provided by the designer may have been provided at a discount.

When Roll Call reached out to Brahler back in 2015 to find out if the “free services” were in line with market value, she did not comment. Interior decorators sometimes waive service fees with an agreement that the customer will purchase materials through them, as Schock appeared to do.

Schock eventually repaid the government $35,000 from his personal funds to cover the cost of redecorating his “Downton” office.

Berk isn’t just a television star; he’s also a business owner, running Bobby Berk Home, as well as the design firm Bobby Berk Interiors + Design. 

Roll Call reached out to Bobby Berk Interiors + Design to get a quote for a consultation for space the size of a typical freshman’s congressional office, but had not heard back at press time. 

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