What’s Alexandria from the Bronx to do when she realizes her new office is just boring and hum-drum? How about asking a reality show star to help out? Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used social media to extend an invitation to a Netflix reality star, Bobby Berk. Berk, a co-star of Queer Eye tweeted out to AOC that he is in Washington all week and volunteered himself to help her out with “a bach pad/warehouse type situation out here”, as she describes her congressional office, The poor woman doesn’t have anything decorating her walls, you see, and a little professional help would be nice.
Queer Eye, for all of you non-Bravo television viewers, is a show that began back in 2003 as an early DIY type of show with the cutting edge twist of using an all gay male cast. It was called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The idea was for the cast of five to help a straight man decorate his apartment or house and also offered helpful tips on adult life, like lessons in cooking simple meals and entertaining guests at home. The original show lasted until 2007. A series reboot on Netflix began in 2018 and has been renewed for its third season now. A new Fab Five, as the cast was called, is doing the new show and Bobby Berk is a cast member. Frankly, I had no idea that a new show on Netflix was running.
Berk let AOC know he’s in town and ready to “work for democracy” so she took him up on his offer. She mentioned her staff is too busy and three of them are pregnant. Just swing on by, Bobby.
Hey @AOC! I’m in DC all week girl! Put me to work! “Have time… will work for democracy!”
— Bobby Berk (@bobbyberk) April 2, 2019
An article in Roll Call explained the options available to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez
When lawmakers move into an office, the bare essentials are provided by the Chief Administrative Office 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 provided — beige, eggshell, light blue, light gray or light yellow. The freshman New York Democrat’s office in the Cannon Building is likely suffering a similar plight of other newcomers with busy schedules and government-issue furniture: It’s a bit drab.
It may be a normal thing for AOC to ask a reality television star for some decorating help in her office on Capitol Hill, but she may get herself into some trouble doing that. It is a potential ethics violation. Remember former Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock? (Roll Call)
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.
The potential for an ethics violation comes in with purchasing furniture or free decorating services.
Restrictions of the House’s gift rule do not apply to “[a]nything 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.
In Schock’s case, the total cost was $35,000 and he has since repaid the amount from personal funds. AOC lives as a reality show star anyway, as lots of Millennials do on social media, so even though the show’s fans would love to see an episode that includes the representative’s office, it looks like that would be a no-no. She recently videoed a trip to a furniture store to purchase a chair for her Washington apartment. Maybe she could film an episode with the show doing a makeover of her personal living space to avoid any ethics problems and let the office re-do happen off-camera. Just a thought. Berk also owns his own businesses so maybe AOC likes his line of merchandise. (Roll Call)
Berk isn’t just a televisions star; he’s also a business owner, running Bobby Berk Home, as well as the design firm Bobby Berk Interiors + Design.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Berk is also a political activist? Because, of course, he is.
And if Berk is passionate about anything besides design, it’s politics. He’s active on social media, often sharing stories about homophobic businesses to avoid and state leaders to protest, (he even schooled a sub-Tweeter on Starbucks’ commitment to the environment) and recently, he was in our nation’s capital offering his services to New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
I have no doubt that AOC’s finished office will land in a magazine spread or two. I imagine Berk is counting on it. It’s for democracy, you know.