Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., didn't exactly know what she was getting into when she rolled into the annual Knock Out Abuse fundraiser, but she had some ideas.
"I heard that this event has a lot of naked men, I don't know if that's true," Gillibrand said, curiously peeking over the packed ballroom at the Washington Ritz-Carlton Thursday night, seeing hundreds of women dressed like flappers, but, alas, no shirtless men. "That's not why I'm here," she added.
Gillibrand missed the year, it was 2011, when local firefighters attended Knock Out, wearing barely-there swim trunks as part of the charity event's "St. Tropez Nights" theme. This year's theme of "The Great Gatsby" was a bit more tame.
The junior senator from the Empire State, who chose a smart pantsuit instead of going full-flapper, used her platform at the annual anti-domestic abuse fundraiser to slightly slap some of her colleagues. "Congress is one of the most broken places in the world and one of the fundamental problems we have with it is that it doesn't have enough women," she told the crowd, which was predominantly made up of women.
Gillibrand ticked off the stats – only 20 women in the Senate and only 18 percent of the House. "And Congress reached an all-time low when we were bickering on whether to pass the Violence Against [Women] Act," Gillibrand said.
She also used her time at the podium to talk about her military sexual assault bill that will soon come up for a vote. "Today we have a bipartisan bill and can you believe who I have on it? I have Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer, no surprise, but I have Ted Cruz and Rand Paul as well," she said. "When you have Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, you're going to pass this bill in the U.S. Senate."
But as Gillibrand implored the crowd to get involved, glasses clinked and conversations kept going. The fundraiser, now in its 20th year, tackles a thorny problem, domestic abuse, with a very big party.
"I could tell you, fighting the Department of Defense is not an easy job, but with your help, we can pass this legislation and make sure more men and women are not subject to rape and sexual assault at the hands of men and women in their own unit," Gillibrand called out over the chattering crowd. (In Gillibrand's defense, when CNN's Wolf Blitzer later took the stage to emcee the live auction, attention spans were not much better.) "I know with your advocacy, your passion, your ability to change the world, we'll make a difference for them," she finished.
As she left, she breathed a sigh of relief. "I actually am quite glad I didn't get to see shirtless men, it would have been embarrassing for all of us," she told Whispers.