- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo allegedly spent taxpayer money to host multiple dinners with CEOs, media personalities, conservative politicians, and foreign officials, NBC reported.
- Officials in the department raised concern when these “Madison Dinners” began in 2018 when Pompeo started in his role as Secretary of State.
- There were allegedly more of these dinners planned through at least October before the coronavirus pandemic emerged.
- Former Inspector General Steve Linick was allegedly investigating Pompeo over a Saudi arms deal and the use of an aid to perform personal tasks.
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has allegedly spent taxpayer money to have two dozen “Madison Dinners,” since he began the role in 2018, NBC News reported.
Pompeo allegedly held “elaborate, unpublicized affairs” where Pompeo and his wife Susan Pompeo held regular dinners with Billionaire CEOs, Supreme Court justices, political heavyweights, and others.
The events were held in the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms and continued until the coronavirus pandemic forced them to end in March, according to NBC News.
The dinners are named after James Madison, the fourth president and fifth secretary of state. Madison liked to invite foreign diplomats to exchange ideas over dinner, but, “Madison certainly paid his own entertainment expenses,” Kevin Gutzman, a professor at Western Connecticut State University who wrote a biography of Madison, told NBC News.
State Department officials involved in the dinners said they “raised concerns internally that the events were essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s political ambitions — complete with extensive contact information that gets sent back to Susan Pompeo’s personal email address,” NBC News reported.
The department’s legal adviser told the officials that events hosted by the secretary of state should be related to foreign policy. Additionally, congressional aides told NBC News that some congressional committees are looking into the dinners.
“I am concerned by allegations that the Secretary appears to be using those taxpayer resources to host large domestic-focused political gatherings that serve little-to-no foreign policy purpose,” Sen. Bob Menendez of the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a letter, NBC News reported.
The letter requested “a complete accounting” of funds used for the dinners and copies of any remarks Pompeo delivered at a Madison Dinner.
Pompeo was reportedly under investigation by former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was fired on Friday. According to Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Linick was investigating Pompeo’s decision to expedite an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, at his request, and was also looking into allegations that Pompeo made a staffer walk his dog and pick up his dry cleaning.
Democrats have raised the question of whether Linick’s investigations caused his firing, and Engel said over the weekend he had launched an investigation into Linick’s ouster.
It is not clear if Linick was investigating the “Madison Dinners.”
According to the NBC News investigation, internal State Department calendars showed that future dinners were planned through at least October before the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation. NBC News also got a hold of a master guest list for every dinner from when Pompeo took office in 2018 through the end of 2019.
“The master list includes the names of nearly 500 invitees and specifies who accepted, although it is possible some people RSVP’d but didn’t show up in Foggy Bottom for dinner,” NBC News wrote.
Of all the invitees, 29% were from corporate America, around 25% were members of the media and entertainment industry, primarily conservative media members, 30% worked in politics or government, and 14% were diplomats or foreign officials
“Every single member of the House or the Senate who has been invited is a Republican,” NBC News wrote.
Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, told NBC that the dinners are “a world-class opportunity to discuss the mission of the State Department and the complex foreign policy matters facing our exceptional nation.”
“Invited guests have included many foreign diplomats, thought leaders, academics, government leaders at many levels, business leaders, Members of Congress and the media — each of whom has a stake in America and its leadership in the world,” Ortagus said.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman and MSNBC contributor Michael Steele attended one of the dinners and told NBC News that “There’s no big deal there.” Saying that dinners like this were part and parcel for Pompeo’s diplomatic role.
Neither the White House nor State Department responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.