Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent more than $40,000 in taxpayer money on a series of “Madison Dinners” attended by major donors and figures in the Republican party, according to documents obtained by CREW.
While that number appears low for roughly two dozen events, the documents obtained by CREW represent just the first production from State as part of a records lawsuit against the agency. CREW is continuing to work to expose the full cost to taxpayers of these events.
Started by Pompeo in 2018, the Madison Dinners are a series of lavish events organized in part by his wife through her personal email account and funded by taxpayers. The dinners’ connection to the mission of the State Department is highly questionable, as only 14 percent of invitees reportedly have been diplomats or foreign officials. The vast majority have been from the private sector with no connection to the State Department’s foreign policy mission, such as Republican donors and conservative media figures.
At the time of the Madison Dinners, Pompeo appeared to be using government resources elsewhere to support a potential run for Senate in his home state of Kansas. President Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick as he was investigating allegations of significant misconduct by Pompeo. Linick reportedly made an inquiry into one of the offices responsible for arranging the Madison Dinners the week before he was fired. CREW filed a criminal complaint against Pompeo, calling for the FBI to investigate whether Pompeo obstructed the investigations into him by pushing Trump to fire Linick.
There is substantial reason to believe that the $43,546 disclosed by the State Department does not actually cover the full cost of the events, even through the second quarter of 2020. The funding, classified as “General Entertainment Expenses,” focuses on food and beverage, waitstaff and escorts (along with minor printing costs), specifically prepared for Pompeo ahead of testimony on the Hill. But reporting shows musicians and photographers were brought in for the events, despite no mention of them in the budget documents produced thus far. It has also been reported that Pompeo restarted the Madison Dinners in September 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Those costs are not part of the records turned over to CREW.
In a series of emails released to CREW, State Department officials brainstorm names to call the dinners because they “don’t want to get questions from the Hill about why we call it the Madison dinners.”
Additionally, State Department staffers sought and received approval for logo-ed pens at $25 each and notepads at $8 each out of the State Department’s K Fund. According to the State Department, the K Fund “is used to meet emergency and/or confidential requirements in the conduct of foreign affairs as well as other authorized activities that further the realization of U.S. foreign policy objectives.” It is also known as the Emergencies in the Diplomatic and Consular Service Appropriation.
The spending on the pens and notepads does not appear to be included in the costs listed in the documents prepared for Pompeo, further raising questions about the total costs to taxpayers. All of the expenses appear to come out of the K Fund.
In true Trumpian fashion, Mike Pompeo appears to have used the State Department—and the taxpayer resources at his disposal as Secretary of State—for his personal and possible future political aspirations. The purpose of the State Department is to advance the foreign policy agenda of the United States, not to throw fancy dinner parties for people who can help advance or fund your political career. We will continue to fight to expose the total cost of these dinners, because Americans deserve to know where their tax dollars are going. Pompeo may have been able to get the president to fire the man investigating him at the State Department, but thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, he can’t stop the truth from getting out.