Already under scrutiny for corruption, an NBC News investigation found that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been holding taxpayer-funded dinners with a guest list that looks more like a roster of political allies and donors than one of foreign policy experts. That includes at least three Fox News figures.
Pompeo and his political ambitions were already in trouble. Last week, in the middle of two corruption investigations into himself, Pompeo had the State Department’s inspector general fired. As Slate describes it, “the firing of the IG, Steven Linick, appears to be Pompeo’s personal cover-up.”
Now there’s more.
NBC News reported yesterday:
State Department officials involved in the dinners said they had 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.
"Personal email address?" Did someone say his wife used her personal email address for these publicly funded dinners? Why, yes, that's exactly what was said:
Officials involved in carrying out the dinners say all the information collected by the State Department during the invitation process, including the names and contact information for potential guests, is emailed back and forth to Susan Pompeo's private Gmail account. Two congressional officials expressed concern that information could then be used by Pompeo as a potential donor Rolodex if he runs for office again. The Hatch Act prohibits most federal employees from engaging in political activity at work or in their official capacities.
Pompeo, a former Congressman from Kansas, is reportedly considering a 2024 presidential run and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to persuade him to run for Kansas’ open U.S. Senate seat in November.
NBC News obtained a master guest list for all the dinners from the time Pompeo became secretary of state, in 2018, through the end of 2019. Of the nearly 500 invitees, only 14% were diplomats or foreign officials. About 29 percent came from the corporate world, about 30 percent from politics or government and “about a quarter of them hailed from the media or entertainment industries, with conservative media members heavily represented.” 39 percent of the conservative media figures were from Fox News. By my calculations, that means about 49 of the 500 guests came from Fox News. Brian Kilmeade, Laura Ingraham and Karl Rove were named in the article.
Although State Department spokeswoman (and former Fox News contributor) Morgan Ortagus called the dinners "a world-class opportunity to discuss the mission of the State Department and the complex foreign policy matters facing our exceptional nation,” NBC noted that some guests, such as country singer Reba McEntire and NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. “seem to have little connection to the world of diplomacy.” Ortagus also claimed that Pompeo "has benefited greatly” from listening to guests “all across the political spectrum.” Yet NBC also noted that every guest from the House or Senate has been Republican.
While Kilmeade and Ingraham claim to support draining the swamp, I’ve never heard a peep of complaint out of them about the dinners or their costs. NBC reported that two sources with knowledge “estimated that the bill probably runs several hundred dollars per plate, likely pushing the total cost of the dinners to date into the six figures." I’m not sure if that includes the parting gifts, a custom-embossed journal and pen. “The State Department special-ordered hundreds of each in 2018, the pens for $23.75 apiece and the journals for $8, officials said,” according to NBC.
You can watch a good rundown of Pompeo’s sordid situation below, via a May 20, 2020 MSNBC report.
(Pompeo image via screen grab)