Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held about two dozen private lavish soirees, known as “Madison Dinners,” with prominent political and corporate leaders using taxpayer funds, an NBC News investigation found.
Pompeo and his wife hosted the posh dinners in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department beginning in 2018 up until March this year, when COVID-19 began shutting down the country. The affairs, paid for by State Department’s Emergencies in the Diplomatic and Consular Service Appropriation fund, were slated to continue until at least October.
Invitees included Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade, American Conservative Union head Matt Schlapp and his wife Mercedes, GOP operative Karl Rove, and anti-abortion lobbyist Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List. Various corporate executives, such as Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy and AOL co-founder Steve Case, were also invited.
Unnamed officials told NBC News that they were concerned that the dinners were serving as fundraiser-esque events with guest lists that Pompeo could use if he were to run for office.
Invitations to the dinners state that the gatherings aim to “share ideas on the future of America and the World” and “further our diplomatic goals.” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus described the functions as “a world-class opportunity to discuss the mission of the State Department and the complex foreign policy matters facing our exceptional nation” in a statement to NBC News.
And yet diplomats and foreign officials only made up 14 percent of the invite lists.
NBC’s investigation comes amid public scrutiny over President Donald Trump’s firing of State Department inspector general Steven Linick last week after Pompeo recommended the watchdog’s ouster.
Linick had been in the middle of investigating the Trump administration’s controversial arms sale to Saudi Arabia and allegations that Pompeo had ordered one of his aides to carry out personal errands.
However, it is not known whether the inspector general had opened a probe into the secretary of state’s dinners.