May 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pompeo's government-funded dinners draw scrutiny

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife, Susan, have held about two dozen "Madison Dinners" in the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms — on the government's dime — for CEOs, Supreme Court justices, political heavyweights and ambassadors, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: The events are yet another target for scrutiny from congressional Democrats after Friday's firing of State's inspector general.

  • When the dinners started shortly after Pompeo took office in 2018, two State Department officials told NBC that "concerns were raised to the State Department's legal adviser, who they said responded by saying events hosted by the secretary should be related to foreign policy."
  • Several congressional committees have been looking into the dinners.

The state of play: NBC obtained a master invitation list of nearly 500 invitees (not necessarily attendees).

  • 14% were diplomats or foreign officials ... 30% work in politics/government ... 29% were corporate ... 23% were in media or entertainment.
  • 39% of the media figures were from Fox News.
  • Every House or Senate member was a Republican.

The response: State's Morgan Ortagus 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."
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