- Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent more than $10,000 of taxpayer money on China-made pens for attendees at private dinner parties.
- The parties were attended by a variety of CEOs, elected officials, GOP donors and diplomats. The pens were made in China.
- The dinners had raised concerns among some State Department officials, who worried that the "events were essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s political ambitions," NBC News reported.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent more than $10,000 of taxpayer money on China-made pens for attendees at private dinner parties he hosted, including CEOs, conservative media figures and Republican donors, according to State Department records.
The pens Pompeo handed out to his Madison Dinner guests cost an average of more than $26 apiece, according to the records, first reported Thursday by the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
CREW noted that at the same time the top U.S. diplomat was doling out 400 of the expensive pens, he was publicly bashing China for "trade abuses that cost American jobs and strike enormous blows to economies all across America."
In a tweet Thursday, he said: "We must remain tough on China."
Pompeo's then-boss, now-former President Donald Trump, ran for the White House as a Republican on an "America First" platform and also often stuck out at China.
In addition to the cost of the pens, which in a classy touch were engraved with the words "Madison Dinner," taxpayers footed the bill for $40,000 or so in other expenses related to the soirees, according to CREW, which received documents about the pens through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
CREW noted that an employee of the State Department's protocol office sent more than a dozen emails to the pen vendor in the summer of 2018 sorting out details of the order, and asking questions about things like whether it would be possible to enlarge a medallion on the pen.
Records show that the pens were purchased from Madden Branded Goods, a Florida-based company that bills itself as "a team of creative thinkers and team players who are passionate about logo'd swag."
In all, the State Department forked over at least $10,433 for the pens.
A spokeswoman for Pompeo, who is considered a potential candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pompeo named the dinners after the fifth American secretary of State, James Madison, who was elected president after serving as the nation's leading diplomat.
NBC News, which first reported details of the dinners, previously said that State Department officials involved in the dinners “raised concerns internally that the events were essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s political ambitions.”
Only around 14% of the attendees were diplomats or foreign officials.
Pompeo is a former CIA director and GOP congressman from Kansas.
NBC reported that the "elite group" of guests that Pompeo and his wife, Susan, feted at about two dozen Madison Dinners since 2018 included "billionaire CEOs, Supreme Court justices, political heavyweights and ambassadors."
That report was published in May, days after the State Department's inspector general, Steve Linick, was fired by Trump even as the internal watchdog was investigating Pompeo's alleged misuse of a political appointee at the department to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife.