US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives with his wife Susan Pompeo at the airport in Prague, Czech Republic on August 11, 2020.
Petr David Josek | Reuters
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent more than $ 10,000 in taxpayers' money on Chinese-made pens for attendees at private dinner parties he hosted, including CEOs, Conservative media outlets and Republican donors, according to State Department records.
The pens Pompeo handed out to his Madison dinner guests averaged more than $ 26 apiece, according to records first released Thursday by the Washington advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.
CREW noted that at the same time, the top US diplomat was handing out 400 of the expensive pens and publicly beating China for "trade abuse that has cost American jobs and dealt a tremendous blow to economies across America."
In a tweet on Thursday, he said, "We have to be tough on China."
Pompeo's boss at the time, today's former President Donald Trump, ran as Republican on an "America First" platform for the White House and often stayed in China.
In addition to the cost of the pens, which were engraved with the words "Madison Dinner" in a posh touch, taxpayers, according to CREW, who received documents on the pens, got the bill for about $ 40,000 for other related expenses paid with the soirees through a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.
CREW found that a member of the State Department's Protocol Bureau had sent more than a dozen emails to the pen vendor in the summer of 2018, sorting out details of the order and asking questions such as whether it would be possible to put a locket on the pen enlarge pen.
Records show that the pens were purchased by Madden Branded Goods, a Florida-based company that describes itself as a "team of creative thinkers and team players passionate about logo loot".
In total, the State Department spent at least $ 10,433 on the pens.
A spokeswoman for Pompeo, who is considered a potential candidate for the GOP presidential candidacy in 2024, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pompeo named the dinners after the fifth US Secretary of State, James Madison, who was elected president after serving as the nation's leading diplomat.
NBC News, which was the first to report details about the dinner, previously said that State Department officials involved in the dinner "raised concerns internally that the events were essentially using federal funds to build a donor and support base for Pompeo's political ambitions ".
Only around 14% of the participants 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 wife Susan have celebrated at about two dozen Madison Dinners since 2018 included "billionaire CEOs, Supreme Court judges, political heavyweights and ambassadors."
This report was released in May, days after the State Department's Inspector General Steve Linick was fired by Trump when internal watchdog Pompeos investigated alleged abuse of a State Department political officer to do personal chores for himself and his wife.