Mike And Susan Pompeo Grifted State Department Like A Costco: Cheaply And In Bulk
If you're gonna steal, steal big. Or steal little, but do it more than a hundred times so it adds up and you wind up getting your money's worth.
That appears to be the Pompeo family grifting plan, at least according to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of State (OIG), in a draft "Review of Allegations of Misuse of Department of State Resources" obtained Friday by Politico.
"In response to a whistleblower complaint, OIGreviewed allegations that Department staff members were asked to complete tasks of a personal nature by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo (the "Secretary") and his spouse, Susan Pompeo (Mrs. Pompeo)," the report opens. And SPOILER ALERT, it found those allegations to be largely substantiated.
OIG found that both Secretary and Mrs. Pompeo requested that the political appointee and other employees in the Office of the Secretary undertake work of a personal nature, such as picking up personal items, planning events unrelated to the Department's mission, and conducting such personal business as pet care and mailing personal Christmas cards. OIG found that such requests were inconsistent with Department ethics rules and the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.
In plain English, sounds like the Pompeos were too cheap to pay a personal assistant out of their own pockets, so they put Pompeo's longtime assistant Toni Porter on the federal payroll and made her run errands and book brunch reservations at the Cheesecake Factory in additional to her official duties. This would be an ethical breach amounting to theft of government service, as Mike Pompeo, a Harvard-trained lawyer, knows perfectly well.
"On an almost daily basis," Susan Pompeo would send an email to Porter's work account telling her to calendar events both personal and professional for her husband.
She asked Porter to buy extra copies of a magazine article about her husband because "I know Mike's family would get a kick out of seeing this." She asked Porter to arrange delivery of flowers and gifts to her personal friends. And the fact that she later reimbursed the government for the cost of the purchases is entirely beside the point — it's the government employees' time she stole, not the stuff itself. (Haven't we been through this with Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator Extraordinaire? We have.)
Mrs. P asked Porter to accept package delivery for the Pompeos at her home to spare the Amazon guy the hassle of having to run the gantlet of guards at the government residence the Pompeos had wrangled for themselves. She had Porter arrange for delegations of visiting Kansas grandees in emails in which she "stressed the prior political support of several members to Secretary Pompeo's campaigns for the House of Representatives, but did not reference any connection between the visit and Departmental business." She also forced Porter to devise a workaround to fund the purchase of hostess gifts and swag for the Pompeos to dole out as they used the Secretary's official position to schmooze political allies who might help his future career. Apparently she was a big fan of "gold nut bowls."
According to the report, there were over 100 inappropriate requests during the two and a half years Pompeo was at the State Department.
Pompeo's lawyer Bill Burck took a page from Lindsey Graham in his response to Politico. That's right, he screamed bloody murder and started lobbing nonsensical counter-accusations.
Despite the fact that the investigation began under the Trump administration and was substantially delayed by Pompeo's months-long refusal to sit down for questioning, Burck described it as "a politicized document in the guise of an investigative one" that takes revenge on Pompeo for engineering the ouster of Steve Linick, the former State Department Inspector General. Which makes complete sense if you ignore the fact that the investigation was initiated by a whistleblower long before Linick was fired.
Burck went on to make a convoluted argument that simultaneously throws Susan Pompeo under the bus while accusing the IG of sexism.
"We had thought the time was long past that anyone would consider wives to be mere extensions of their husbands, but that antiquated and offensive view animates the entire draft report," he fumed.
Pompeo himself took a slightly different angle, arguing that asking staff to come in on weekends to help Susan Pompeo address Christmas cards — which had already been printed up by the State Department's print shop — was kosher because it was only "a tiny task" and anyway it was "perfectly fine for friends to help each other." In this version of events, Susan Pompeo was just emailing Porter a daily list of tasks to complete during and after business hours as a "friend."
As the IG notes drily, "Unlike other areas of the Standards of Ethical Conduct, the regulation concerning use of a subordinate's time does not include a personal relationship exception."
The Pompeos are unlikely to face repercussions for their habitual grifting — they're out of office now, and Republicans are too busy trying to get their automated contributions back from the Trump PAC and the NRCC to notice a little government waste. But Mike Pompeo's successor, Secretary Tony Blinken, has accepted the IG's recommendation to knock that shit off.
The earth is healing.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.