Pompeo, a chief critic of Beijing, passed out party favors made with parts from China.
In his more than two years as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo pulled no punches against China, regularly criticizing it for human rights abuses, military aggressions and the spread of the coronavirus.
But when it came to passing out party favors, Mr. Pompeo relied on the country to help produce the perfect pen.
Documents released on Thursday show that Mr. Pompeo used taxpayer funds to buy 400 specially embossed pens, worth more than $10,000 in total, for guests who attended private dinners at the State Department as he mulled his political future.
The pens were the topic of several weeks of correspondence in 2018 between unidentified State Department employees and a Florida-based vendor who was hired to design souvenirs for the so-called Madison Dinners that Mr. Pompeo and his wife, Susan, hosted.
Colors, etching and emblems for the pens were discussed and then reconsidered, the documents show. At one point, an eager department employee needed to know how quickly they could be delivered to Washington.
The vendor advised it would take more time because “the little emblems on the pens are made in China.”
Mr. Pompeo, who called the coronavirus “the Wuhan virus” for where it originated and constantly hammered of the Chinese Communist Party leadership, was among the most hawkish China critics among President Donald J. Trump’s advisers. Many of his concerns were broadly shared among American and foreign officials, as China violated human rights against ethnic Uighurs and protesters in Hong Kong, and sought to muscle in on Taiwan and disputed waters.
But Mr. Pompeo himself came under widespread criticism over the possible misuse of official State Department funds for his personal and political benefit, as the Madison Dinners became a focus of an inspector general’s inquiry.
The dinners were held from 2018 to 2020 and hosted about a dozen American business leaders, conservative political officials and a scattering of diplomats and foreign dignitaries. In all, the gatherings cost at least $43,000, according to earlier documents released by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The watchdog group has sued the government under the Freedom of Information Act for information about the dinners and Mr. Pompeo’s other activities that might be construed as political while he was in office. The latest tranche of documents, released on Thursday, also included receipts for a few thousand dollars for food, printed tickets and private contractors to operate the elevators at the State Department for guests as they arrived and departed.
Mr. Pompeo has previously defended the dinners as the kind of soft-diplomacy events that previous secretaries of state also held. He did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
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