Burn Bag: If you donate $10,000, you will receive a “personal visit with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo”

Via Burn Bag from Sender A:
“Secretary Pompeo is attending the Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC) annual dinner on October 3.  The invitation for the event states that if you donate $10,000 (Diamond Table Sponsor) to the organization you will receive a “personal visit with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”  If you donate $3-5,000 you will receive “2 VIP Tickets to Reception with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”  (https://ffpc.regfox.com/2020dinner)
This is an obvious pay-to-play situation and a clear violation of the federal regulations on fundraising activities (5 CFR 2635.808).  The statute lists below an example of a prohibited activity:
A nonprofit organization is sponsoring a golf tournament to raise funds for underprivileged children. The Secretary of the Navy may not enter the tournament with the understanding that the organization intends to attract participants by offering other entrants the opportunity, in exchange for a donation in the form of an entry fee, to spend the day playing 18 holes of golf in a foursome with the Secretary of the Navy. (https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/5/2635.808)
This is exactly what Secretary Pompeo is doing.  The Florida Family Policy Council is charging thousands of dollars for the opportunity to meet the Secretary of State.  Moreover, the Department and U.S. government – and, by extension, U.S. taxpayers – are paying for the Secretary to fundraise for the FFPC.  The Department will send staff to support his travel and he will fly a government plane to/from the event.  Significant resources will be spent so the Secretary can fundraise and promote the cause of an organization that is very openly hostile to the LGBTQ+ community.  
Not only does Secretary Pompeo’s pay-for-play participation violate statute, it marginalizes State’s LGBTQ+ community and is wholly inconsistent with the remarks of Deputy Secretary Biegun at the virtual panel discussion on U.S. engagement on LGBTQ+ issues:  “We need to lead by example. At the State Department, our management team, led by Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao and our Director General Carol Perez, is working hard to recruit, retain, and promote a diverse workforce, and to build a culture of inclusion. We continue to identify ways our workplace can be more inclusive for our LGBTI employees as well as for all of our employees.”  (https://www.state.gov/remarks-at-a-virtual-panel-discussion-on-u-s-engagement-on-lgbti-issues/).”
(Also see https://www.flfamily.org/issues-research/marriage-family/lgbt-issues).

GFM Campaign Ends on August 5: It looks like we’re coming to the end of the line …

It looks like we’re coming to the end of the line. We’ve purposely limited the fundraising to a 60-day campaign because we don’t want to be distracted by raising funds for the rest of the year. We wanted to get it done and put it behind us. But our campaign is proceeding slowly and running out of time. It is likely that we may not reach our goal by August 5. So … such is life. Either 10,500 readers/subscribers/followers find the blog useful or they don’t.
For the 235 funders who came out to support the blog during this fundraising and during our previous efforts, we thank you. We are grateful for your continued support and your kind words. Below we are sharing some of the notes that we’ve received during this campaign. Sending love to all (no, I’m not crying, just something in my eyes).



“Diplopundit is a terrific blog that adds value consistently.”
“Thanks for covering the FS world. Not many places cover it with any context.”
“I find your blog informative and entertaining.”
“Please hang in there, you’re irreplaceable in this dire diplomatic age.”
“It’s the correct thing to support independent freedom of speech.”
“Accountability is important.”
“I enjoy updates. Avoid letting them get snarky.”
“Your independent coverage of news from the State Department is invaluable.”
“Diplopundit keeps us honest and is an indispensable service to public servants”
“The blog continues to report without opining or defaulting to partisan excuses.”
“I donated because it’s important to have accurate information at the appropriate time.”
“I believe in what blog is doing and I feel strongly about need for knowing all we can about what goes on at State. Sadly, these days, there’s not much good, if anything, to cite. All the more reason to watch closely. Huge mistakes are being made. No telling how repairs will be made…or if?”
“I’m a DOS retiree and live in total fear.”
“I donated because I’ve followed your blog for years.”
“You do a fantastic job of selecting and reporting on topics of particular and timely interest to the FS crowd.”
“Diplopundit is irreplaceable.”
“This is a fantastic blog.”
“It takes seven blind men to see an elephant.”
“I value what you do.”
“I love Diplopundit”
“Diplopundit matters, we on the inside can trust her to uphold the core values of the Department of State.”
“I read and enjoy your posts!”
“I value Diplopundit”
“Valuable, independent, below and inside the headlines.”
“I read Diplopundit.”
“You provide a useful service to the FS community. Keep up the good work.”
“I enjoy reading about the State Department.”
“Diplopundit continues to do a fantastic job providing informed and independent coverage of State Department, USAID goings on. And is the only such source. A rare light in a sea of otherwise darkness. We would feel the loss.”
“I donated because Diplopundit is informative, specially on issues not reported elsewhere.”
“I read the blog.”
“Diplopundit provides a valuable resource — unvarnished, honest discussion of Foggy Bottom goings on.”
“invaluable service over a long period of time”
“you shine a light on things that need lightin’ up.”
“… it’s totally the right thing to do. Gripe on!!!”
“Diplopundit is a must-read.”
“Please keep up the great work-Diplopundit shines a light where needed!”
“I value this blog.”
“I appreciate getting state Dept updates from this blog on important issues and happenings.”
“I love knowing what is really go on. It’s the anti-swagger.”
“Keeping up with State Department news is vital for the public. Blogging is 4th state in the 21st century and needs to be supported.”
“Keep up the good work.”
“Democracy dies in darkness.”
“Thank you for all the work you do! I’ve been reading your site since before I started A100 and I very much appreciate your honesty about foreign service and US policy.”
“You need to keep blogging.”
“I rely upon Diplopundit for honest news and appreciate their impartiality.”
“I’m retired FS, and your observations are spot on!”
“Diplopundit performs an invaluable and irreplaceable service.”
“These updates are more informative than Miles with Mike!”
“I enjoy your blog.”
“I value your updates and humor.”
“Appreciation for your good, long service as Diplopundit for all of us interested in your reporting on State Dept and foreign affairs.”



We’re not buying a plane, but we do need your help :-)


We’ve been putting this off for as long as we could. Our last fundraising was done the year before last from May 10-July 20, 2017. That funding ran out at the end of May 2018. We have not done a fundraising since then, so we’ve been in a hole for the last year.

We’re not about to splurge on a private plane after we splurge on unlimited coffee, but we do need your help :-).  This year we’re going to attempt to raise $40K for 60 days from June 5 to August 5. This would fund the blog from August 2019 – August 2020. We don’t want funding to start before that as we have some obligations to attend to. and blogging could be light to nothing for at least a few weeks this summer.

If we don’t make our goal, that probably is our signal to exit. The blog will then stop updating in August 2020. If we do make more than our goal, we will apply any amount beyond our goal to our funding for the following year.

We are looking forward to  hanging around a bit longer on this watch, but our ability to do that depends on the generosity of blog friends and readers. We know this year has not been particularly easy for many people, but if you are able to help us keep this blog going for another year, we’d appreciate your support.

Please see our GFM page here: https://www.gofundme.com/help-fund-the-blog-diplopundit-2019.



DISCLAIMER: For over a decade, Diplopundit has covered the goings on in ‘Foggy Bottom’ and the ‘worldwide available’ universe. Note that this blog has no/no official connection with the U.S. Department of State, the Foreign Service, or any other branch of the U.S. Government.

NOTE:  For first time donors using GoFundMe, here is a list of FAQs for you: https://www.gofundme.com/questions .  For donors who do not want to display their names on the campaign page and want to make their donations anonymous, this one’s for you:


Help Diplopundit Get to Year 10 — For News, Opinion, and Some Wicked Wasabi!


As many of you know, Diplopundit’s funding ended in March. Today, we’re rolling out our Help Diplopundit Get to Year 10 campaign. It will run for the next eight weeks. If successful, the fundraising will help keep the blog funded until May 2018.

I’ve made an attempt to find funding for the blog from private sources.  Diplopundit could get a $15K grant from a generous family foundation supporting the Foreign Service, and there is a potential for another grant from a separate entity; however, the grants would be available only if the blog has 501(c)(3) charitable status under the Internal Revenue Service. I’ve determined, with help from my legal pal, that the charitable status would not be compatible with the pseudonymous persona of this blog.  Maybe at some point I will hand this blog over to a foundation to run, but I’m not there yet.

Another option, of course, is to go subscription only or have a blended open/subscription model via Patreon , but I’ve been hesitant to do that for two reasons. One, the niche audience for the things this blog covers is exceptionally small.  We want to expand that audience to include readers with no connection to the State Department or the Foreign Service, and especially those who flip through the international affairs news.  Two, for a more personal reason, I do not want to break up the blog’s archive. I’m a tad attached to it.

But Some Good News

In the first four months of 2017, the blog already reached three fourths of its total 2016 visits, and our visitors are already at par with last year’s number. We did get a one time spike in visitors in February when Ricky Martin tweeted a link to our 2010 post about a Puerto Rican detained by DHS (see US Citizen born in Puerto Rico detained as illegal immigrant, what was DHS/ICE thinking? ).  We’re not going to have a celebrity tweet one of our posts every month, but traffic still appears to be up in the last couple of months. It remains to be seen if this trend holds for the rest of the year.

Funding the Blog Via Ads

One reader asked “Don’t the ads on the page pay for the blog?”  For those curious, we generate a small revenue from WordPress’ WordAds and the Amazon Affiliate program.  We have a few readers who shop at Amazon using our affiliate shop , and we appreciate their support. In 2016, we made $132.27 in affiliate fees for the year. Based on our traffic, the WordAds payment range from $35.64 to $119.82 per month.  In 2016, we earned an average of $74.60 per month from the ads you see in the blog. So, the ads help, but they are extremely limited revenue sources.

Funding the Blog Through Fundraising

We first attempted to raise funds for the blog in 2014. In 2015, “OneFSO” and “S” successfully raised funds for us from 368 donors.  Last year, with “S” and company’s help, we were able to raised $35K from 444 donations.  After we deducted GFM fees and blog expenses in 2016, the blog’s net income last year (including ads) was $26K or about $500/week. Fortunately, your blogger has her/his own bed, but if she/he were required to rent a place to live, she/he might be able to afford a room, but not much of anything else.

This year we are going to attempt to raise $38,240 from May 10 to July 10, 2017 to fund us until May 2018.  (A few readers already donated a total of $1,760 via PayPal in April. Thank you!)

NOTE:  The campaign page is here: ‘Help Diplopundit Get to Year 10
For first time donors, check out the FAQ: https://www.gofundme.com/questions.  

For donors who do not want to display their names on the campaign page, check out how to make your donations anonymous.

We’ve dived into the weeds of the blog’s financial situation to explain our persistent dilemma of trying to balance work that we enjoy doing (writing this blog) with our need to earn a livable income . Can we afford to keep the blog running this year? How about next year? When will necessity force us to … well, jump?  Those questions generates anxiety for your blogger for weeks at a time every year.  We sincerely thank you for your patience and understanding.

But … Hang On

We don’t know what the future holds for this blog.  We do recognize that we live in unprecedented times. Maybe it’s time to just embrace our uncertainties in our small corner of the sky.  Knowing what happens next would simply be boring.  So, we will continue to monitor the goings on in Foggy Bottom and in the “worldwide available” universe as we have always done in the last nine years. For now, this is where we need to be, and as David Allen Coe sings it …

So I’ll hang around as long as you will let me 
And I never minded standing’ in the rain … 


* * *

Related items:

We’re officially nine going on ten, but who drank all the wine?
Aww, @StateDept Sends Official Take Down Request For April Fools’ Day Cable
Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives


Related funnies:
Diplo-Denizen: Are You Kidding Me?
Well That Was Different: The One Thing You Absolutely, Positively Must Have in the Foreign Service
WaPo: A fake diplomatic cable has the State Department fuming
Mashable: When pranked, the State Department proves it’s as humorless as Rex Tillerson’s face
ICTWorks: Breaking News: Apple Buys USAID and US State Department


Dear Ambassadors — About That ALS #IceBucketChallenge. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]


On August 17, we posted about Ambassador Heyman who took the ALS ice bucket challenge in Ottawa. (see Tweet of the Day: Ambassador to Ottawa Bruce Heyman Takes the ALS #IceBucketChallenge. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro also did the ALS challenge. Today, Ambassador Kenney did the ice dunk in Bangkok without a specific mention of ALS.  There’s a reason for that.



The State Department reportedly sent out an unclassified cable (14 STATE 101474) to all missions saying that State totally supports the ALS ice water thing but there are regulations to follow. The cable basically informed the ambassadors that they shouldn’t join in the craze since regulations state that they cannot use their position for any sort of fundraising.

I suppose, if you must join the craze,you need to write an action memorandum and first get permission from the State Department. Clearances from L/Ethics and Office of Emergencies in the Diplomatic and Consular Service (M/EDCS) are required before seeking approval from the Under Secretary for Management.

Y’all, welcome to the bureaucracy!

The relevant section appears to be in 2 FAM 960 (pdf) SOLICITATION AND/OR ACCEPTANCE OF GIFTS BY THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE, excerpted below:

No Department employee may engage in solicitation or other fundraising activities for U.S. Government use or for the use of an outside organization, without prior authorization, in writing, from the Under Secretary for Management, except as specifically authorized in 2 FAM 962.1-1 through 2 FAM 962.1-11 or 3 FAM 4123.4.

In order to obtain approval from the Under Secretary for Management for a solicitation or other fundraising request, the requesting office shall prepare an action memorandum and obtain clearances from L/Ethics and the Office of Emergencies in the Diplomatic and Consular Service (M/EDCS), as well as any other relevant offices. The memorandum must include the following:

(1) As much information as possible on the project for which funds will be raised;

(2) The amount of money to be raised;

(3) The potential donors to be approached;

(4) The method of raising money, including the proposed texts for any communications to be used in the solicitation;

(5) The availability of appropriated funds or alternative sources of funding; and

(6) The importance to the U.S. Government of the proposed project.

In addition, M/EDCS will incorporate into the memorandum information concerning any prior Departmental solicitations of the targeted donors.

Approval of solicitation or other fundraising proposals requires balancing the U.S. Governmental policy interests in favor of fundraising against the potential risks of Department involvement in raising money from the private sector. This process inherently requires making judgment calls about issues, such as the importance of the project and the risks that the Department will be subjected to criticism for its activities. In deciding whether to approve a solicitation, the Under Secretary for Management should consider:

(1) The amount of money to be raised;

(2) The degree to which the Department will be directly involved in the fundraising;

(3) Whether the money is being raised for unusual or exceptional expenses (such as capital improvements), which have more frequently been approved, or for ordinary operating expenses of the Department; or

(4) Whether the involvement of the private sector adds value to the project apart from financial assistance. (For example, the financial participation of a nongovernmental group in a public-private partnership may help to establish private sector linkages with the local country.)

The requesting office shall be responsible for providing the necessary information to M/EDCS, and L/Ethics to allow a determination about whether any of these factors exist with respect to a particular proposal.

Nothing quick or easy. But one other thing to think about — if ambassadors do this for ALS, they may get nudged or challenged to do it for others.  Where do they draw the line of what they will/will not support publicly? That’s why the regs.