Louis DeJoy's tenure as the postmaster general hasn't quite reached the three-month mark yet, but I think it's fair to say he's off to a rough start. The U.S. Postal Service's deliberate efforts to recently slow down services have sparked a widespread controversy, and DeJoy has faced difficult questions about his apparent ethical conflicts.
But over Labor Day weekend, the postmaster general's troubles went from bad to worse, starting with this Washington Post report.
Louis DeJoy’s prolific campaign fundraising, which helped position him as a top Republican power broker in North Carolina and ultimately as head of the U.S. Postal Service, was bolstered for more than a decade by a practice that left many employees feeling pressured to make political contributions to GOP candidates -- money DeJoy later reimbursed through bonuses, former employees say.
What the article describes is generally known as a "straw-donor scheme." The newspaper spoke to several employees from DeJoy’s former business, New Breed Logistics, who said they were urged to make contributions to Republican candidates. (DeJoy was named a deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee in 2017.) Those who wrote checks were later rewarded with bonus payments that, as the Post reported, were used to "help defray the cost of their contributions."
If the allegations are accurate, DeJoy would then try to would then try to capitalize on the money he illegally directed to GOP candidates and officials, leveraging his influence to advance his own interests.
A New York Times report added soon after, "A review of campaign finance records shows that over a dozen management-level employees at New Breed would routinely donate to the same candidate on the same day, often writing checks for an identical amount of money."
If these allegations sound at all familiar, it may be because Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) recently pressed DeJoy about whether he engaged in these campaign-finance irregularities. The postmaster general, while under oath, denied the claims.
The result is a multi-faceted controversy in which the postmaster general faces credible allegations of criminal misconduct. To be sure, some campaign-finance transgressions are minor, resulting in a modest fine and a slap on the wrist, but those who use straw-donors are often prosecuted. A Post analysis added, "Chief executives have gone to federal prison for similar schemes."
If the allegations are true, DeJoy appears unlikely to face federal charges -- his alleged misdeeds happened six years ago, and the federal statute of limitations is five years -- but in North Carolina, where the alleged transgressions occurred, there is no statute of limitations for election-law violations.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump seemed to endorse an investigation of the claims-- asked at a press conference yesterday about a possible probe, the president told reporters, "Sure, sure" -- and agreed that the controversy could force DeJoy from his position. Trump nevertheless described the postmaster general as a "very honest guy."
That contention will be tested by a House Oversight Committee investigation, which Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said last night would soon get underway.
For his part, DeJoy issued an awkwardly worded statement through a spokesperson yesterday, which didn't specifically deny the allegations, though it said the postmaster general "believes that all campaign fundraising laws and regulations should be complied with in all respects.”
Sometimes, the use of passive voice sure is interesting, isn't it? DeJoy didn't say whether he complied with the law, but he believes the law "should be complied with."
Watch this space.