Monday, June 07, 2021

Campaign-finance probe of combative Postmaster General Louis DeJoy could put bipartisan postal-reform bill at risk

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy at a House committee hearing
(Pool photo by Tom Williams via The Associated Press)
The Justice Department said last week that the FBI is investigating possible campaign-finance violations by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in his private business before he was hired. That "threatens to fray a fragile bipartisan and cross-industry coalition that supports financial relief legislation for the U.S. Postal Service," reports Jacob Bogage of The Washington Post.

The bill includes a key provision for community newspapers, which would let them send up to half their mailed circulation to non-subscribers in their home counties at the preferential rates the USPS charges for mailing to in-county subscribers. The current limit, more than 100 years old, is 10 percent of annual in-county mailed circulation.

"Congressional and industry officials say his legal position could imperil bills advancing in the House and Senate that would relieve the Postal Service of $44 billion in debt, as well as its annual $5 billion retiree health-care payments," Bogage reports. "Postal legislation has failed on lesser controversies, congressional officials noted. Some House Democrats late last week privately considered dropping their support for the measure in light of the DeJoy investigation, said four people with knowledge of the talks, reasoning that the chamber could advance more aggressive legislation on a party-line vote."

However, that would complicate passage in the Senate, which has a bipartisan bill identical to the House bill that is awaiting a green light from the House Ways and Means Committee to go to the full House. Supporters of the bill worry that partisanship will get in its way. Leo Raymond of Mailers Hub, which serves commercial mailers, told Bogage, “If you’re just going along to get along, if you’re not ardent, this could make you say, ‘Well, I’m not working with this guy.’” On the other side of the coin, Republicans who like DeJoy could balk because President Biden's Justice Department is investigating him.

DeJoy's profile and political pedigree don't help. "The postmaster general may be the closest thing to former President Donald Trump left in the nation’s capital," Will Weissert of The Associated Press writes. "Democrats are particularly worried that he’s purposefully undermining the post office, which is critical to the conduct of elections and is one of the few federal agencies a vast majority of Americans like."

Soon after taking over a year ago, DeJoy made changes to save money that also reduced service levels, including cutting overtime and removing mail-sorting machines. "Mail slowed enough that Democrats worried about an electoral crisis," Weissert notes, but the fears "mostly proved unfounded."

Still, DeJoy's combative nature makes him a target. “I’m not a political appointee,” he told a House committee hearing. “I was selected by a bipartisan Board of Governors and I’d really appreciate if you’d get that straight.” Asked how long would keep the job, he replied, “A long time. Get used to me.”

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