House Oversight Committee will investigate Louis DeJoy following claims he pressured employees to make campaign donations
House Democrats are opening an investigation of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and called for his immediate suspension following accusations that he reimbursed employees for campaign contributions they made to his preferred GOP politicians, an arrangement that would be unlawful.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement late Monday that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which she chairs, would begin an inquiry, saying that DeJoy may have lied to the panel under oath.
Maloney also urged the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service to immediately suspend DeJoy, whom “they never should have hired in the first place,” she said. Echoing her call for DeJoy’s suspension were other Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.).
A spokesman for the Postal Service referred requests for comment to DeJoy’s personal spokesman, Monty Hagler, who said in an email that the postmaster general had no comment at this time.
Maloney’s announcement came a day after The Washington Post reported allegations that DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former North Carolina-based company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates.
DeJoy then defrayed the cost of those political contributions by boosting employee bonuses, two employees told The Post.
Although it can be permissible to encourage employees to make donations, reimbursing them for such contributions is a violation of North Carolina and federal election laws.
Such federal violations carry a five-year statute of limitations. There is no statute of limitations in North Carolina for felonies, including campaign finance violations.
The allegations against DeJoy have caused concerns among members of the Postal Service board, who are expected to press the postmaster general about them Wednesday during a closed session, according to a person familiar with the plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.
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On Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows suggested that the House inquiry was politically motivated.
“Never underestimate Congress’s ability to ratchet up an investigation 60 days out from a presidential election,” he told reporters at the White House.
Meadows called DeJoy “an honorable man.”
“I’ve read about the allegations that have been made about him,” he added. “I’m sure he’ll cooperate completely. We serve in a great country where you’re innocent until proven guilty, especially when that guilt is thrown your way by members of Congress.”
In her statement, Maloney said DeJoy faces “criminal exposure” not only if the allegations are true, “but also for lying to our committee under oath.”
She was referring to DeJoy’s testimony to the House Oversight Committee last month, when he forcefully denied that he had repaid executives for contributions to President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
During DeJoy’s testimony, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) asked whether he had repaid executives for making donations to the Trump campaign. “That’s an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it. . . . The answer is no,” DeJoy responded angrily.
The former employees who spoke to The Post all described donations they gave between 2003 and 2014, before Trump’s first White House run. By 2016, DeJoy had sold the company and retired.
The Post’s findings prompted calls for an independent investigation from Democrats, including the Democratic Attorneys General Association and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.).
At least two Senate Republicans indicated Tuesday that they were fine with outside investigations into the allegations against DeJoy, but were wary about a probe led by House Democrats.
“I assume people are looking into that and I have no problem with people looking at that,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I really don’t know him, but he was chosen by a bipartisan board. He’s had great success as a manager.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said the accusations are “potentially a criminal offense. The appropriate authorities need to look at it.”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said he was unsure of the status of any investigation, but added, “They’re serious allegations and I think that, you know, they need to be taken seriously.”
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who leads the House oversight subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service, told The Post on Tuesday that he welcomes Maloney’s call for an inquiry, and that he thinks it should be a broad examination of DeJoy’s possible false statement to the committee and “his whole history of fundraising at New Breed.”
Connolly also lauded Maloney’s call for DeJoy’s immediate dismissal.
“The Board of Governors needs to act now,” he said. “DeJoy should not have been hired, has managed to sully an esteemed 244-year-old service, dissembled in his testimony before Congress, created needless doubts about voting by mail on the eve of a national election, and circumvented federal and state laws to raise campaign donations. He is a one-man wrecking ball and needs to go.”
In a letter Tuesday, Connolly also reminded DeJoy of the committee’s subpoena for documents related to his communications with the Trump campaign. DeJoy, in a Sept. 2 letter to Connolly, dismissed suggestions that those conversations were inappropriate or inconsistent. The deadline for the subpoena is Sept. 16.
Schumer, who has urged the North Carolina attorney general to open a criminal investigation, said Tuesday that the Postal Service board should suspend DeJoy amid the House panel’s investigation.
“In the middle of a pandemic, America must have faith and confidence in the post office, and those who lead it,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor.
A Washington Post analysis of federal and state campaign finance records found that between 2000 and 2014, 124 people who worked for New Breed together gave more than $1 million to federal and state GOP candidates.
Among the North Carolina officials supported by DeJoy and New Breed employees was former governor Pat McCrory, who told The Post that he was not aware of any of these claims of workers being pressured to give donations or being reimbursed.
A potential criminal investigation of state political contributions would begin with the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Such investigations are confidential. A spokesman for the board declined to comment Monday.
If the elections board finds reason to refer a matter for criminal prosecution, the State Ethics Commission would review the case and decide whether to refer it to a county district attorney for prosecution.
A district attorney could also independently investigate. Avery Crump, the district attorney in Guilford County, declined to say Tuesday whether she will investigate. She said she has not been asked to consider the case. Lorrin Freeman, the district attorney in Wake County, where the State Board of Elections is located, declined to comment. Both are Democrats.
A local prosecutor could also refer a case to North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D), who issued a statement over the weekend noting that “it is against the law to directly or indirectly reimburse someone for a political contribution.”
“Any credible allegations of such actions merit investigation by the appropriate state and federal authorities,” he added, declining to comment further.
The accounts of DeJoy’s former employees come amid what has been a rocky tenure for him at the helm of the U.S. Postal Service. After his appointment in May, he swiftly instituted changes he said were aimed at cutting costs, leading to a reduction of overtime and limits on mail trips that postal carriers said created backlogs nationwide.
Democrats have accused DeJoy, who has personally given more than $1.1 million to Trump Victory, the joint fundraising vehicle of the president’s reelection campaign and the Republican Party, of seeking to hobble the Postal Service because of the president’s antipathy to voting by mail. As states have expanded access to mail voting because of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has repeatedly attacked the practice and claimed without evidence that it will lead to rampant fraud.
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The Postal Service chief emphasized to House lawmakers last month that the agency will prioritize election mail. Responding to questions about his fundraising, DeJoy scoffed.
“Yes, I am a Republican. . . . I give a lot of money to Republicans,” he said. But he pushed back fiercely on accusations that he was seeking to undermine the November vote. “I am not engaged in sabotaging the election,” DeJoy said. “We will do everything in our power and structure to deliver the ballots on time.”
The latest accusations have only added to the turbulence surrounding the Postal Service.
According to The Post’s reporting, five people who worked for New Breed said they were urged by DeJoy’s aides or by the chief executive himself to write checks and attend fundraisers at his 15,000-square-foot gated mansion beside a country club in Greensboro, N.C. There, events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more apiece.
Two other employees familiar with New Breed’s financial and payroll systems said DeJoy would instruct that bonus payments to staff members be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions.
Hagler, the personal spokesman for DeJoy, said the former New Breed chief executive was not aware that any employees had felt pressured to make donations.
After repeatedly being asked, Hagler did not directly address the assertions that DeJoy reimbursed workers for making contributions, pointing to a statement in which he said DeJoy “believes that he has always followed campaign fundraising laws and regulations.”
Senate Democrats also signaled that the accusations regarding DeJoy could be problematic for his wife, Aldona Wos, who is Trump’s nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Canada.
“These troubling allegations raise serious concerns about Wos’s nomination. At this point, we are looking into them,” said Juan Pachón, the communications director for the Democratic staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The full Senate has not voted on the nomination, which the committee approved in July.
Jacob Bogage, Aaron C. Davis, John Hudson, Seung Min Kim, Lisa Rein and John Wagner contributed to this report.