The House committee that oversees the US Postal Service is investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over allegations that he pressured former employees at his old private business to donate to Republican candidates and later rewarded them with large bonuses.
Mr DeJoy has denied that he perpetrated such a “straw donations” scheme, in which a person attempts to circumvent limits on individual contributions to political candidates by having someone else, the "straw donor," make a donation for them, and then reimbursing the straw donor.
House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney has confirmed a Washington Post report from Monday that her panel is probing Mr DeJoy, whom she said "they never should have hired in the first place."
The North Carolina Attorney General has called for an investigation into Mr DeJoy as well.
Donald Trump told reporters on Monday that Mr DeJoy should be sacked “if something can be proven."
But he hedged, saying he believes Mr DeJoy is “a very honest guy."
“We’ll see,” the president said.
Federal election laws in the US limit individuals from donating more than $2,800 to a candidate per election. Mega-donors who max out their contributions to their preferred candidates often spend the full $2,800 on both the primary election and the general election, for a total of $5,600 for the full cycle for an individual candidate.
As owner of New Breed Logistics, the North Carolina-based supply chain firm sold to XPO in 2014, Mr DeJoy often asked workers and managers to make donations to the campaigns of Republicans running for office, several former employees told the Post.
While it is not illegal to ask people to make political contributions, Mr DeJoy allegedly doled out company bonuses in return for their donations.
"He asked employees for money. We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses," David Young, the ex-director of human resources at New Breed Logistics, told the Post.
"When we got our bonuses, let's just say they were bigger, they exceeded expectations — and that covered the tax and everything else," Mr Young told the paper.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows suggested on Tuesday that the allegations against Mr DeJoy, who has faced significant scrutiny from Congress since taking over USPS leadership in May, are politically motivated.
Democrats have accused Mr DeJoy of trying to “steal” the 2020 presidential election for Mr Trump by hamstringing mail-in voting and slowing down USPS operations as many states continue to nudge voters to cast absentee ballots to avoid Covid-19 exposure at physical polling places.
"Never underestimate Congress's ability to ratchet up an investigation 60 days out from a presidential election," Mr Meadows told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
"I think you would acknowledge covering Congress as much as you have the political rhetoric gets heated and accusations get thrown away and then many times right after the presidential election, voilà, they go away," he said.
In a statement, Monty Hagler, a spokesperson for Mr DeJoy, said the postmaster general “regrets if any employee felt uncomfortable for any reason.”
Mr DeJoy "was never notified by the New Breed employees referenced by the Washington Post of any pressure they might have felt to make a political contribution," Mr Hagler added.
He added that while running New Breed logistics, Mr DeJoy ensured that the company, and anyone affiliated with it, was fully compliant with US election contribution rules.
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