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House Committee Opens Investigation into Postmaster General for Alleged Campaign Finance Violations

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  • The head of the House Oversight Committee announced an investigation into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over alleged campaign finance violations and whether or not he lied to Congress under oath concerning the matter.
  • The investigation comes after The Washington Post reported that numerous employees of DeJoy’s former business, New Breed Logistics, said DeJoy pressured them into making political donations to Republican campaigns and reimbursed them with bonuses, which is illegal.
  • Campaign finance records show that many employees had never donated before they worked for DeJoy and stopped donating after his company was acquired in 2014.
  • Multiple people also said that the donations allowed DeJoy and his wife to rise in the ranks of the GOP, which eventually lead to him becoming Postmaster General.

Investigation

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Ny.) announced Monday that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which she chairs, is launching an investigation into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy following reports that he pressured former employees into donating to his preferred Republican candidates and reimbursed them with bonuses.

The allegations were first published by The Washington Post on Sunday, which reported that five employees of DeJoy’s former business, New Breed Logistics, said that he and his aides urged them to “write checks and attend fundraisers” at his mansion in North Carolina, where “events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more apiece.”

That practice on its own is not illegal, but two other employees “familiar with New Breed’s financial and payroll systems” also told The Post that DeJoy “would instruct that bonus payments to staffers be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions, an arrangement that would be unlawful.”

One of the employees who spoke to The Post was David Young, the company’s longtime director of human resources, who reportedly had access to payroll records at New Breed from the late 1990s to 2013.

“Louis was a national fundraiser for the Republican Party,” Young said. “He asked employees for money. We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses. When we got our bonuses, let’s just say they were bigger, they exceeded expectations — and that covered the tax and everything else.”

Several employees also told the outlet that New Breed “often distributed large bonuses of five figures or higher.”

Alleged Pressure

Young additionally told The Post that no employees were “ever forced to or lost a job because they didn’t,” but if they did contribute, “their raises and their bonuses were bumped up to accommodate that.”

To that point, some employees told The Post that they were happy to make the donations, like Ted Le Jeune, a New Breed project manager.

“I was of the same political orientation, so it was not coerced in any way and there was no quid pro quo,” he said.

However, according to the report, other employees “said they felt little choice, saying DeJoy had a heavy-handed demeanor and a reputation for angering easily.” 

One plant manager named Steve Moore told the outlet that he felt pressured to contribute to the campaign of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — who was running for president at the time — just a few months after he started a job New Breed. 

According to Moore, his manager told him that making a contribution was “highly recommended,” even if he did not attend the event DeJoy was hosting for Giuliani.

“I took that to mean my job is on the line here, or things won’t go smooth for me here at New Breed if I didn’t contribute,” he said. “I didn’t really agree with what was going on.” 

Other employees also told The Post that DeJoy and his aides “made clear that he wanted employees to support his endeavors — through emails inviting employees to fundraisers, follow-up calls and visits to staffers’ desks.”

DeJoy’s GOP Rise

Regardless of whether or not there was pressure, DeJoy’s alleged efforts were highly effective. In an analysis of federal and state campaign finance records, The Post found “a pattern of extensive donations by New Breed employees to Republican candidates, with the same amount often given by multiple people on the same day.”

From 2000 and 2014, 124 individuals who worked for the company collectively gave more than $1 million to federal and state Republican candidates. During the same period, just nine employees gave a combined $700 to Democratic candidates.

That timeline is relevant for a few reasons. First of all, as The Post explains, many of the people who made those contributions had not donated to political campaigns before joining New Breed, and many have not made any more contributions since leaving the company.

The outlet also noted that the donations slowed significantly after New Breed was acquired by the Connecticut-based company XPO Logistics in 2014.

In fact, according to campaign finance records, a year after the sale: “several New Breed employees who had stayed on with XPO were giving significantly smaller political contributions and many stopped making them altogether.”

But that is not the only reason this timeline of events is significant. Many people have also indicated that those fundraising efforts allowed DeJoy and his wife to cement their status and rise in the ranks of the Republican Party.

“Multiple New Breed employees said DeJoy’s ascent in Republican politics was powered in part by his ability to multiply his fundraising through his company, describing him as a chief executive who was single-minded in his focus on increasing his influence in the GOP,” The Post reported, adding that several employees said, “DeJoy reveled in the access his fundraising afforded him.”

As DeJoy’s efforts continued, his wife, Alonda Wos, began receiving political appointments, first as an ambassador to Estonia in 2004 under President George W. Bush, and then as head of North Carolina’s health and human services agency in 2013.

When President Donald Trump took office, Wos was appointed to serve on the president’s commission on White House fellowships in 2017. Earlier this year, Trump also nominated her to be ambassador to Canada.

While testifying before a House Oversight panel last month, DeJoy was explicitly asked if he had repaid executives for contributions to Trump’s campaign, and he forcefully denied doing so.

“That’s an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it,” he said. “The answer is no.”

Response

That question was specifically related to Trump, and not the new allegations that have surfaced. As noted earlier, DeJoy’s tenure as the CEO of New Breed ended with its acquisition in 2014 — before Trump announced he was running for president.

However, in her statement announcing the investigation, Rep. Maloney said that DeJoy faces “criminal exposure” not only if the allegations that he gave bonuses to people who made political donations turn out to be true, “but also for lying to our committee under oath.” 

Maloney also urged the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service to immediately suspend DeJoy, who she claimed “they never should have hired in the first place.”

Even if he did not perjury himself, some Democrats have argued that these allegations just further contribute to a questionable narrative about DeJoy and his leadership as Postmaster General.

Many Democrats and other critics have accused DeJoy — who personally donated over $1.1 million to Trump’s reelection campaign — of being a Trump crony. He’s been accused of actively trying to prevent the postal service from working effectively and trying to create distrust in the system before the election to line up with Trump’s attacks on both USPS and mail-in voting.

DeJoy has denied those claims, and in a statement to The Post, his personal spokesman, Monty Hagler, said that 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, and he regrets if any employee felt uncomfortable for any reason.”

Hagler also said that DeJoy “sought and received legal advice” to ensure that he and his employees “complied with any and all laws.”

According to The Post, despite being repeatedly asked, Hagler “did not directly address the assertions that DeJoy reimbursed workers for making contributions.” 

Very notably, when asked during a press conference Monday if he supported the investigation into DeJoy, Trump said, “Sure, sure, let the investigations go.” When asked if he would support DeJoy’s removal if he is found to have committed wrongdoing, Trump responded, “sure.”

Federal violations of the nature DeJoy is being accused of have a five-year statute of limitations, but there is no statute of limitations in North Carolina for felonies, including for campaign finance violations. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (CNN)

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Biden Signs 17 Executive Order During His First Day in Office. Here’s What You Need to Know

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  • In the first hours of his presidency, Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders and proclamations, many of which focused on rolling back Trump administration policies regarding immigration, the environment, and protections for minority groups.
  • Biden also implemented several measures to tackle the coronavirus, including requiring masks to be worn on federal property and by federal employees. He is also expected to announce a new national strategy aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.
  • On Thursday, Biden will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.

Biden Rolls Back Trump Policies

President Joe Biden signed 17 executive actions and proclamations Wednesday afternoon. Many of his first acts in office are focused on rolling back several policies implemented by former President Donald Trump that Biden’s aides said have caused the “greatest damage” to the country.

“I thought there’s no time to wait, get to work immediately,” Biden told reporters present during the signed of several of the orders. 

Here is a breakdown of some of the key measures Biden implemented.

Immigration

Biden immediately ended all construction on the border wall by overhauling the national emergency declaration Trump had enacted to divert billions in federal funds to his central campaign promise.

The new president also expanded protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and overturned a Trump policy that made immigration enforcement more strict and

In similar actions, he also ended the travel ban on multiple Muslim-majority countries and revoked a Trump administration order that would have excluded non-citizens from the 2020 Census count.

The Environment

One of the most significant actions Biden took was signing a letter to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. It will take 30 days for the return to go into effect.

The president also issued a sweeping order that reversed a number of the Trump administration’s environmental policies, including revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, re-establishing a working group to look into the social costs of greenhouse gasses, and temporarily banning oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Justice for Minority Groups

In one far-reaching order, Biden directed all federal agencies to review equity in their programs and policies. They are required to issue a report within 200 days that, among other things, details how each will remove barriers to opportunities and ensure all Americans have equal access to federal resources.

Biden also ended Trump’s policy that limited federal agencies, contractors, and other organizations from holding diversity and inclusion training. The same order also disbanded the 1776 Commission created by Trump to study his claims that the education system was too liberal in its teaching of American history.

In a separate order, the president issued changes that will broaden federal protections against sex discrimination to include LGBTQ+ Americans, reversing a previous action by Trump.

Government Accountability

As part of a broad measure aimed at general accountability in the executive branch, Biden issued an order that will establish ethics rules for all people in his administration. The same order will also require all executive branch appointees to sign an ethics pledge. 

Separately, the president additionally froze all new regulations Trump had put in place during his last few weeks in office until they can be further evaluated.

Economy and Coronavirus

Chief among Biden’s first acts in office were his plans for the coronavirus pandemic and the damage it has caused to the American people.

In terms of financial relief, Biden extended the ban on evictions and foreclosures and paused student loan payments until September.

As for direct actions concerning the pandemic, the president imposed a mask mandate for all federal employees and anyone on federal property. He also signed an extensive order aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.

Biden is expected to enact more policies in regards to the coronavirus in the coming days, including taking more executive actions to ramp up testing and vaccine distribution, safely reopening schools and businesses, and provide more money to states to help carry out those efforts, among other things.

To achieve these goals, he will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which will compel American companies to manufacture supplies for the pandemic response such as PPE and other items needed for vaccines.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ABC News) (The Washington Post)

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U.S. To Join WHO-led Vaccine Distribution Plan as Biden Implements a Flurry of COVID-19 Executive Orders

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  • Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated Thursday that President Joe Biden will join COVAX, a World Health Organization-led COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
  • Fauci’s announcement comes one day after Biden signed an executive order reversing former President Donald Trump’s plan to remove the United States from the WHO. 
  • Among other orders, Biden plans to implement a mask mandate for airports, planes, trains, and other forms of interstate travel. He has already ordered masks to be worn on all federal property. 
  • Biden is also expected to invoke the Defense Production Act on Thursday, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.

U.S. To Join COVAX

Just one day after President Joe Biden signed an order to keep the United States in the World Health Organization, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the country will join its global COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.

That plan, COVAX, is a collaborative effort between 92 countries to ensure that COVID vaccines aren’t only distributed in wealthy countries.

The idea behind the plan is that establishing a global herd immunity will be much more effective at curbing the spread of the virus than just establishing herd immunity in countries that can afford to buy large quantities of the vaccine, especially when international travel picks back up. 

The plan is not without its shortcomings. Earlier this week, the WHO stated that some countries participating in COVAX have been disregarding the plan and buying large quantities of vaccines for themselves.

Nonetheless, in a video conference call Thursday morning with the WHO’s executive board, Fauci — now chief medical advisor to the president — said the Biden administration believes it can inoculate every American while also helping people in other countries.

Biden’s plan to join COVAX is a stark contrast from the Trump administration, which refused to participate in the program. 

Fauci said Biden will issue the directive to join COVAX later Thursday. 

Additionally, Fauci noted that the U.S. once again “intends to fulfill its financial obligations” to the WHO. 

In his attempt to leave the organization, Trump cut off payments from the U.S.; however, his administration never got the chance to fully cut ties with the organization because the U.S. wasn’t scheduled to officially leave until July of this year. 

Biden Signs Mask Mandate, Other Orders To Come

Among other COVID-related executive orders signed Wednesday, Biden implemented a national mask mandate for people on federal property. 

Sometime Thursday, Biden is also expected to sign another order requiring masks to be worn in airports, as well as on airplanes, trains, and other interstate transit systems.

Also on Thursday, Biden is also expected to sign an order that will establish a COVID-19 testing board. Once implemented, the board will be responsible for increasing testing rates, addressing supply shortfalls, and determining the rules and regulations for international travelers coming into the U.S. It will also have the power to distribute resources to minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

On top of that, Biden plans to sign an order that will direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse states and Native American tribes for their emergency response efforts. Notably, those reimbursements include costs related to reopening schools.

Finally, Biden is expected to invoke the Defense Production Act on Thursday. Such a move would speed up the production of masks and other equipment needed to help administer vaccines.  

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Reuters) (CNBC)

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Trump Issues Over 140 Pardons and Commutations Ahead of Biden’s Inauguration

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  • In his last moments in office, now-former President Donald Trump granted clemency to more than 140 people at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
  • Among the notable pardons and commutations were rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Trump megadonor Elliott Broidy.
  • Trump’s final round of clemency did include several nonviolent drug offenders whose requests had been supported by criminal justice reform advocates.
  • Still, many also condemned Trump for overlooking people wronged by the justice system or those who have been rehabilitated. Instead, critics feel he was focused on giving out political favors to his allies.

Trump Grants Clemency

Former President Donald Trump issued more than 140 pardons and commutations at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, just hours ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The move marks Trump’s final major act before the end of his term. Many of the most notable pardons and commutations were given to people whose names had been circulating in reports earlier this week, including rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, as well as former adviser Steve Bannon.

Bannon’s pardon is especially significant because he has not yet stood trial for the charges he faces. The charges against Trump’s former right-hand man center around allegations that he defrauded half a million people who donated to a crowdsourcing campaign to fund the construction of the border wall.

The leaders of the charity, aptly named We Build the Wall, had claimed that the more than $25 million they had solicited in donations would go to their goal, but prosecutors claim that Bannon took $1 million for his own personal expenses.

Bannon’s pardon is also significant because, according to reports, the reason the clemency announcements were late was because Trump could not decide whether or not to pardon him. However, as The Washington Post notes, Trump’s ultimate decision “underscores how Trump has used his presidential power to benefit allies and political backers.”

Trump has recently granted pardons to several of his former top aides, many of whom seem to have a knack for committing crimes for him.

At the end of last year, he pardoned his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his close friend and adviser, Roger Stone. All three had been convicted of crimes during the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In this newest batch of clemency grants, the former president also pardoned Elliott Broidy, a top Trump campaign fundraiser. Broidy pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws and accepting millions of dollars as part of a secret campaign to lobby the administration for Malaysian and Chinese interests.

Trump additionally pardoned a number of politicians who have been indicted for corruption, including three former Republican members of Congress and one former Democratic mayor.

Those Left Out

Trump’s last round of pardons and commutations did include several nonviolent drug offenders whose requests had been supported by criminal justice reformers. One of those individuals was Chris Young, a man who had been sentenced to life for drug conspiracy, and whose commutation Kim Kardashian West had lobbied.

But in general, Trump has largely been condemned by criminal justice advocates for overlooking people wronged by the justice system or those who have rehabilitated. Instead, they feel he was focused on giving out political favors to his allies.

Despite the attention some of his pardons have received, either because they had celebrity power behind them or were controversial, Trump has actually approved fewer clemency requests than most previous presidents who served one term or less. Until this week, he had only granted clemency to 95 people.

Also of note are the controversial pardons that Trump was reportedly considering but ultimately decided against. These included WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic, the latter of whom was so sure he would be pardoned that he had a limo waiting for him outside his prison.

Trump was also reportedly considering preemptively pardoning himself and his children, but he apparently decided against the move. In addition to a self-pardon being questionably unconstitutional, any clemency for the former president and his family would require them to admit they committed crimes they have not yet been charged with.

While Trump decided against becoming the first president to ever pardon himself, the fact that he decided to give clemency to so many of his allies might pose some issues.

President Bill Clinton faced both congressional and criminal investigations for giving out 140 pardons and commutations on his final day in office in 2001, though notably, no wrongdoing was ultimately found. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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