- 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.
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.”
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.”
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)
Supreme Court Rules High School Football Coach Can Pray on Field
All of our rights are “hanging in the balance,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a dissenting opinion.
Court’s Conservatives Break With 60 Years of History
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a former high school football coach who lost his job after he refused to stop praying on the field at the end of games.
Joseph Kennedy, who was hired at Bremerton High School in Washington State in 2008, kneeled at the 50-yard line after games for years and prayed. He was often joined by some of his players, as well as others from the opposing team.
In 2015, the school asked him not to pray if it interfered with his duties or involved students.
Shortly after, Kennedy was placed on paid administrative leave, and after a school official recommended that his contract not be renewed for the 2016 season he did not reapply for the position.
Kennedy sued the school, eventually appealing the case to the Supreme Court.
The justices voted 6 to 3, with the liberal justices dissenting.
“Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse republic — whether those expressions take place in a sanctuary or on a field, and whether they manifest through the spoken word or a bowed head,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.
“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance,” he added.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion.
“Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection,” she said.
“In doing so, the court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing states to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance.”
The defense in the case argued that the public nature of Kennedy’s prayers put pressure on students to join him, and that he was acting in his capacity as a public employee, not a private citizen.
Kennedy’s lawyers contended that such an all-encompassing definition of his job duties denied him his right to self-expression on school grounds.
“This is just so awesome,” Kennedy said in a statement following the decision. “All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys … I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”
Religious Liberty or Separation of Church and State?
Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court decided that the government cannot organize or promote prayer in public schools, and it has since generally abided by that jurisprudence.
But the court led by Chief Justice John Roberts has been increasingly protective of religious expression, especially after the confirmation of three conservative Trump-appointed judges.
Reactions to the ruling were mostly split between liberals who saw the separation of church and state being dissolved and conservatives who hailed it as a victory for religious liberty.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the Bremerton school district, said in a statement that the ruling “gutted decades of established law that protected students’ religious freedom.”
“If Coach Kennedy were named Coach Akbar and he had brought a prayer blanket to the 50 yard line to pray after a game,” one Twitter user said, “I’ve got a 401(k) that says this illegitimate, Christofascist SCOTUS rules 6-3 against him.”
“The people defending former Coach Kennedy’s right to kneel on the field after the game to pray – are the ones condemning Colin Kaepernick’s right to kneel on the field to protest police brutality against Black Americans,” another user wrote.
Others, like Republican Congressmember Ronny Jackson and former Secretary of State for the Trump administration Mike Pompeo, celebrated the ruling for protecting religious freedom and upholding what they called the right to pray.
“I am excited to build on this victory and continue securing our inalienable right to religious freedom,” Pompeo wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Fox News)
Rep. Schiff Urges DOJ to Investigate Trump for Election Crimes: “There’s Enough Evidence”
“When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate,” the congressman said.
Schiff Says DOJ Should Launch Inquiry
Rep. Adam Schiff (R-Ca.) told Rogue Rocket that he believes there is “certainly […] enough evidence for the Justice Department to open an investigation” into possible election crimes committed by former President Donald Trump.
Schiff, who took the lead in questioning witnesses testifying before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection on Tuesday, said that it will be up to the DOJ to determine whether “they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt” of criminal activity, but added that an investigation must first be launched.
“Donald Trump should be treated like any other citizen,” the congressman said, noting that a federal judge in California has already ruled that Trump and his allies “likely” engaged in multiple federal criminal acts. “When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate.”
“One of the concerns I have is it’s a year and a half since these events. And while […] there’s an investigation going on in Fulton County by the district attorney, I don’t see a federal grand jury convened in Atlanta looking into this, and I think it’s fair to ask why,” Schiff continued, referencing the ongoing inquiry into Trump’s attempts to overturn the election in Georgia.
“Normally, the Justice Department doesn’t wait for Congress to go first. They pursue evidence and they have the subpoena power. They’re often much more agile than the Congress. And I think it’s important that it not just be the lower-level people who broke into the Capitol that day and committed those acts of violence who are under the microscope,” he continued. “I think anyone who engaged in criminal activity trying to overturn the election where there’s evidence that they may have engaged in criminal acts should be investigated.”
Schiff Takes Aim at DOJ’s Handling of Committee Subpoenas
Schiff also expressed frustration with how the DOJ has handled referrals the committee has made for former Trump officials who have refused to comply with subpoenas to testify before the panel.
“We have referred four people for criminal prosecution who have obstructed our investigation. The Justice Department has only moved forward with two of them,” he stated. “That’s not as powerful an incentive as we would like. The law requires the Justice Department to present these cases to the grand jury when we refer them, and by only referring half of them, it sends a very mixed message about whether congressional subpoenas need to be complied with.”
As far as why the congressman thought the DOJ has chosen to operate in this manner in regards to the Jan. 6 panel’s investigation, he said he believes “the leadership of the department is being very cautious.”
“I think that they want to make sure that the department avoids controversy if possible, doesn’t do anything that could even be perceived as being political,” Schiff continued. “And while I appreciate that sentiment […] at the same time, the rule of law has to be applied equally to everyone. If you’re so averse, […] it means that you’re giving effectively a pass or immunity to people who may have broken the law. That, too, is a political decision, and I think it’s the wrong decision.”
On the Note of Democracy
Schiff emphasized the importance of the American people working together to protect democracy in the fallout of the insurrection.
“I really think it’s going to require a national movement of people to step up to preserve our democracy. This is not something that I think Congress can do alone. We’re going to try to protect those institutions, but Republicans are fighting this tooth and nail,” he asserted. “It’s difficult to get through a Senate where Mitch McConnell can filibuster things.”
“We don’t have the luxury of despair when it comes to what we’re seeing around us. We have the obligation to do what generations did before us, and that is defend our democracy,” the congressman continued. “We had to go to war in World War II to defend our democracy from the threat of fascism. You know, we’re not called upon to make those kinds of sacrifices. We see the bravery of people in Ukraine putting their lives on the line to defend their country, their sovereignty, their democracy. Thank God we’re not asked to do that.”
“So what we have to do is, by comparison, so much easier. But it does require us to step up, to be involved, to rally around local elections officials who are doing their jobs, who are facing death threats, and to protect them and to push back against efforts around the country to pass laws to make it easier for big liars to overturn future elections.”
“We are not passengers in all of this, unable to affect the course of our country. We can, you know, grab the rudder and steer this country in the direction that we want.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Senate Passes Bill to Help Veterans Suffering From Burn Pit Exposure
For Biden, who believes his son Beau may have died from brain cancer caused by burn pits, the issue is personal.
Veterans to Get Better Healthcare
The Senate voted 84-14 Thursday to pass a bill that would widely expand healthcare resources and benefits to veterans who were exposed to burn pits while deployed overseas.
Until about 2010, the Defense Department used burn pits to dispose of trash from military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations, dumping things like plastics, rubber, chemical mixtures, and medical waste into pits and burning them with jet fuel.
Numerous studies and reports have demonstrated a link between exposure to the toxic fumes emitted by the pits and health problems such as respiratory ailments and rare cancers. The DoD has estimated that nearly 3.5 million veterans may have inhaled enough smoke to suffer from related health problems.
For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs resisted calls to recognize the link between exposure and illness, arguing it had not been scientifically proven and depriving many veterans of disability benefits and medical reimbursements.
Over the past year, however, the VA relented, awarding presumptive benefit status to veterans exposed to burn pits, but it only applied to those who were diagnosed with asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis within 10 years of their service.
The latest bill would add 23 conditions to the list of what the VA covers, including hypertension. It also calls for investments in VA health care facilities, claims processing, and the VA workforce, while strengthening federal research on toxic exposure.
The bill will travel to the House of Representatives next, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to push it through quickly. Then it will arrive at the White House for final approval.
An Emotional Cause for Many
Ahead of a House vote on an earlier version of the bill in March, comedian John Stewart publically slammed Congress for taking so long to act.
“They’re all going to say the same thing. ‘We want to do it. We want to support the veterans. But we want to do it the right way. We want to be responsible,’” he said. “You know what would have been nice? If they had been responsible 20 years ago and hadn’t spent trillions of dollars on overseas adventures.”
“They could have been responsible in the seventies when they banned this kind of thing in the United States,” he continued. “You want to do it here? Let’s dig a giant fucking pit, 10 acres long, and burn everything in Washington with jet fuel. And then let me know how long they want to wait before they think it’s going to cause some health problems.”
For President Biden, the issue is personal. He has said he believes burn pits may have caused the brain cancer that killed his son Beau in 2015.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer applauded the fact the long-awaited benefits could soon arrive for those impacted.
“The callousness of forcing veterans who got sick as they were fighting for us because of exposure to these toxins to have to fight for years in the VA to get the benefits they deserved — Well, that will soon be over. Praise God,” he said during a speech on Thursday.
A 2020 member survey by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 86% of respondents were exposed to burn pits or other toxins.
Although burn pits have largely been scaled down, the DoD has not officially banned them, and at least nine were still in operation in April 2019.