House Committee Opens Investigation into Postmaster General for Alleged Campaign Finance Violations
- 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)
White House Endorses Bipartisan Senate Bill That Could Ban TikTok
The measure does not target TikTok specifically but instead would set up a framework to crack down on foreign products and services that present a national security threat.
The RESTRICT Act
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow the federal government to restrict or even outright ban TikTok and other technologies produced by foreign companies.
Under the legislation, dubbed the RESTRICT Act, the Commerce Department would have sweeping authority to identify and regulate technologies that pose a risk to national security and are produced by companies in six “foreign adversary” countries: China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.
In other words, the proposal would not explicitly ban TikTok, but instead creates a path for future prohibitions on the Chinese-owned platform.
While the bill’s text does not specifically mention TikTok, the group of senators made it clear that the app is their number one target, directing most of their criticism to the platform in statements announcing the measure.
The legislation, however, would go way beyond TikTik: it is also designed to prepare for future situations where apps or technologies from an “adversary” country become popular in the U.S.
The bill’s Democratic sponsor, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Ma.), echoed that point in his remarks Tuesday.
“Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the U.S.,” he said. “Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE, which threatened our nation’s telecommunications networks. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices.”
“We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren’t playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they’re already ubiquitous.”
Proponents of the bill also hope that, given the broad scope of the legislation, it will gain more traction than past proposals that zeroed in on TikTok. Support for the measure was further bolstered when the White House announced it would back the move shortly after it was rolled out.
“This bill presents a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “We look forward to continue working with both Democrats and Republicans on this bill, and urge Congress to act quickly to send it to the President’s desk.”
A Bumpy Road Ahead
Despite the bipartisan push, there are still some hurdles for the RESTRICT Act to overcome.
Although the legislation does not directly ban TikTok, because that is clearly its intent, the same issues with an outright prohibition still stand. One of the most serious concerns is that banning TikTok would violate the First Amendment.
There is past precedent on this front: in 2020, a federal magistrate judge blocked the Trump administration from requiring Apple and Google to take the Chinese-owned app WeChat off their app stores.
In that decision, the judge argued that the government only had “modest” evidence about the app’s risks and that removing it from app stores would “burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security.”
TikTok has emulated that argument. In a statement responding to the RESTRICT Act Tuesday, a spokesperson for the company said the legislation could “have the effect of censoring millions of Americans.”
Meanwhile, even if the act does pass, there is also the question of whether the Biden administration would decide on a full-scale ban.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo would be the one responsible for overseeing the process under the bill, and while she said she said in a statement that she “welcomed” the proposal and promised to work with Congress to pass it, she has also previously expressed hesitation for a full prohibition.
On the other end of the equation, there are concerns that this measure will not ultimately get enough bipartisan support from Republicans who do want an outright ban and will refuse to accept anything that falls short of that.
While speaking with Fox News on Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) said the new plan did not go far enough and argued that Congress “should pass a bill that bans TikTok.”
Even if the legislation does get enough support in the Senate, its path is unclear in the GOP-held House, where it also does not yet have a companion bill. Republicans in the House recently introduced a measure that would give the president the power to unilaterally ban TikTok in the U.S.
That proposal, however, is not bipartisan like the RESTRICT Act, which will be a key test to see if legislators can find a middle ground on the matter.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (NBC News)
What You Need to Know About Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Race — The Most Important Election in 2023
Gerrymandering, abortion, the 2024 presidential election, and much more are on the line.
An election to fill an empty seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that has been described as the most consequential race of 2023 has now been narrowed to two candidates after the primary Tuesday.
Liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz easily took first place, winning 46.4% of the vote with nearly all precincts reporting. In second place with 24.2% was conservative Daniel Kelly, a former Wisconsin State Supreme Court justice who was appointed by the state’s then-Republican governor in 2016 but lost his re-election in 2020.
Notably, the wide discrepancy in votes can be explained by the fact that Kelly split Republican ballots with another conservative candidate who came in a close third with 21.9%. As such, the general election is expected to be tight.
Also of note, this race is technically supposed to be non-partisan, but Protasiewicz has closely aligned herself with Democrats and Kelly has done the same with Republicans. Both parties, as well as dark money groups, have poured millions of dollars into the high-stakes election that will determine whether liberals or conservatives will have a 4-3 majority on the state Supreme Court at an incredibly consequential time.
There are a number of paramount issues at play here that have widespread implications not just for Wisconsin but America at-large.
Gerrymandering and Elections
Wisconsin is one of the most important swing states in the country: it helped decide the outcomes of both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, and it is the center of debates on gerrymandering and free and fair elections that have played a role in those races.
The state Supreme Court, which has had a conservative majority for the last 14 years, has been instrumental in shaping those policies, having weighed in on many of the most crucial topics and almost always siding with Republicans.
For example, in what VICE described as “arguably the most important decision the court made in recent years,” the court ruled 4-3 last year to uphold one of America’s most gerrymandered maps that gave Republicans a massive advantage.
“The maps are so gerrymandered that Republicans hold six of Wisconsin’s eight House seats and nearly two-thirds of legislative seats in the state—even though Democrats won most statewide races last year,” the outlet reported.
That ruling created something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the conservative majority court has decided so many critical topics because the state government is deadlocked with a Republican majority in the legislature and a Democratic governor.
So, by approving a map that massively favored Republicans, the conservative court kept that system in place, ensuring that they would continue to have the final say on so many of these essential areas.
However, if Protasiewicz wins the general election, the court is all but certain to revisit the gerrymandered map. Protasiewicz, for her part, explicitly stated in a recent interview that a liberal majority could establish new election maps. Kelly, meanwhile, has said he has no interest in revisiting the maps.
A decision unfavorable to the GOP-drawn maps would have significant implications for the internal politics of Wisconsin and control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans currently hold a very slim five-seat majority.
To that point, the Wisconsin Supreme Court also plays a big role in how the state’s elections are administered and how its ten Electoral College votes will be doled out in the 2024 presidential election.
Last year, the conservative court banned absentee ballot drop boxes, and in 2014, it upheld a GOP voter ID law that studies have shown suppressed Black voters. While the court did vote against considering former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit to try and overturn the 2020 election in Wisconsin, it only did so by a thin margin of 4-3.
The court will very likely be tasked with wading into elections-related cases in the coming years. Already, it is anticipated that the justice will hear a lawsuit by a conservative group aiming to further limit voting access by banning mobile and alternate voting facilities.
Abortion and Other Important Statewide Subjects
In addition to the ramifications for America broadly, there are also plenty of paramount issues concerning the state Supreme Court that will materially impact the people of Wisconsin.
Much of the race has been centered heavily on the topic of abortion and reproductive rights because the composition of the court will almost positively determine whether or not abortion will be legal for the state’s six million residents.
Following the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade, an 1849 Wisconsin law banning abortion went back into effect. Currently, a lawsuit against the ban is winding its way through the court system, and it is all but assured that battle will eventually go before Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.
Experts and analysts say that if Kelly wins, it is essentially guaranteed that abortion will remain illegal in almost all cases. Protasiewicz, by contrast, has campaigned extensively on abortion rights and vocally supported the right to choose.
Beyond that, there are also several other major issues the court will likely rule on in the coming years. For example, Protasiewicz has also said she believes a liberal majority could reverse a 12-year-old law that basically eliminated collective bargaining for public workers. All of that is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Everything is at stake, and I mean everything: Women’s reproductive rights, the maps, drop boxes, safe communities, clean water,” Protasiewicz told VICE. “Everything is on the line.”
See what others are saying: (VICE) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)
Republicans Want to Cut Food Stamps — Even As Pandemic-Era Programs Wind Down
Experts say cuts to food stamps could have a devastating impact on the 41 million Americans who rely on the program.
GOP Weighs SNAP Cuts in Budget
In recent weeks, top Republican lawmakers have floated several different ideas for cutting food stamp benefits.
Earlier this month, Republicans now leading the House Budget Committee flagged food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP — as one of the ten areas they would support cuts to in their new budget proposal.
In a memo, the panel argued that stricter work requirements would “save tens of billions,” while a more rigid verification process for applicants would limit waste, fraud, and abuse. The idea comes as part of a broader effort to reduce the federal deficit.
Experts, however, say the proposed changes could result in debilitating cuts for the 41 million Americans who rely on food stamps and exacerbate an ongoing hunger crisis at a time when inflation has sent food prices rising.
SNAP provides low-income households with an average of around $230 a month for groceries. For many of those families who are also the most impacted by inflationary price increases across the board, that money is absolutely essential.
Experts have also noted that any additional cuts to SNAP would be especially harmful because Republicans are still proposing new cuts despite the fact that Congress already agreed just two months ago to end a pandemic-era program that had increased benefits in some states.
Under the pandemic policies, SNAP was expanded so households could receive maximum benefits instead of benefits based on income testing while also giving bigger payouts to the lowest-income Americans.
That expansion is now set to expire in March, and according to the anti-hunger advocacy group the Food Research and Action Center, an estimated 16 million households will see their per-person benefits drop by around $82 a month.
The Farm Bill Debate
Even if Republicans do not end up cutting SNAP in the budget, the program may still be in hot water.
While raising the debt limit is at the forefront of ongoing partisan battles at the moment, there is already a fight shaping up over another essential piece of legislation: the farm bill.
The farm bill is a package that has to be updated and reauthorized every couple of years. One of the most important legislative tasks Congress is responsible for, the farm bill includes many important subsidies and programs that are imperative to America’s food systems, farms, and much more.
SNAP is among the nutrition-based programs that fall under the purview of the farm bill, and Republicans have already tossed around the idea of cutting food stamp benefits in their ongoing negotiations.
Those debates are quite forward-looking, though it is normal for such discussions to occur early during a year in which Congress is charged with passing the farm bill. Lawmakers have until Oct. 1 to either enact a new version or agree on some kind of extension.