Postal Updates

House introduces legislation to restrict PMG’s political activities; fears of postal banking grow

Sep 4, 2020, 3 PM
The Nonpartisan Postmaster General Act was introduced a day after the House concluded a hearing on troubles plaguing the USPS.

Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform, may have rapped a gavel ending the most recent hearing on troubles at the United States Postal Service, but the issue is far from resolved.

A day after the Aug. 24 hearing, Maloney introduced the Nonpartisan Postmaster General Act in what she said was a “response to President Trump’s politicization” of the USPS.

“He installed a GOP partisan as chairman of the board of governors, who turned around and inserted his fellow Republican fundraiser [as] postmaster general,” she said citing testimony from the hearing.

Robert M. Duncan, chairman of the Postal Service’s board of governors, acknowledged during the session that he placed Louis DeJoy’s name before the board. 

Both men testified they are major Republican fundraisers and supporters of Trump.

Maloney said that violates the spirit of the 1970 law that removed the old Post Office Department from the president’s cabinet and made it into an independent federal agency.

As she complained in an Aug. 25 news release, Trump has turned that law “on its head” and plunged the USPS back into partisan politics.

“As we heard at our hearing yesterday, both of these officials are longtime Republican operatives, fundraisers and mega-donors and they are overt about their efforts to help Donald Trump in November,” she said.

Maloney’s legislation would prohibit any postal governor, postmaster general, deputy postmaster general from holding political office while in office.

It also would bar any future postmaster general or deputy postmaster general from having held a political office in the previous four years, a step she said would keep “political operatives” out of the USPS.

Duncan, she noted, boasted about his prowess as a Republican Party fundraiser in his USPS biography.

The Kentucky banker raised “an unprecedented $428 million” for the Republic National Committee when he served as its chairman from 2007 to 2009, it says.

He is currently serving on two Republican super political action committees, American Crossroads and the Republican Senate Leadership Fund, Maloney noted.

DeJoy acknowledged his efforts for the GOP during his testimony, saying he has donated $3.2 million to Republican causes since 2016.

According to Maloney, DeJoy has given $1.2 million to Trump’s re-election and held a fundraiser for him just prior to his selection as postmaster general.

DeJoy said he had dropped his GOP roles, including overseeing fundraising for the recent Republican nominating convention. All actions were cleared by postal ethics officials, he said.

A few other things were learned about the new postmaster general during Maloney’s Aug. 24 hearing.

DeJoy told lawmakers he knew the price of a first-class stamp — 55¢ — but he didn’t know the price of mailing a postcard — 35¢.

Seventy days into his new job as the nation’s 75th top postal officer, DeJoy stumbled at times when Democratic lawmakers pressed him for the details.

“I’ll submit that I know very little about postage stamps,” he told Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., as she pushed him on the cost of popular postal products.

“I’m glad you know the price of a stamp, but I am concerned about your understanding of this agency,” Porter said.

“And I am particularly concerned about it because you started taking very decisive action when you became postmaster general,” she said.

“You started directing the unplugging and destroying of machines, changing of employee procedures and locking of collection boxes,” Porter said.

DeJoy said others at the USPS were responsible for those changes.

His only change, he said, was to get mail trucks moving from processing centers on time.

Whatever he did do, or didn’t, was not enough to stop some Democrats from calling for him to resign.

Republicans were, for the most part, laudatory about DeJoy and accused Democrats of fabricating charges that he was out to destroy the agency that Benjamin Franklin had helped to create.

The one point Republicans didn’t touch on during the House hearing was President Trump’s role in creating public concern over the USPS and his claim that voting by mail would lead to massive fraud.

The issues surrounding DeJoy and Postal Service are likely to move to the courts.

Another sign of the animosity between Maloney and DeJoy surfaced Aug. 31 when she announced she was planning to issue a subpoena for postal documents that the postmaster general had failed to submit to her committee.

A coalition of state attorneys general has challenged some of the changes put in place under DeJoy.

They said in a lawsuit filed Aug. 25 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C., that the removal of mailboxes and sorting machines was unlawful because it was done without a required public hearing by the Postal Regulatory Commission. 

One former postal official said on Facebook he had seen all this before.

“So the public periodically sees a crisis,” former postmaster general William J. Henderson said in an Aug. 22 post.

“Congress is outraged, meetings occur, the press covers the crisis, but after the dust settles nothing really changes. And everyone moves on,” said Henderson, who ran the USPS from 1998 to 2001.

Postal banking fears

A banking group has expressed fears that the U.S. Postal Service may be planning “an exclusive agreement with JPMorgan Chase to provide banking services through the postal branch network.”

The Independent Community Bankers of America made the charge Aug. 24 as it called on the Postal Regulatory Commission to investigate the possibility.

“Any exclusive arrangement, negotiated behind closed doors, to allow a profit-driven entity to leverage the USPS branch network is a formula for corruption and should be a serious concern to all Americans who care about the integrity of our public institutions,” said Rebecca Romero Rainey, the banking group’s president.

“If USPS is considering creating exclusive access to their network, it should do so through a transparent and fully competitive process,” she said.

Asked to comment, David Partenheimer, a USPS spokesman, did not address whether the USPS is in talks with the New York banking firm.

“To the extent our research concludes that we can legally provide additional services at a profit and without distracting from our core business, we would consider these,” Partenheimer said.

“However public policy and regulatory discussions must be addressed before the Postal Service invests in an area outside our core function.”

“Our core function is delivery, not banking,” he added.

The Postal Service offered banking services from 1911 to 1967 but withdrew from that market. It has shown little interest in offering those services, although several Democratic lawmakers have urged the USPS to offer banking services, especially in areas that are not served by banks.

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