DeJoy donated big to GOP senators up for re-election; they're still silent on USPS

Current postmaster general is a fountain of money for Republican candidates, who don't seem eager to criticize him

Published August 18, 2020 5:00AM (EDT)

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy departs from a meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy departs from a meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Recently appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a top donor to Donald Trump and until earlier this year the head fundraiser for the Republican National Convention, has given tens of thousands of dollars to Republican Senators up for re-election this November, according to Federal Election Commission records reviewed by Salon.

FEC records also show that DeJoy regularly maxed out with tens of thousands of annual contributions to the official GOP committees dedicated to electing Republican lawmakers: the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

DeJoy's political fundraising and donor records have come under scrutiny since his appointment to the head of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors. He caught fierce backlash last week from Democrats and Postal Service employees after reports broke that USPS warned 46 states that their mail ballots might not be delivered on time for the November election, potentially disenfranchising millions of voters.

The news accompanied other reports that USPS mail sorting machines and drop boxes have been removed, as well as another notice from DeJoy that the agency is engaging in a sweeping overhaul that might delay delivery times.

The House of Representatives has now called on DeJoy to testify about what it sees as a troubling pattern to suppress votes in November's general election, and has threatened him with arrest if he does not comply.

A number of of DeJoy's GOP beneficiaries are facing tight races this year: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona and Michigan Republican candidate John James, who is running against Democratic Sen. Gary Peters. None of these Republicans have spoken publicly about DeJoy or his recent actions as postmaster general.

DeJoy gave a total of $8,100 to McSally — $2,500 for her losing 2018 Senate campaign against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and $5,600 to her current race. While a recent poll showed McSally pulling slightly closer to Democratic opponent Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Rep.. Gabby Giffords, Kelly still leads by about 7.4 percentage points, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls.

Though McSally says she supports absentee voting, she has expressed the same concerns about mail-in voting as President Trump, despite a warning from Arizona's top election official that the president appears bent on sabotaging mail-in voting.

"I disagree this close to an election [with] states or at the federal level having some sort of mass mail-in ballots to everyone on the voter roll. I have some real concerns about that," McSally said last week.

A spokesperson for the McSally campaign declined to comment.

DeJoy, former head of the freight company XPO Logistics, a major player in the supply chain sector and a chief USPS competitor, donated $11,000 to John James, the GOP nominee in Michigan — $5,400 for his failed 2018 run against Sen. Debbie Stabenow and $5,600, the maximum amount, for his current campaign.

James is head of the supply chain company James Group International and its affiliate Renaissance Global Logistics, which received between $1 million and $2 million in federally-backed Paycheck Protection Program loans during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Recent polls in Michigan, a key swing state in November, show James consistently trailing Peters, who is ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which conducts oversight of the Postal Service. He is currently investigating USPS delays related to mail-in ballots.

James does not appear to have spoken out publicly about DeJoy or voting by mail, and his campaign did not provide comment for this article.

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and his affiliated committees have taken a combined $48,500 from fellow state residents DeJoy and his wife, Aldona Wos, former head of the North Carolina Health and Human Services Department. The couple have contributed to Tillis' election efforts since his 2014 campaign.

DeJoy also gave to the John Bolton Super PAC, which has spent heavily for Tillis and, like Tillis, has ties to the shadowy data firm Cambridge Analytica, the subject of subpoenas during special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into 2016 election interference.

Following last Friday's reports of the USPS state warnings, the Tillis campaign told the Raleigh News & Observer that "Senator Tillis is confident in North Carolina's strong absentee ballot program, is encouraging North Carolinians to vote absentee and believes we will have a fair election."

Tillis, one of the chief early architects behind North Carolina's controversial voter ID law — dubbed the "monster" law by critics — played a central role in what a federal judge called the state's "sordid history" of voter suppression when she struck down a North Carolina voter ID law late last year.

The Tillis campaign did not respond to questions about the donations or the last time Tillis and DeJoy spoke.

DeJoy also gave $5,000 to Graham's 2014 campaign, per FEC records. Graham, who as Salon recently reported has voted by mail on several occasions, has also made false claims that the practice is prone to fraud.

Graham sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is currently holding hearings to confirm DeJoy's wife, Aldona Wos, as ambassador to Canada.

In a rare break with the president, Graham has defended the USPS in the face of Trump's attempts to block funding: "The idea of cutting the Postal Service's budget is not the right approach," he said, adding that he believes the president is "trying to stop what he sees as an effort to have mass mail-in voting."

Graham has apparently not commented on DeJoy specifically. A campaign spokesperson did not reply to Salon's request for comment.

Manuel Bonder, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Democratic Party's coordinated campaign, criticized DeJoy's decisions and Graham's lack of response. "The current threats to the USPS are not only undermining Americans' voting rights ahead of this election; they endanger the health and well-being of communities and small businesses across South Carolina," Bonder said. "The fact that Sen. Graham has not taken any action to protect this essential service is yet another failure in leadership, and it is hurting South Carolinians."

DeJoy has routinely made maximum donations to NRSC, the official GOP committee dedicated to electing Republican senators. During the 2018 election cycle, the NRSC was chaired by Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, now the focus of one of the most consequential 2020 Senate contests, which is currently listed as a "toss-up" by Cook Political Report. (Cook also considers Tillis' seat a toss-up; McSally's race is "lean Democratic" and Graham's "lean Republican.")

Gardner, recently asked whether he thought DeJoy was doing a good job, dodged, saying, "First we have to understand what the postmaster is trying to do."

DeJoy's donor questions extend well beyond the Senate, however.

The Greensboro-based businessman once used a nearly untraceable North Carolina shell company, LMD Properties LLC, to give $50,000 to Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC in 2014. That year, DeJoy merged New Breed, Inc., his former contracting logistics company, with freight delivery company XPO Logistics, serving on the board of directors until May 2018, according to his bio on the DeJoy-Wos Family Foundation website.

DeJoy, along with Wos, was a Jeb Bush donor in 2016, but has since given the Trump campaign more than a million dollars. He also made a $100,000 contribution to the Trump inaugural committee, according to financial records accessible through Open Secrets. He cited New Breed, Inc., as his company.

"I take my ethical obligations seriously, and I have done what is necessary to ensure that I am and will remain in compliance with those obligations," DeJoy said in a statement provided to Salon by a USPS spokesperson.

The spokesperson declined to comment specifically on DeJoy's political donations.

Over the years, XPO has been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in federal government contracts, primarily through the Pentagon, according to government spending data — including more than $14 million in Defense Department contracts the month DeJoy stepped down. Since his departure, XPO's government contracting appears to have all but stopped.

Another former Pentagon freight contractor, Bill Zollars, was confirmed to the USPS board of governors by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Oversight in June. Weeks later, Zollars' former company, YRC Worldwide, received a $700 million federal bailout, despite being worth only $70 million at the time.

Salon reported last month that YRC is currently being sued by the Department of Justice for allegedly defrauding Pentagon delivery contracts to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Most of those allegedly fraudulent contracts occurred during Zollars' tenure as CEO.

FEC records show that DeJoy also donated $5,200 to the 2018 campaign of Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who sits on the committee that confirms Postal Service governors.

DeJoy tried to give Hawley an additional $2,500, but it was returned because he had exceeded the limit for the election cycle. It's a common trait in DeJoy's FEC history, suggesting that he gives so much money so frequently, to so many Republican candidates, that occasionally he loses track.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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