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- The US Postal Service has emerged as an unlikely flash point in the 2020 elections.
- Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a businessman and major GOP donor, is at the center of the partisan feud that promises to dominate headlines and campaign messaging at least through November and possibly well beyond then.
- The battle is about to heat up as DeJoy prepares to testify before the Senate and House in the coming days about the controversial planned overhauls he just postponed until after Election Day.
- Here’s Insider’s list of the key players to watch in the White House, on Capitol Hill and at the USPS as the fight over the Postal Service emerges as a dominant campaign issue in 2020.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The US Postal Service has emerged as an unlikely flash point in the 2020 elections.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a businessman and longtime major GOP donor, is at the center of the partisan feud that promises to dominate headlines and campaign messaging at least through November and possibly well beyond.
DeJoy, who took the helm of the US Postal Service in June, is under fire for cost-cutting moves he made that have massively slowed down mail and package delivery even as the country anticipates a surge in the use of mail-in ballots in November while the coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of slowing soon.
His critics — including congressional watchdogs — are sounding the alarm over DeJoy’s overhauls, which they warn are aimed at sabotaging the timely delivery of ballots, and his possible financial conflicts of interests. And President Donald Trump himself has indicated that he would not sign into law a bill dedicating money for the Postal Service, repeating false claims that mail-in-voting leads to fraud.
The battle is about to heat up as DeJoy will testify before the Senate and House in the coming days about his planned overhauls, including reassigning 23 postal executives, eliminating overtime work and pay, and removing some mail sorting machines.
DeJoy backed off on the changes ahead of the hearings, announcing he would delay them until after the November election “to avoid even the appearance of an impact on election mail.” But critics including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remained skeptical.
Here’s Insider’s list of the key players to watch in the White House, on Capitol Hill and at the USPS as the fight over the Postal Service emerges as a dominant campaign issue in 2020:
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy
The 75th postmaster general is the first person to hold the position in two decades who hasn’t had prior Postal Service experience.
His installment as the chief executive of the mail carrier in June by the Postal Service Board of Governors sparked immediate controversy stemming from his business dealings and his ties to Trump. DeJoy has a long history of donating to Trump and other Republicans.
DeJoy thrust the Postal Service, considered almost every year the most trusted federal entity, into the limelight with changes that critics say are designed to slow delivery of ballots in November and disrupt the election in favor of Trump.
The 63-year-old businessman has acknowledged the disruptions caused by his changes as “unintended consequences” but said the moves are necessary while the Postal Service deals with its financial troubles.
Robert Duncan, chairman the Postal Service Board of Governors
Trump appointed Duncan to the postal board in 2018 before his fellow members voted him as chairman.
Duncan has had a long government career that dates back to the George H. W. Bush administration. He was chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2007 to 2009 and boasts in his official USPS profile of raising an “unprecedented $428 million” for the GOP and growing its number of donors to 1.8 million.
The board of governors appoints the postmaster general, and Duncan would have a say in whether DeJoy steps down or changes direction. Federal law gives the board of governors the authority to reverse changes made by the postmaster general.
USPS board governors Ron Bloom and Donald “Lee” Moak
There are currently six members on the USPS board of governors, a bipartisan panel picked by the president and subject to Senate confirmation.
Trump selected all six members on the current board — including Ron Bloom and Donald “Lee” Moak, both of whom have consistently donated to Democrats. The other four are linked to the Republican Party.
Bloom was a top official in the Obama administration. As the “car czar,” he led the effort to restructure the US auto industry after the 2008 recession, and later served as President Barack Obama’s senior adviser on manufacturing policy. He previously worked as an investment banker and for the United Steelworkers.
Moak is co-founder and CEO of the Moak Group, a public affairs and business consulting firm. He’s a retired Marine Corps captain and Navy commander. He donated $500 to Biden’s presidential campaign in June, campaign finance reports show. He also donated to several congressional Democrats this election cycle.
These two could break with the rest of the board if it decides to vote to address DeJoy’s changes.
Postal Service Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb
She’s the agency’s top internal watchdog and she’s under pressure from Congress to quickly investigate DeJoy’s proposed changes.
Her office is reviewing his policy changes — which DeJoy announced Tuesday he was suspending — CNN reported. The IG’s office is also examining DeJoy’s compliance with federal ethics rules.
Agapi Doulaveris, a spokeswoman for Whitcomb’s office, declined to comment on specific investigations. “We are in receipt of the congressional request and are conducting a body of work to address concerns raised. We cannot comment on details of ongoing work,” she told Insider in an email.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows
The former North Carolina congressman is a former member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where he was among the lawmakers overseeing the Postal Service. He also hails from the same state as DeJoy.
Meadows recently denied reports that several USPS letter sorting machines were decommissioned after orders from the postmaster general.
“There’s no sorting machines that are going offline between now and the election,” Meadows said on CNN’s State of the Union. “That’s something that my Democrat friends are trying to do to stoke fear out there. That’s not happening.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney
The New York congresswoman chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and is leading the Democrats’ scrutiny of DeJoy, the postmaster general scheduled to appear before her committee on Monday.
Maloney has introduced legislation that would prevent the Postal Service from making any changes to its operations and services while the pandemic persists. House leadership called lawmakers back from their August recess to vote on the bill during a special Saturday session.
Maloney has also demanded documents surrounding DeJoy’s operation changes, his justification for them, and the consequences they’ve had.
“The American people want their mail, medicines, and mail-in ballots delivered in a timely way, and they certainly do not want drastic changes and delays in the midst of a global pandemic just months before the election,” Maloney said.
Rep. James Comer
Kentucky Rep. James Comer is the new top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee. He got the job in late June after some reshuffling on the panel.
The two-term lawmaker has already signaled he plans to be a staunch Trump defender as the Postal Service battle heats up.
“The Democrats’ wild and baseless conspiracy theory about the United States Postal Service is irresponsible and only undermines the American people’s faith in the integrity of the election and our institutions,” he said in a statement.
“I look forward to continuing to work with the USPS leadership to make the Postal Service more efficient and fiscally sustainable and ensure ballots are fairly delivered and collected by the Postal Service.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly
The Virginia Democratic congressman leads the House subcommittee that oversees government operations and the Postal Service.
“Who would have guessed a year ago that the Postal Service would be the screaming headline on every cable news show and every newspaper in America?” Connolly told Insider in a recent interview.
With Republicans controlling the White House and Senate, there’s a limit to what Democrats in Congress can do, but Connolly said he thinks they have a winning plan.
“So right now, our strategy is obviously enormous sunshine on the issue, which is clearly working,” he said, citing increased media attention and a public outcry.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
The New York Democratic lawmaker is one of the most vocal progressives in the House and is also a member of the House watchdog committee.
She’s looking forward to grilling DeJoy when he appears before the Democrat-led panel on Monday. “See you there. #SaveThePostOffice,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted when the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing was announced.
Sen. Gary Peters
The Michigan senator is the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Peters has been an outspoken critic of the changes at the Postal Service and the resulting “slowdowns, delays and backlogs they are triggering in communities across the country.”
Peters’ office said he has received more than 7,000 complaints from people across the country who had seen significant and harmful mail delays since DeJoy took the helm of the mail carrier.
The first-term senator has also introduced legislation that would prohibit the postmaster general from making changes to the agency’s operations during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also asked the Postal Service’s board of governors to quickly reverse the changes made by DeJoy.
Sen. Ron Johnson
The Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee isn’t hiding the fact his panel will be a friendlier place for DeJoy to testify on Friday compared with the Democrat-led House.
Johnson, a Trump ally, hadn’t said much about the Postal Service in recent weeks, even as the agency has dominated news headlines. But on Tuesday, he indicated that he’d be a supportive voice for DeJoy in his GOP-controlled committee.
“The Postal Service has had significant financial problems for years, and it is important for everyone to fully understand its current fiscal challenges,” Johnson said in a statement. “The postmaster general should have an opportunity to describe those realities before going before a hostile House committee determined to conduct a show trial.”
Sen. Kamala Harris
The presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee is on the Senate government oversight panel and could be among those grilling DeJoy on Friday.
It’s still unclear if the California senator will attend the session since it comes the day after Joe Biden is slated to accept the party’s presidential nomination.
“We cannot let Donald Trump destroy the United States Postal Service,” Harris tweeted earlier this month. “Congress must step up to ensure our nation’s seniors can get their life-saving medicine on time and that people can safely cast their ballots.”
Ronald Stroman, former deputy postmaster general
The former deputy postmaster general announced his resignation just days after the agency’s board of governors announced that DeJoy would be taking the helm.
Since his departure at the end of May, Stroman has been quoted warning about the changes DeJoy had planned for the Postal Service.
“The concern is not only that you’re doing this in a pandemic, but a couple of months before an election with enormous consequences,” Stroman, now a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund, told The Guardian. “If you can’t right the ship, if you can’t correct these fast enough, the consequence is not just, OK, people don’t get their mail, it’s that you disenfranchise people.
2 AGs leading the legal battle against the Postal Service
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Washington’s Bob Ferguson, both Democrats, are leading two separate multi-state lawsuits against the USPS and the Trump administration over changes to the agency’s operations.
The lawsuits — a combined 20 state attorneys general have said they’ll sue — followed the mail carrier’s announcement that it could not guarantee timely delivery of November ballots for 46 states.
Both of the lawsuits accuse the postmaster general of acting outside his authority by making those sweeping changes without the approval of the Postal Regulatory Commission. Shapiro’s lawsuit is joined by AGs from California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina, among others.
Ferguson’s lawsuit is joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union
The leader of the union that represents more than 200,000 Postal Service workers has said he is no fan of the new USPS chief.
“Mr. DeJoy has a choice as he assumes the reins of our national treasure…He can choose to be a Postmaster General who implements the destructive plans of this White House: raising postal rates, cutting services, undermining stable union and family-sustaining jobs and selling the public Postal Service to corporations for their private profit,” Dimondstein said in May.
“And if that is his choice, Mr. DeJoy will be met with stiff resistance from postal workers and the people of this country.”
Dimondstein has since sounded the alarm over the changes DeJoy has made. The union has launched a petition urging the public to write 50,000 letters urging Congress to act to provide the Postal Service the money it needs to continue to function. By mid-August, more than 30,000 letters had been sent.