By Aaron C. Davis,
A pattern of campaign contributions by former employees and family members of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy indicates a possible effort to reimburse his associates for donations as recently as 2018, according to a Federal Election Commission complaint filed Thursday by a government watchdog group.
The filing by the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center is the third complaint seeking a state or federal investigation since The Washington Post this month reported allegations that DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former North Carolina-based company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates.
DeJoy then defrayed the cost of those political contributions from 2003 to 2014 by boosting employee bonuses, two employees told The Post.
Although it can be permissible to encourage others to make donations, reimbursing them for those contributions is a violation of North Carolina and federal election laws. Known as a straw-donor scheme, the practice allows donors to evade individual contribution limits and obscures the true source of money used to influence elections.
House Democrats have launched an investigation and called on the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors to suspend DeJoy, but members of its Republican majority say the board still supports DeJoy.
The Campaign Legal Center said an analysis it conducted of more recent contributions shows that a portion of the employees who gave in clusters at New Breed continued to do so after the company was acquired by Connecticut-based XPO Logistics, where DeJoy subsequently served for a period as an executive and board member.
As The Post reported of the New Breed employee contributions, donations among some XPO employees continued in similar or identical amounts, on the same days, and were made to the same candidates, the legal center found.
“There is reason to believe that Louis DeJoy violated [the Federal Election Campaign Act] by reimbursing his employees for federal political contributions, using his own funds and/or corporate funds from the company he led, XPO Logistics, and its predecessor, New Breed Logistics,” the complaint states.
The expanded time frame that the Federal Election Commission is being asked to scrutinize could be significant. Typically, there is a five-year statute of limitations on federal campaign violations, meaning contributions that occurred since 2015 could still be subject to enforcement
Brendan M. Fischer, an attorney who co-wrote the legal center complaint, said that the recent donations “are very much within the statute of limitations.”
A spokesman for DeJoy did not immediately comment on the complaint.
A statement provided to The Post earlier this month by another DeJoy spokesman, Monty Hagler, said the former New Breed chief executive was not aware that any employees had felt pressured to make donations. After repeatedly being asked, Hagler did not directly address the assertions that DeJoy reimbursed workers for making contributions, pointing to a statement in which he said DeJoy “believes that he has always followed campaign fundraising laws and regulations.”
During testimony he gave before a House committee last month, DeJoy scoffed when asked by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) if he had repaid executives for making donations to the Trump campaign.
“That’s an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it. . . . The answer is no,” DeJoy responded angrily.
XPO spokesman Joe Checkler told The Post earlier this month in a statement that the company “stays out of politics but our employees have the same individual right as anyone else to support candidates of their choosing in their free time. When they do so, we expect them to adhere strictly to the rules.”
The legal center identified $150,000 in federal donations since 2015 given by DeJoy employees and family members, including over $50,000 that went to fundraising committees supporting Donald Trump, first as a candidate and later as president.
On June 16, 2016, nine XPO employees gave a total of $28,000 to then-candidate Trump, according to the complaint.
In the final two weeks of September 2017, five individuals listing XPO or New Breed as their employers together gave $18,700 more.
DeJoy had retired from XPO management by 2016. He hosted Trump at his Greensboro, N.C., estate, known locally as The Castle, for a birthday party and fundraiser in June 2016, the month of the $28,000 in donations cited in the complaint by the legal center.
The legal center complaint also asked the FEC to investigate contributions made in the names of DeJoy’s siblings and children, noting occasions since 2015 when they had given the maximum allowed to a federal campaign on the same day.
The Post found that in years beforehand, DeJoy’s sister and brother had each given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates over more than a decade in which they identify in campaign records as New Breed employees.
According to former New Breed employees, it is unclear what their roles were at the company during much of that time.
David Young, a former human resources director at New Breed, told The Post that DeJoy’s sister, Frances Ann DeJoy, had worked as a bookkeeper until about 2002 and drew some income from the company for the next year or so, but he said he was unaware of any work she performed for the company afterward.
In federal campaign finance records, Frances Ann is listed as an employee until 2012, making nearly a quarter million in donations. In campaign contributions, she alternatively identifies herself as a New Breed “financial analyst,” “manager,” “businesswoman,” “retired,” and then back to “financial analyst.”
Voice mails and text messages left on phone numbers for Frances Ann and her husband have not been returned in recent weeks.
Similarly, DeJoy’s brother Michael DeJoy contributed nearly a quarter-million dollars before 2014, according to campaign records.
He was listed at times as “executive” or “president” of the company. But when DeJoy and a private equity firm that owned a controlling stake in New Breed decided to sell the company, Michael was not listed as an executive receiving compensation in the transaction.
Michael DeJoy has not responded to requests for comment.
At times, Louis, Michael and Frances Ann DeJoy have listed the same address when giving to federal candidates and campaigns: a P.O. Box in Greensboro that had been a return address for various divisions of New Breed.
Louis DeJoy has not responded to questions about the roles his siblings held at New Breed or whether he reimbursed them for political contributions.
The complaint notes that three former employees of New Breed or XPO Logistics “who were part of the contribution patterns” have since been hired under DeJoy at the U.S. Postal Service.
The Post reported that Heather Clarke, DeJoy’s executive assistant and a person who colleagues said would collect campaign checks from employees inside the New Breed office, has been serving as DeJoy’s chief of staff.
A public records request filed by American Oversight, a watchdog group, and first reported this week by CNN turned up documents showing that two former senior XPO Logistics employees, Patrick Fiorentino and Kelly Abney, have been hired as advisers to DeJoy. Abney was hired at a starting salary of $195,000, Fiorentino at $180,000 and Clarke at $184,900, CNN reported.
Combined with DeJoy’s salary, the four former New Breed or XPO employees draw nearly $900,000 in taxpayer salaries.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.