Louis DeJoy's first year as postmaster general: Controversy, delays, FBI investigation

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WASHINGTON — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been a controversial figure since he was appointed head of the U.S. Postal Service by the board of governors in May 2020. And as his one-year anniversary approached, his office announced he's under FBI investigation over his past campaign contributions.

During his tenure, DeJoy has dealt with an onslaught of criticism due to changes made to the Postal Service during the 2020 presidential campaign season. He's made brash statements and robustly defended his actions at USPS.

Democrats claimed DeJoy, an ally of former President Donald Trump, was unqualified for the job due to his lack of sufficient postal experience.

In a letter to the board of governors in June 2020, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote, "The millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service — to communicate, vote, or conduct business — deserve to know if the next Postmaster General was selected for reasons of politics or patronage or if he will protect and strengthen its essential services.”

A former fundraiser for the Republican National Convention, DeJoy had significant investments in companies that compete or do business with the USPS, according to several reports.

Democrats continue to repeat their calls for his removal.

"Get used to me," DeJoy told a congressional panel in February. Indeed, he marked a year on the job on June 15.

Here's what has happened since DeJoy's appointment as postmaster.

FBI investigation into DeJoy

A spokesman for DeJoy confirmed to USA TODAY the Justice Department is investigating campaign funds involving his former North Carolina business New Breed Logistics. The Washington Post first reported the Justice Department interviewed past and current employees of DeJoy about political contributions and company activities.

Spokesman Mark Corallo said DeJoy didn't knowingly violate campaign contribution laws.

In September, the Washington Post also reported former employees of DeJoy were pressured to make contributions to Republican candidates. They were later reimbursed with bonuses from DeJoy. It is a federal violation to reimburse employees for campaign contributions.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are now investigating DeJoy over the reimbursements and whether he lied to Congress about the allegations during an August testimony. When asked if he'd paid back employees who donated to Trump's campaign DeJoy replied, "That's an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it."

Mail delays at election, holidays

DeJoy faced strong objections from Democrats and Republicans last year over changes that delayed mail delivery. Some proposed changes included cutbacks to overtime, reducing post office hours and the removal of mail processing equipment such as the blue collection boxes. That came as many states expanded voting by mail in an effort to limit crowds on Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats argued the changes would have impeded the agency's ability to handle an influx of mail-in ballots during the election. Other shifts that Democrats singled out in a 10-page letter to DeJoy included declassifying election mail as first-class and a ban on "late" or "extra" delivery trips.

He defended the changes as a cost-cutting measure meant to improve the agency's financial health before a Senate panel in August 2020.

"I want to assure this committee and the American public that the Postal Service is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation's election mail securely," DeJoy told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.

Just days after the Senate hearing, DeJoy appeared before the House Oversight Committee again defending his actions. DeJoy condemned accusations that he was undermining the agency's election mail delivery as a "false narrative." He also argued the changes were necessary to offset the Postal Services' financial burdens and that the pandemic had led to a decrease in staffing among Postal Service workers.

But in the aftermath, DeJoy paused operation changes until after the 2020 presidential election. "To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded," DeJoy said in a statement at the time.

In February, he blamed the 2020 holiday season delays on the pandemic at a hearing before the House Oversight Committee. DeJoy once more claimed that the agency has had "persistent problems" and that the "erosion has been going on for years."

The Postal Service has struggled under long-standing financial burdens. In fiscal year 2020, the agency lost $9.2 billion. Over the last 14 fiscal years, the Postal Service lost $87 billion.

What's going on now with DeJoy?

Five of the nine members of the governing board of the Postal Service are Democratic nominees.

Last month the Senate approved three of President Joe Biden nominees — Anton Hajjar, former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union; Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general; Amber McReynolds, who leads the nonprofit National Vote at Home Institute — to the board.

Democrats have called for DeJoy to be removed from his post.

“Postmaster General DeJoy would not be in his job if he worked for any other company,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

Neither Congress nor a president canremove the postmaster general; that is up to the governing board.

However, during the February House Oversight Committee hearing DeJoy told Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., he would oversee the agency for "a long time. Get used to me."

As part of a 10-year “Delivering for America” plan to reduce the agency's debt, the Postal Service wants to raise the prices on first-class stamps from 55 cents to 58 cents and hike prices for first-class mail, magazines and marketing mailers. DeJoy said the increases will allow the agency to “remain viable and competitive and offer reliable postal services that are among the most affordable in the world.”

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Louis DeJoy at USPS: Delays, controversy and under FBI investigation