DeJoy Never Should Have Been Approved as Postmaster General, Expert Witnesses Tell House Oversight Committee

United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy should not have been chosen for his post due to apparent conflicts of interest that made him ineligible, expert witnesses told Congress on Monday.



a man looking at the camera: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on August 24.


© Photo by TOM WILLIAMS/POOL/AFP/Getty
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on August 24.

That is what Richard Painter, a former top ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, and David Fineman, former chairman of the U.S.P.S. Board of Governors under the Bill Clinton and Bush administrations, said before the House Overisight Committee.

DeJoy’s $30 million stake in his former logistics company, XPO Logistics, which is a major contractor for the Postal Service and has received $14 million from the agency since DeJoy was appointed in June, should have posed far too great a risk for a criminal financial conflict of interest, the men testified to the House Oversight Committee.

In addition, the witnesses said that if DeJoy had been properly vetted before being appointed by the board of governors, they could have uncovered allegations of potential campaign violations reported by The Washington Post earlier this month.

“You do not get that job if you keep stock in a contractor with your agency,” Painter said. “That is a deal breaker because you could go into public office and commit a felony. It would have been a deal breaker in the Bush administration. We would not have nominated, appointed or approved—in any way—a senior Executive Branch official having that conflict of interest.”

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Painter said the same rule holds true with government agencies.

“You don’t go to the Department of Defense and own stock with defense contractors,” he told the congressional panel.

DeJoy was chosen by the board of governors only after an outside executive search firm vetted and helped narrow down hundreds of potential candidates to just a dozen. But DeJoy was not one of those candidates. Instead, he was approved by the board after he was recommended by Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan, a President Donald Trump appointee, and was not vetted by the outside firm.

“If you’re asking me whether I would have chosen [DeJoy], the answer would be no,” Fineman said, responding to a question from Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). “It’s apparent that there was a conflict of interest to begin with, that he still had an interest in one of the largest contractors with the United States Postal Service.”

The hearing was meant to examine DeJoy’s conflicts of interest as Democrats investigate problems at the Postal Service that arose after DeJoy assumed his role this summer. In recent months under his leadership, the agency has been inundated with mail delivery delays.

Democrats allege that DeJoy has purposely made changes that hinder its operations ahead of an election that will feature a record influx of

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Katie Porter, AOC among House freshmen making their mark by grilling witnesses

Last month, embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s House Oversight Committee hearing was in its fifth hour when Rep. Katie Porter’s five minutes to ask questions arrived.

“Mr. DeJoy, thank you for being with us today,” Porter, D-Calif., began. “What is the cost of a first-class postage stamp?”

DeJoy knew the price of the stamp — 55 cents — but was unable to answer Porter’s questions about the cost to mail a postcard, priority mail shipping rates and the number of Americans who voted by mail in the last presidential election.

“I’m glad you know the price of a stamp, but I’m concerned about your understanding of this agency,” Porter said as she moved the questioning to her real concerns after that opening salvo. “And I’m particularly concerned about it because you started taking very decisive action when you became postmaster general. You started directing the unplugging and destroying of machines, changing of employee procedures and locking of collection boxes.”

DeJoy said the changes that had caused slowdowns in mail delivery started before he took over the agency, and Porter turned to questions about who had ordered the changes (he didn’t know), whether he’d reverse them (no), whether he would commit to resigning if the inspector general found evidence of misconduct with his other businesses (he wouldn’t) and if he had any financial interests in Amazon (again, no).

The Aug. 24 hearing was the latest example of a trend that congressional observers have noted this term: Junior representatives like Porter, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., are using their time to ask hard questions of witnesses, seeking actual answers, while more senior members are more inclined to play to the cameras, delivering speeches or lectures. 

Rep. Katie Porter at a House Financial Services Committee hearing with Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)
Rep. Katie Porter at a House Financial Services Committee hearing with Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Savvy observers have learned that the best time to listen to congressional hearings is toward the end, when the lower-ranking members get their time to ask questions.

The postal chief was only the latest in a group of witnesses who found themselves under uncomfortable scrutiny from Porter, a freshman representing Orange County. A former student of Sen. Elizabeth Warren at Harvard Law School and law professor herself at the University of California- Irvine, Porter wrote the textbook “Modern Consumer Law” and served as California’s independent bank monitor before she won a seat in her generally Republican district in 2018. 

Porter told Yahoo News that she has already had a few colleagues ask for advice on her approach to preparing for hearings. She said the most important thing is to define what you want to learn.

“What do you want to know from this witness?” she said. “It could be whether they understand a certain thing or who’s responsible for something, what their opinion is. … Start with the outcome you want to get to. And then you come up with lines of questioning that will get you there. That can look different

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