It is getting really hard to keep up with all of the nefarious antics of U.S. Postmaster General and Trump holdover Louis DeJoy. It’s not bad enough that he regularly thumbs his nose at President Joe Biden, but he is continuing on with his deeply, deeply corrupt conflicts of interest in which he is using his public position to enrich himself.
The latest comes from ethics watchdogs Neil Gordon and Walter M. Shaub Jr., a prominent former government ethics official, writing at Project On Government Oversight (POGO). The new conflict is DeJoy’s role in the free COVID-19 test kit distribution earlier this year. The distribution of the kits was through the Postal Service, and he was closely involved in planning the logistics of the program. The kits were supplied by a few companies, one of which DeJoy owns stock in—stock he has not divested. Stock he traded in while the program was being planned and implemented.
That, POGO’s ethics experts conclude, is a possible violation of federal conflict of interest law. (Yes, another one.) They report that he has a net worth of $110,000 million and counting, including his current holdings, “a staggering number and variety of assets and income sources.” In the last half of calendar year 2020 when he was serving as postmaster general, he reported “a whopping 861 transactions.”
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Fast forward to January 2022—when he is still inexplicably in this job—and President Joe Biden’s announcement that the government would be purchasing and mailing out 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests. Sources told The Washington Post: “Postal officials were giddy about the decision,” and that Dejoy “was intensely involved in conceiving the Postal Service’s logistics footprint.”
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Enter Abbott Laboratories, maker of the BinaxNOW COVID-19 tests, millions of which have been sold to the federal government already. As of Dec. 31, 2020, Dejoy had between $150,000 and $350,000 in Abbott stock. In August 2021, he sold some of it—between $50,000 and $100,000 worth, but as of the most recent report reviewed by POGO from early his month, he appears to still be holding it. Thus the testing kit distribution program is an “initiative that could add to the personal wealth” of DeJoy, Shaub and Gordon write.
“A federal conflict-of-interest law bars officials like the postmaster general from participating personally and substantially in certain government matters affecting their own financial interests,” they continue. “DeJoy not only owned Abbott Laboratories stock, he appears to have traded the stock after the White House announced on January 7 that the COVID-19 test kits the administration had purchased would be ‘sent out through the mail.’ On January 11, two days before the federal government formally announced that it had awarded Abbott Laboratories a $306 million contract for the test kits, DeJoy engaged in two transactions involving Abbott,” POGO reveals.
The fact that DeJoy owns the stock is enough—or should have been—to prevent him from having any involvement with establishing or promoting the project. He’s done both enthusiastically. Like when he crowed in January: “The 650,000 women and men of the United States Postal Service are ready to deliver and proud to play a critical role in supporting the health needs of the American public,” adding the Postal Service was “well prepared to accept and deliver test kits.”
A few weeks later, he touted the project, and the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) role in it, again. “It is a major point of pride throughout our organization to have met our own performance expectations and those of the public.”
“These comments constitute personal and substantial participation in the project,” POGO says. “As the head of the Postal Service, DeJoy’s comments serve as public relations messaging for the free COVID-19 test project. This involvement raises concerns about whether he is complying with the conflict-of-interest law.”
That’s on top of the already existing conflicts that have surfaced. He’s apparently been cleared in one instance—an FBI probe for campaign finance violations at his former company—but there are still more than a dozen personal investments he holds that comprise conflicts.
There’s also this new report from the Postal Service inspector general on that covert operation to monitor social media the USPS was running, which was called iCOP. The inspector general has determined that the USPS “did not have the legal authority to conduct the sweeping intelligence collection and surveillance of American protesters and others between 2018 and 2021.”
“We determined that certain proactive searches iCOP conducted using an open-source intelligence tool from February to April 2021 exceeded the Postal Inspection Service’s law enforcement authority,” the March 25, 2022 inspector general report stated. “Furthermore, we could not corroborate whether other work analysts completed from October 2018 through June 2021 was legally authorized.” That surveillance included monitoring social media for “inflammatory” posts about nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.
After that story broke last year, Frank Albergo, president of the Postal Police Officers Association, told Daily Kos that the uniformed police force of the Postal Service was being pulled off of patrols, ending the protection they provided to letter carriers, mail collection boxes, and vehicles to shift the focus to postal inspectors and iCOP. The move by DeJoy to stop all postal police street patrols, Albergo said, was seen “as the first step to abolish the postal police force in its entirety.” He said that “in the absence of PPOs, all USPIS law enforcement functions will be performed by the predominantly white Postal Inspectors—at twice the cost. In other words, the Postal Service intends to replace lower paid Black and Brown employees with higher paid white employees. Apparently, austerity only applies to certain people.”
Why DeJoy has remained in office this long remains a mystery. Ousting him would have been a universally popular thing for President Biden to have accomplished, but more than a year later here we are, with DeJoy still doing his white collar criming.
If there’s good news in any of this, it’s that the Senate committee in charge finally had the hearing on Biden’s final two nominees to fill out the Postal Service Board of Governors this week, and both nominees “told lawmakers they would review DeJoy’s plans involving the slowing down of mail delivery, the purchasing of primarily gas-powered vehicles to replace its aging fleet and the implementation of recently passed postal reform legislation.”
They should be confirmed easily, possibly even by voice vote, though at the pace the Senate is moving it might not happen until May, at which point Biden will have a majority of the board and the leverage to finally get DeJoy fired.
Bottom line: This guy has finally got to go.