WASHINGTON (CN) — A watchdog group is urging the Federal Election Commission to investigate claims that embattled U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy reimbursed former employees for GOP campaign donations.
Alleging a straw-donor scheme in which DeJoy reimbursed employees of his former companies for contributing to Republican political campaigns, the Campaign Legal Center names both the postmaster general and his former company, XPO Logistics, as defendants to the complaint.
“We need an FEC that will act,” a spokesperson for the center tweeted Friday, announcing the suit it filed with the commission the previous evening.
The watchdog says XPO Logistics employees donated to GOP political campaigns, and that DeJoy reimbursed them using his own funds or corporate funds as recently as 2018.
Before pivoting to Republican Party leadership roles in 2017, DeJoy ran XPO and its predecessor New Breed Logistics for decades. As postmaster general — a role he has filled to considerable controversy since June — DeJoy is the agency’s first leader in two decades to serve without prior experience in the Postal Service.
Campaign finance records “show a pattern of DeJoy family members and XPO employees (and family members of those employees) donating to the same candidate or committee, during the same period of time, and often in similar amounts,” according to the complaint, which claims that between 2015 and 2018, employees and DeJoy family members together gave over $150,000 to those initiatives.
The donations include contributions of over $50,000 made by DeJoy family members and XPO employees to Trump Victory, President Trump’s joint fundraising committee.
The group is accusing DeJoy of violating the Federal Election Campaign Act after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) had filed a complaint with the FEC on Sept. 11 bringing the same claims.
“By utilizing straw donors, DeJoy and his company were able to make excessive contributions, use illegal campaign funds to make donations, and conceal these activities and the true sources of the contributions from the public, in violation of the law,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.
“The FEC needs to thoroughly investigate this,” Bookbinder added in his statement.
There is a five-year statute of limitations where federal campaign violations are concerned, but the center’s attorney Brendan Fischer says their claims are well within that window, especially if DeJoy’s reimbursement plan extended through 2018.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post detailed allegations that DeJoy urged employees at his former North Carolina-based company New Breed Logistics to attend GOP fundraisers and make donations.
Citing that story, the Campaign Legal Center noted in its Thursday filing that former employees at New Breed Logistics received bonuses as reimbursement for their political contributions through 2014.
The complaint claims that the “patterns of giving” continued through 2018, which is after XPO Logistics acquired New Breed and continued during the period that DeJoy was CEO and board member.
“For example, on October 8, 2014, twenty New Breed employees together gave a total of $37,600 to the Thom Tillis Victory Committee, an authorized committee of then-U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis,” the filing states.
The New Breed employees’ contributions to Tillis, North Carolina’s Republican Senate candidate then and now, ranged from $1,000 to the 2014 legal maximum of $2,600, according to the center.
Three New Breed employees involved in the alleged straw-donor scheme were since hired by DeJoy to work in the U.S. Postal Service. Former employees told the Washington Post, however, that it is “unclear what their roles were at the company during much of that time.”
The Post’s report prompted North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein to tweet: “It is against the law to directly or indirectly reimburse someone for a political contribution.”
As long as he does it in his own name and stays under the legal limit, DeJoy is allowed to make campaign contributions. He is even permitted to encourage others to do so.
Routing donations through others by reimbursing contributions, however, is prohibited by North Carolina and federal election laws.
House Democrats have launched an investigation into these allegations and, like the political opponents of Republican candidates who reportedly benefited from the questionable donations, called on the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors to suspend DeJoy.
DeJoy called similar allegations “outrageous” when Congressman Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat, asked him during a House Oversight hearing whether he had ever reimbursed executives for donating to the Trump campaign.