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FBI Investigates Postmaster General Louis DeJoy Over Campaign Fundraising

NOEL KING, HOST:

The head of the U.S. Postal Service is under federal investigation. The allegations against him are about campaign finance violations that date back to when Postmaster General Louis DeJoy ran a private business. Before he was appointed to run the Postal Service last year, DeJoy was a major Republican fundraiser. President Biden and many Democrats want him out, but DeJoy can only be removed by the USPS Board of Governors.

Jacob Bogage covers the Postal Service for The Washington Post. He was part of the team that broke this story. Good morning, Jacob.

JACOB BOGAGE: Good to be with you.

KING: What is DeJoy being investigated for exactly?

BOGAGE: So what this is called is a straw donor scheme, and it's something that's really common to investigate. It's the campaign finance equivalent of asking your older brother to go to the liquor store because you're too young to get in. It is when an employer asks employees to donate to their favorite causes or candidates and then makes them whole through bonuses or pay raises. That's what we're looking at here.

KING: And so his employees say, we didn't want to make donations to candidates, but basically he made us do it?

BOGAGE: We were encouraged to do it, whether that was tacitly implied that we wouldn't advance without it or it would just be better for our careers if we did, and also, if we did, that it wouldn't be - we wouldn't be out the money because that money would be, you know, given back to us through our salaries on the back end.

KING: Without seeming dense here, what is the illegal part of that?

BOGAGE: Sure. So the illegal part of that is in campaign finance, you are allowed to donate a certain amount to a candidate or a cause. You can't go ask other people to do it for you...

KING: Uh-huh.

BOGAGE: ...And then reimburse them on the back end. The campaign finance system, you need to have some transparency in who's giving where.

KING: Do we know when this investigation started?

BOGAGE: We know a few things, and the timeline is kind of spread out. So for one, this was part of the reputation at - of DeJoy's old company, New Breed Logistics. From when DeJoy was appointed the postmaster general around this time last year - talking to employees from his former company around this time last year, this was something that they said was just kind of part of the culture. So these aren't new - this isn't a new reputation. Let's put it that way.

Over the summer, DeJoy testifies before the House Oversight Committee where he's asked about this and denies it under oath before the committee. And then a few weeks later, my colleagues and I at the Washington Post put out a story detailing in great length kind of the allegations and the way that folks at the company were made to feel and the kind of donations they made and the way they were made whole afterward, including from, you know, interviews with folks who had access to payroll records at New Breed logistics, his old company, and said, this is what we - you know, this was a common practice. So the House Oversight Committee opens an investigation afterward. But our reporting has shown that that hasn't really gone too far. And that's why the FBI picking up this investigation now is significant.

KING: Significant - yeah. What, if anything, is DeJoy saying in defense of himself?

BOGAGE: He's saying he hasn't knowingly violated any campaign finance law and he'll cooperate fully with the FBI.

KING: Jacob Bogage of The Washington Post. Jacob, thanks so much for reporting. We appreciate it.

BOGAGE: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.