United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has long been a political fundraiser in North Carolina. He’s amassed millions for Republican candidates in races for governor, Congress and president. Now that fundraising has come under scrutiny for possibly violating campaign finance law while the postmaster was CEO of New Breed Logistics.
In a report in the Washington Post, people who worked at New Breed said DeJoy reimbursed them with bonuses for making political contributions. If true, such a so-called “straw donor” scheme would be illegal. DeJoy has denied the allegations.
Regardless of whether or not he reimbursed employees for political contributions, a close look at campaign finance reports shows that DeJoy, his family, and employees of New Breed, which was acquired by XPO Logistics in 2014, have made sizable donations. On the receiving end of these millions is a group made up almost entirely of Republican candidates and campaign committees, mostly in North Carolina, though some beneficiaries were in other states as well.
Since 2000, there have been more than 8,000 donations, totaling more than $3.7 million from individuals who list either New Breed or XPO as their employer on Federal Elections Commission paperwork. Those donations from employees included large sums from Louis DeJoy himself, his wife Aldona Wos, as well as Frances DeJoy and Michael DeJoy. (WUNC was not able to confirm the relationships to Louis DeJoy of Frances and Michael DeJoy. A spokesman for Louis DeJoy declined comment for this story. Employer information is self-reported in campaign finance records).
From 2001 to 2012, that group of four people gave a combined $772,000 to candidates including President George W. Bush, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, U.S. House Rep. Robin Hayes and Rep. Howard Coble, and to Republican political committees at the state and federal levels, according to FEC documents.
At the same time, donations from New Breed employees other than those four totaled just more than $1 million, according to FEC records.
In the next four-year cycle, donations picked up. One of the main recipients was Sen. Thom Tillis, who narrowly unseated Kay Hagan in 2014, in what was at that time the most expensive senate race in U.S. history. That year, the Tillis campaign committee received $86,700, and the Tillis Victory Committee received more than $200,000 from New Breed employees — part of more than $450,000 in donations from people affiliated with the company that year.
It appears Louis DeJoy wanted to show he could be relied on to raise cash for Republican candidates. For example, many of the donations were made on the same day, signaling they came as part of a coordinated fundraiser. For example, all of the $290,000 that Tillis raised from New Breed employees in 2014 came on just three days: Sept. 29, Sept. 30, and Oct. 8.
“I think clearly, something like this would gain political influence,” said Irving Joyner, a N.C. Central University Law School professor. “You ingratiate yourself to the political candidate by showing them your ability to raise cash, which ups the influence that you can have on that individual going forward.”
That political drive existed well before DeJoy himself was tapped as postmaster general. While New Breed employees tended to favor congressional and presidential races, they donated heavily to former Gov. Pat McCrory as well.
In 2012, New Breed employees donated more than $95,000 to McCrory, including $79,000 from employees other than Louis DeJoy, Frances DeJoy and Michael DeJoy.
Notably, New Breed employees combined to donate more than Duke Energy employees, a company where McCrory worked for more than 25 years. McCrory won the election and chose Wos, DeJoy’s wife, as secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. She also previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Estonia during the George W. Bush administration, from 2004 through 2006.
Donations to McCrory dropped in 2016, the year he was defeated by Roy Cooper. That year, employees of New Breed or XPO other than Louis DeJoy, Frances DeJoy and Michael DeJoy donated $30,000 to McCrory. Louis DeJoy donated $5,100 to McCrory that year.
Shortly after the Washington Post first reported on DeJoy’s fundraising, Common Cause NC called for an investigation into the matter. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a similar complaint. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein told the host of Spectrum's “Capital Tonight” that if the allegations are true, under state law, it would be a felony.
"If a company had its employees give contributions to a candidate and then gave them that money back, essentially the company has now made an illegal contribution to the candidates,” Stein said. The Democrat is running for reelection.
Last month, at a congressional hearing over cutbacks at the postal service, DeJoy reacted angrily when a Democratic representative, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, asked him whether he had unlawfully reimbursed employees who contributed to the Trump campaign in 2016.
"That's an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it.," he said.
By then, New Breed had been acquired by XPO Logistics. DeJoy stayed on as an executive at XPO until 2015, and then as a board member until 2018.
In a recent interview, Tillis called any questions around DeJoy’s fundraising a “witch hunt,” though welcomed an investigation.
“Make no mistake about it, there is going to be a witch hunt. It’ll come out of the House,” Tillis said on the KC O’Dea radio program, as quoted by the Washington Post. “I’m perfectly fine, like the president said, with doing an investigation. I think it’s the best way to clear Louis DeJoy’s name.”
"It's certainly hard to prove in any criminal investigation to prove what people were thinking."@rustyjacobsWUNC knocked on doors to talk with GOP donors who worked under Postmaster General DeJoy at New Breed Logistics
"It was less clear whether they were coerced or advised."
— The State of Things (@state_of_things) September 16, 2020
Over a dozen employees at New Breed routinely donated to the same candidate on the same day. @jasondebruyn explains the line between straw donors and an activist workplace:
"That doesn't necessarily mean anything untoward happened... The culture was Republican-leaning."
— The State of Things (@state_of_things) September 16, 2020
WUNC tried to contact former New Breed employees who had given to McCrory’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign. Many no longer reside at the addresses listed on state campaign finance records and some were not home.
Two former New Breed — and current XPO — employees found at their homes declined to be named or recorded because their company instructed them not to talk to the media.
The state elections board has the authority to investigate possible violations of North Carolina campaign finance law, and the power to subpoena witnesses.