Commentary

DeJoy’s campaign contribution scheme is a familiar one

Louis DeJoy

In case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out the fine reporting that a group of journalists at the Washington Post generated regarding the campaign finance tactic that U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy appears to have employed while he was a mere millionaire businessman from Greensboro.

This is from their story, “Louis DeJoy’s rise as GOP fundraiser was powered by contributions from company workers who were later reimbursed, former employees say”:

Louis DeJoy’s prolific campaign fundraising, which helped position him as a top Republican power broker in North Carolina and ultimately as head of the U.S. Postal Service, was bolstered for more than a decade by a practice that left many employees feeling pressured to make political contributions to GOP candidates — money DeJoy later reimbursed through bonuses, former employees say.

Five people who worked for DeJoy’s former business, New Breed Logistics, say they were urged by DeJoy’s aides or by the chief executive himself to write checks and attend fundraisers at his 15,000-square-foot gated mansion beside a Greensboro, N.C., country club. There, events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more apiece.

Two other employees familiar with New Breed’s financial and payroll systems said DeJoy would instruct that bonus payments to staffers be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions, an arrangement that would be unlawful.

Of course, one of the things that makes this story so utterly believable — aside from the obvious quality of the reporting that includes powerful, first-person accounts from people who were directly involved and speaking on the record — is that it’s common knowledge in the political world that such a practice has been (or, at least once was) widely used for decades.

When I was a young lawyer/lobbyist working in the Illinois General Assembly, I remember being struck when I heard that a friend who worked in state government in the department that procured supplies for various offices had been bused out to the local airport to cheer on a prominent Republican candidate — as I recall, it was George H.W. Bush in his 1988 run for the presidency. When I expressed surprise that my friend — who I knew to be someone who was opposed to Bush — had attended such an event, he calmly informed me that participating in such events and making political contributions to GOP candidates when directed to do so by his boss was simply something that was expected from all state employees who worked in “patronage” jobs controlled by Republicans (the state then had a Republican governor).

Of course, such actions were not the sole province of Republicans. In Illinois, the practice of, in effect, taxing public employees for political contributions was truly perfected by a Democrat — the infamous Chicago mayor, Richard J.Daley.

And so it has gone in both the public and private sectors for years — especially since the advent of campaign finance reforms that attempted to place limits on individual contributions to candidates: rich people and powerful politicians have strongly suggested that their employees direct campaign contributions to designated candidates. Sometimes the contributions are simply seen as a price that the employee pays for keeping their job. Sometimes it’s understood that the employee is probably paid more than they might really be worth in order to make such contributions. And some employers — like DeJoy apparently — are generous enough to make the whole scheme explicit by reimbursing the employees through bonuses and other means.

Nothing about the familiarity of this practice, however, makes any of it remotely legal. Like any number of commonplace white collar crimes, the scheme is just another example of how the wealthy and powerful maintain a disproportionate choke hold on the control of our government. The whole thing remains rotten to the core and needs to be treated as the kind of criminal behavior it is.

So, good for North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein for calling for an investigation.

And someday, when common sense again prevails in the land, the Constitution will be amended or reinterpreted to overrule the disastrous Citizens United ruling and the idea that elections belong to the people (and should be financed via tax dollars, rather than through the spare change of the super rich) will again take hold in the United States.

Click here to read the full Post story.

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