The new head of the U.S. Postal Service took office Monday, but his close ties to President Donald Trump, who has long pushed for changes in how the post office operates, have raised questions about his leadership.
USPS Postmaster General and CEO Louis DeJoy has been a top donor to Trump and the Republican National Committee, and he was in charge of fundraising for the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Trump has sharply criticized the Postal Service, calling it a “joke” that loses “massive amounts of money.” Trump has also been against giving the Postal Service any financial lifelines during the COVID-19 pandemic and even went as far as to threaten to veto any congressional measures that included aid for it.
The USPS’ largest source of revenue, first-class mail, has been in steady decline since 2001, and it might soon run out of cash. The pandemic has put the post office in a more vulnerable position as it continues to draw Trump’s ire.
Against that backdrop, DeJoy’s appointment faces scrutiny.
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On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., demanded an inquiry into DeJoy’s appointment and asked the USPS’ governing board to turn over communications with the White House.
Schumer also tweeted that DeJoy is the “first Postmaster General in decades without direct Postal Service experience! Americans who rely on the Postal Service — to communicate, vote, conduct business — deserve to know if he was selected because of politics.”
The USPS’ Board of Governors appoints the postmaster general, which is supposed to insulate the position a bit from politics. However, the board’s members are appointed by the president and approved by the Senate. All current board members are Trump appointees.
The board, which announced its decision May 6, said it considered more than 200 candidates and interviewed more than a dozen candidates.
“The Schumer quest strikes me as largely if not wholly political. This isn’t a guy who has no experience whatsoever,” said Kevin Kosar, an executive at the R Street Institute, a think tank, who spent more than 10 years covering postal issues for the Congressional Research Service.
“There’s nothing that can be done to remove him from his position without Congress doing something radical,” Kosar said.
DeJoy was a businessman in North Carolina before taking on his new role. He spent more than 35 years growing and managing New Breed Logistics and, while serving as CEO and chairman of the company, provided logistics for the USPS. He retired from the company in December 2015.
He’s the first postmaster general in many years to have been appointed from outside the USPS, Kosar said.
“I think it’s a big moment for the Postal Service,” he said. “With it struggling to adapt to the 21st century and digital age, there are a lot of us who are hopeful that someone with outside logistical experience will help it navigate this new world.”
One of the challenges DeJoy faces is pricing on parcel deliveries, which is a competitive space with lots of private players. About one-third of USPS’ revenue comes from parcel delivery.
Trump has railed against the USPS’ low pricing and has been particularly critical of its relationship with Amazon. Trump has been outspoken about his dislike for Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, and he accused the USPS of being Amazon’s “delivery boy.”
While Kosar said DeJoy will likely try to raise prices, he said there’s a narrow margin to do that and stay competitive.
The bigger, more immediate test will come during the presidential election, when more voters than usual are likely to use absentee ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing.
Trump, who has voted by mail, has ranted about fraud and said there’s “NO WAY” that an election with increased mail-in voting would be legitimate. But both Democratic and Republican officials who oversee the process say that’s inaccurate.
Still, there have already been issues during primary elections, as in North Carolina, where 80,000 absentee ballots were recalled for having voters’ names and addresses pre-printed on them.
“This fall is going to be telling for DeJoy,” Kosar said.