The new head of the U.S. Postal Service took office on Monday, but his close ties to President Donald Trump, who has long pushed for changes in how the USPS 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 was in charge of fundraising for the 2020 Republican National Convention.
DeJoy’s new position at the head of USPS follows sharp criticism of the USPS from Trump, who has said it is 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 service in a more vulnerable position as it continues to draw Trump’s ire.
Amid that history, DeJoy’s appointment faces scrutiny.
On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., demanded an inquiry into DeJoy’s appointment and asked the USPS’ governing board to turn over communication 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 on May 6, said it considered more than 200 candidates for the role 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,” according to Kevin Kosar, an executive at the R Street Institute, a think tank that 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 be appointed from outside the USPS, according to Kosar.
“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 related to 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 accused the USPS of being Amazon’s “delivery boy.”
While Kosar said DeJoy will likely try to raise prices, he noted there’s a narrow margin for doing that and staying competitive.
The bigger, more immediate test for DeJoy will come during the 2020 presidential election, which is likely to see more voters than usual using 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” an election with increased mail-in voting will be legitimate. But both Democratic and Republican officials who are overseeing the process say that’s inaccurate.
Still there have already been issues during primary elections, like the one 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.