Federal Election Commission dismisses complaints against DeJoy over alleged straw-donor scheme

Felicia Sonmez and Jacob Bogage
Washington Post

Washington - Federal campaign finance regulators have dismissed two complaints against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy regarding fundraising activity at his former business.

The government watchdog groups Campaign Legal Center and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission last year alleging that a pattern of campaign contributions by employees and relatives of DeJoy before he became postmaster general indicated a possible effort to reimburse his associates for donations.

In this Aug. 24, 2020, file photo, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the Postal Service on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The groups filed the complaints after The Washington Post reported allegations that DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former North Carolina-based company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates. DeJoy then defrayed the cost of those political contributions from 2003 to 2014 by boosting employee bonuses, two employees told The Post last year.

In an October decision that was made public this week, the FEC voted 4-1 to dismiss the complaints. The commission's acting general counsel, Lisa Stevenson, recommended dismissal in April, writing that most of the donations had taken place outside the period covered by the statute of limitations and that 26 of the 63 individual contributors had denied the allegations.

"In light of the specificity of the denials, along with the statute of limitations circumstances, we do not recommend that the Commission expend further resources on this matter, even if the Complaints' fraudulent concealment theory were accepted," Stevenson wrote. "Accordingly, we recommend that the Commission dismiss these allegations as a matter of prosecutorial discretion."

In a statement Thursday, DeJoy praised the FEC's decision.

"I am pleased that this matter has been vetted and resolved by the Federal Election Commission," DeJoy said. "I remain fully focused on the mission at hand: restoring financial sustainability and service excellence to the United States Postal Service."

The FBI is investigating DeJoy in connection with the campaign fundraising activity. A Department of Justice spokesperson declined to comment Thursday.

Earlier this year, FBI agents interviewed current and former employees of DeJoy and the business, asking questions about political contributions and company activities, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Prosecutors also issued a subpoena to DeJoy himself for information, one of the people said.

The two watchdog groups that filed the FEC complaints against DeJoy said they were disappointed with the outcome.

Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, noted that the FEC declined to open a civil investigation even though there was enough evidence for the FBI to open a criminal investigation and subpoena DeJoy.

"In fact, the FEC couldn't even muster 4 votes to ask the DOJ about the status of any straw donor criminal probe," Fischer said in a statement. "This is yet another example of how the FEC's failure to enforce the law has allowed wealthy special interests to rig the system in their favor."

Jordan Libowitz, communications director for CREW, said in an interview that his group is "obviously disappointed that the FEC chose to dismiss our complaint."

"Our legal team is currently reviewing the general counsel's report that seems to be based on affidavits that contradict The Post's reporting," Libowitz said. "Given the information that we had, we felt it was right to file the complaint."

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The Washington Post's Aaron C. Davis and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.