Investigators say federal agency demonstrated ‘institutional bias’ in favor of Democratic nominee
By Kathryn Blackhurst; LifeZette:
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel concluded that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) violated the Hatch Act by allowing its employees to receive union-funded compensation for leave to promote 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Fox News reported Wednesday.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) report revealed the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) exhibited an “institutional bias” in favor of Clinton’s campaign by allowing approximately 97 of its employees who were members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) union to request leave without pay to campaign for Clinton and Democrats in other races.
The NALC compensated the 97 USPS employees for their time spent off the job promoting Clinton’s candidacy by pulling funds from the NALC’s PAC, Letter Carrier Political Fund. The NALC officially endorsed Clinton in her campaign against President Donald Trump, and gave its nod to other Democrats as well.
“OSC concluded that USPS management took official actions to enable NALC’s political activity,” the report read. “These efforts constitute a systemic violation of the Hatch Act. Specifically, USPS’s practice of facilitating carrier releases for the union’s political activity resulted in an institutional bias in favor of NALC’s endorsed political candidates, which the Hatch Act prohibits.”
The Hatch Act of 1939, also known as An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, restricts federal employees’ political campaign activities. Although the OSC opted not to seek “individual disciplinary action in this case, its report added that “agency-wide corrective action is necessary.”
In addition, the USPS spent $90,000 on overtime pay for the 97 employees who campaigned for the Democratic candidates in 2016, according to government executive correspondent Eric Katz, as The Washington Times reported.
“The USPS must be held accountable so violations like this never happen again,” Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel tweeted Wednesday.
The USPS must be held accountable so violations like this never happen again. https://t.co/494jrL84Lw
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) July 19, 2017
A whistle-blowing Milwaukee USPS employee testified before the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee Wednesday about the parts USPS and NALC played in compensating the campaigning employees.
The whistleblower, Timm Kopp, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he became aware of the situation when his office faced concerns that they would be short-staffed when one employee announced his intention to campaign with the union’s blessing for five weeks. Although Kopp believed the request would be denied, he told the paper that “people higher up the chain” instructed him to allow the employees to take the five weeks of leave.
“I was told that this was how it’s always been done and we are trying to get people in office who will help the Postal Service get favorable legislation passed,” Kopp said in his written testimony.
Kopp told the Journal Sentinel that he “didn’t expect it to get to this point.”
“All I wanted was an explanation on a few things,” Kopp said. “This needs to be fixed and needs to be taken care of so the Post Office does not look biased.”
OSC Acting Special Counsel Adam Miles previously testified during the OSC probe that the USPS’s and NALC’s joint actions have been “long-standing, going back many election cycles, and perhaps started in the 1990s,” according to Fox News.
“As a federal entity, the USPS must remain politically neutral,” Miles said. “In many localities, the Postal Service is a citizen’s primary point of contact with the federal government, reinforcing the need for strict adherence to the letter and the spirit of the Hatch Act.”
The OSC’s report found that approximately 82 percent of the USPS employees’ campaign efforts targeted tight races in key battleground states, including Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In addition, USPS officials at multiple levels were involved in the improper campaigning efforts.
“We will change our practice in consultation with the OSC and based upon OSC’s guidance. This will ensure that we do not put our people in harm’s way and they do not unintentionally run afoul of the Hatch Act,” USPS Postmaster General Megan Brennan said during her testimony, Fox News reported. “As we have previously communicated to both this committee and to the OSC, and as the OSC has acknowledged, the Postal Service has always been ready, willing and able to end or modify our practice as appropriate, consistent with OSC’s recommendation.”
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