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Watchdog group asks Wake DA to investigate political contributions by former employees of Louis DeJoy

[1]
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

Large sums went to McCrory, Tillis campaigns

There has been renewed scrutiny of U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, as watchdog groups have identified irregularities in political contributions to former Gov. Pat McCrory and Sen. Thom Tillis. The contributions preceded DeJoy’s appointment as the head of the Postal Service, and involved his employees whom he allegedly reimbursed during his time leading his logistics business New Breed. 

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is reviewing findings submitted [2] by Common Cause NC, which show inconsistent giving patterns to a few Republican candidates, including  McCrory and Tillis, based on campaign finance records.

“Louis DeJoy, his family and 60 of his employees donat[ed] $300,000 to Pat McCrory’s campaigns, mostly in clusters of large donations, while those employees gave under $8,000 to other NC candidates or committees during 30 years,” the letter to Freeman stated.

The letter cites a Washington Post [3] report, which stated that former New Breed employees told the paper that DeJoy urged them to make campaign contributions at fundraisers DeJoy hosted for GOP candidates. DeJoy allegedly later reimbursed the employees who had made the contributions with bonuses. 

Federal and state laws both prohibit employers from reimbursing employees for political donations — a tactic called “straw donor” contributions — to bypass donation limits for individuals, currently $5,600 per year for state races in North Carolina. 

“Mr. DeJoy has always been scrupulous in his adherence to the campaign contribution laws and has never knowingly violated them,” DeJoy’s personal spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement. He did not answer questions about DeJoy’s knowledge of campaign finance laws.

Freeman announced in April that her office would not open an investigation, but Common Cause NC is again petitioning her to look into the case, following a possible federal probe. “It has been our position that this is a matter most appropriately pursued by a federal investigation, and if appropriate, prosecution,” Freeman said in an email earlier this week and declined to comment further.

Freeman’s office previously said a review of the state campaign finance records does not warrant its investigation. 

Both the FBI and state board declined to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. 

An individual making unlawful contributions exceeding $10,000 is guilty of a Class I Felony, which carries a penalty of up to two years of imprisonment.

[4]
Watchdog Bob Hall

DeJoy founded the logistics company New Breed in New Jersey and moved the business to Greensboro in 1997. He sold it for $615 million to XPO logistics in 2014. 

Bob Hall, former executive director of Democracy NC, dug into the state’s campaign finance records after the straw donor allegations first emerged. In a letter he submitted to Common Cause last month, he noted that 54 New Breed employees donated more than $143,130 to Pat McCrory’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign, though only eight of them had previously made contributions greater than the disclosure threshold [5] of $50, according to campaign finance records.

Hall said the Wake County DA’s office’s initial review was incomplete without interviewing New Breed employees. He argued, some of the campaign activities seem highly suspicious to him.

“It was a pattern that was similar to the patterns used by other top executives to use company money or family, their own money channeled through family members and employees who have been convicted by district attorneys of criminal wrongdoing,” Hall said.

DeJoy, his wife, Aldona Wos, and two of his family members gave $90,617 to the McCrory campaign, Hall said in his letter. Wos previously served in the McCrory administration; he appointed her as the Secretary of Health and Human Services in 2013. 

At the time of the XPO purchase, New Breed had 596 employees in the Triad, the Triad Business Journal reported [6].

Most of the individuals working at New Breed who reported making contributions to statewide races since 1994 were mid- to senior- level employees. Few of them gave to other candidates in other election cycles, showing interest in only a few Republican candidates, especially Pat McCrory’s two gubernatorial races in 2012 and 2016. 

Most of these donations were made on several key dates, which likely indicate fundraisers.

[7]
Watchdog groups have identified irregularities in political contributions to former Gov. Pat McCrory and Sen. Thom Tillis.

XPO spokesperson Joe Checkler said DeJoy served as the chief of its North America supply chain business division in 2015 and on the board from 2015 to 2018. Some of the employees who donated to McCrory and Tillis still work there. 

XPO said in a statement: “As a company, XPO stays out of politics. Our employees are free to support candidates of their choosing in their free time. Whenever our employees support political candidates, we expect them to strictly follow all laws.”

Hall’s review shows more than 10 New Breed donors were from other states, many of whom gave thousands of dollars to McCrory’s campaign and Tillis’ joint fundraising committee.. However, they contributed much less or close to none to candidates in their home states, data from the Public Accountability Project show. 

The Wake County District Attorney’s office and the state Board of Elections both have the authority to subpoena financial records and witnesses to examine whether DeJoy paid his employees back.

Several donors currently and previously associated with New Breed were contacted by Policy Watch, but could not be reached for comment.