The FBI is investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in connection with campaign fundraising activity involving his former business, according to people familiar with the matter and a spokesman for DeJoy.
That person, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing and politically sensitive investigation.
Mark Corallo, a DeJoy spokesman, confirmed the investigation in a statement but insisted DeJoy had not knowingly violated any laws.
“Mr. DeJoy has learned that the Department of Justice is investigating campaign contributions made by employees who worked for him when he was in the private sector,” Corallo said. “He has always been scrupulous in his adherence to the campaign contribution laws and has never knowingly violated them.”
The inquiries could signal impending legal peril for the controversial head of the nation’s mail service — though DeJoy has not been charged with any crimes and has previously asserted that he and his company followed the law in their campaign fundraising activity.
Spokesmen for the FBI, Justice Department and Postal Service declined to comment.
DeJoy — who was appointed to run the Postal Service by its board of governors last May — has been dogged by controversy for almost his entire time in office. Soon after starting in the job, he imposed cost-cutting moves that led to a reduction in overtime and limits on mail trips that mail carriers blamed for creating backlogs across the country.
Democrats accused the prominent GOP fundraiser, who personally gave more than $1.1 million to the joint fundraising vehicle of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican Party, of trying to undermine his own organization because of Trump’s distrust of mail-in voting. Two Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), sent a letter to the FBI asking agents to investigate whether DeJoy or the Postal Service’s governing board “committed any crimes” in stalling mail.
In a congressional hearing last year, DeJoy disputed he was trying to affect the vote.
“I am not engaged in sabotaging the election,” DeJoy said at the time. “We will do everything in our power and structure to deliver the ballots on time.”
In early September, The Washington Post published an extensive examination of how employees at DeJoy’s former company, North Carolina-based New Breed Logistics, alleged they were pressured by DeJoy or his aides to attend political fundraisers or make contributions to Republican candidates, and then were paid back through bonuses.
Such reimbursements could run afoul of state or federal laws, which prohibit “straw-donor” schemes meant to allow wealthy donors to evade individual contribution limits and obscure the source of a candidate’s money. In April, though, Wake County, N.C., District Attorney Lorrin Freeman (D) said that she would not pursue an investigation of DeJoy and that the matter was better left to federal authorities.
In a text to The Post on Thursday, she said: “Our review of state finance campaign reports did not provide sufficient indications of a pattern of improper contributions to open a state criminal investigation. Allegations of illegal political contributions to federal candidates are not within our jurisdiction and are appropriately reviewed by federal authorities if the evidence so warrants.”
DeJoy has adamantly disputed that he broke the law. Asked at a hearing in August by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) if he had repaid executives for making donations to the Trump campaign, DeJoy responded: “That’s an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it. . . . The answer is no.”
When The Post later published its report, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which she chairs, would begin an inquiry and asserted DeJoy may have lied to the panel under oath.
Corallo noted in his statement about the FBI investigation that DeJoy “fully cooperated with and answered the questions posed by Congress regarding these matters.”
“The same is true of the Postal Service Inspector General’s inquiry which after a thorough investigation gave Mr. DeJoy a clean bill of health on his disclosure and divestment issues,” Corallo said. “He expects nothing less in this latest matter and he intends to work with DOJ toward swiftly resolving it.”
Asked Thursday about the development and whether President Biden believed DeJoy should step down, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would “leave the investigation and the process . . . to the Department of Justice.”
Last year, five people who worked for New Breed Logistics told The Post that they were urged by DeJoy’s aides or by DeJoy himself to write checks and attend fundraisers at his mansion. Two employees said DeJoy would then instruct that bonus payments be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions.
A Post analysis of federal and state campaign finance records found a pattern of extensive donations by New Breed employees to Republican candidates, with the same amount often given by multiple people on the same day. Between 2000 and 2014, 124 individuals who worked for the company together gave more than $1 million to federal and state GOP candidates. Many had not previously made political donations, according to The Post’s analysis.
“He would ask employees to make contributions at the same time that he would say, ‘I’ll get it back to you down the road,’ ” one former employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution from DeJoy, told The Post last year.
At the time of The Post’s report Monty Hagler, a DeJoy spokesman, said DeJoy was not aware that any employees had felt pressured to make donations and “believes that he has always followed campaign fundraising laws and regulations.” Hagler said DeJoy “sought and received legal advice” from a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission “to ensure that he, New Breed Logistics and any person affiliated with New Breed fully complied with any and all laws.”
The federal law banning straw-donor schemes has a five-year statute of limitations, which could complicate a possible criminal case. The former employees who spoke to The Post last year described donations they gave between 2003 and 2014, the year when New Breed was acquired by a Connecticut-based company called XPO Logistics.
DeJoy remained at XPO briefly in an executive role and retired at the end of 2015 — though he was then appointed to the company’s board of directors, where he served until 2018.
In the wake of The Post’s report, the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy organization, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that suspicious donation activity continued after New Breed’s acquisition. A Federal Election Commission spokesman confirmed the commission had received the complaint but declined to comment further.
Between 2015 and 2018, the group alleged, campaign finance records showed that “several instances of XPO employees contributing to the same candidate or committee, during the same period of time, and often in similar amounts,” and that “DeJoy family members, including DeJoy’s college-aged children, also made contributions on the same day or in the same period as those employees.”
“Between 2015 and 2018, XPO Logistics employees and DeJoy family members following this pattern together gave over $150,000 to the same candidates and committees, including over $50,000 to Trump Victory, President Donald Trump’s joint fundraising committee,” the group alleged.
Brendan Fischer, the group’s director of federal reform, said even if DeJoy was only an XPO board member, “it seemed apparent that the pattern of contributions from XPO employees was a product of DeJoy’s involvement with the company.”
The company insisted that it tries to avoid politics and that employees are expected to follow the law in their individual giving.
“As a company, XPO stays out of politics,” said Joe Checkler, an XPO spokesman. “Our employees have the same right as anyone to support candidates of their choosing in their free time. Whenever our employees support political candidates, they are expected to strictly follow all applicable laws.”
Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner and Jon Swaine contributed to this report.