Over the past several days a number of people have begun to ask how, exactly, it was possible that the US Postal Service’s bipartisan Board of Governors could be stacked full of partisan appointees that Senator McConnell recommended to the President and then approved once the President nominated them. Such as one of Senator McConnell’s long time catspaws, who now chairs that board, and appointed Republican fundraiser Louis DeJoy Postmaster General. Appointees whose intention is to destroy the US Postal Service, which is a long standing Republican and conservative goal.
I don't think this insane conflict of interest has been reported…
Robert M. Duncan, Chairman of @USPS Board of Governors, was listed as Director of American Crossroads in paperwork filed 3/19/2020 –– a PAC that's spent $1.9 million to re-elect Trump.https://t.co/4Gg5KOHj0v pic.twitter.com/ZQouocHdom
— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) August 15, 2020
4/30/20 – Vice Chair of @USPS Board of Governors resigns due to political pressure.
5/6/20 – Duncan announces Trump megadonor Louis Dejoy as next Postmaster General
5/11/20 – Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, in charge of mail-in voting, is forced out. pic.twitter.com/OySpSmvpSx
— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) August 15, 2020
Former Bernie Sanders for president 2020 senior campaign official David Sirota expressed his concerns about this yesterday as well:
In the months before the 2020 election, Donald Trump and Washington lawmakers put the postal service under the control of a former Republican National Committee chairman who has also led the Senate GOP’s major super PAC, according to federal and state documents reviewed by TMI.
In the lead up to those developments, Trump nominee Mike Duncan was appointed to the USPS’s board of governors in 2018, and he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in December 2019 to a full seven-year term. Duncan currently chairs the board.
There’s a simple explanation for how this happened because we have a historical record of how and why these nomination were not filled during the Obama administration. One man, a single US senator, was concerned during the Obama administration that President Obama’s appointees to the US Postal Service’s Board of Governors would cut services and take actions that hurt postal workers. That one man, that one US senator placed a hold on the nominations, nominations which would have left no vacancies on the board for Senator McConnell to manipulate to partisan advantage like he has every other vacancy that he was able to find a way to keep President Obama from filling, to create leverage to ensure that services would not be cut and postal workers not hurt by the actions of the US Postal Service’s Board of Governors. That man, that US senator has a name: Bernie Sanders. (emphasis mine)
And then, there were none.
Not a single member remains of the Postal Board of Governors. The board, which is supposed to have 11 members – nine appointed by the president and approved by Congress, as well as the Postmaster General and Deputy Postmaster General – lost its final outside member, James Bilbray, when his term expired at midnight on Dec. 8.
The governors, who advise the Postal Service on management, approve price changes and can fire the Postmaster General, serve staggered 9-year terms, so one member’s term expires each year on Dec. 8. If no replacement is approved, the law permits a governor to serve for an additional year. The board must have six members to achieve quorum.
President Obama has nominated five people to serve on the board – three Democrats and two Republicans. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Postal Service, has approved all five. But the full Senate has not taken up the matter because a senator – believed to be Bernie Sanders – has placed a hold on their nominations.
Sanders is said to have placed the holds at the request of postal unions, who particularly object to former Postal Board Chairmen Mickey Cochrane and James C. Miller.
Senator Sanders appears to have been acting with the best of intentions. He was leveraging the power he has as a senator to try to extract the assurances and promises that would ensure that postal services would not be cut and actions would bot be taken to harm postal workers. The problem, of course, is that Senator Sanders made two strategic miscalculations. The first is that President Obama would be succeeded in office by another Democratic president, maybe even by Sanders himself, so it wasn’t a really big deal if the nominees to fill the US Postal Service’s Board of Governors got held up a couple of more months until a new administration came into office in January 2017. The second was failing to notice a pattern of behavior, rooted in a long term strategy, by Senator McConnell. The United States government has a lot of independent or semi-independent boards of governors or directors or commissioners. These boards and commissions, such as the Federal Election Commission (FEC), are considered to be bipartisan. Either the president makes nominations with inputs from the majority and minority leaders of both parties in Congress or the positions are filled by nominations made by the president as well as nominations made by the majority and minority leaders of each party in the Senate. Senator McConnell does not like a lot of these boards and commissions, especially when they have oversight, investigatory, regulatory, and/or enforcement powers over whatever it is that Senator McConnell is trying to achieve. The Federal Election Commission is one of these, the US Postal Service’s Board of Governors is another.
In the case of the former, Senator McConnell appointed his long time catspaw, white shoe Republican law firm partner Don McGahn, to serve on the Federal Election Commission. McGahn’s job – not the official one he was supposed to do as an FEC commissioner, but the one that McConnell actually sent him there to do – was to blow up the FEC and make it impossible to function. McGahn, leading McConnell’s other appointees and working with and through them, accomplished this assignment and the FEC has been somewhere between dysfunctional and non-functional ever since. McGahn did not wind up as the President’s 2016 campaign counsel and then White House Counsel by accident, he was placed there by Senator McConnell based on his successes doing McConnell’s bidding in previous assignments, such as his service on the FEC. McGahn never really worked for the President – not his campaign, not his administration – because he works for McConnell. McGahn’s insertion into the President’s 2016 campaign and then the White House was McConnell’s way of exerting power within both and ensuring that McConnell’s objectives would be achieved. Unlike Speaker Ryan, Senator McConnell was, and still is, actually effective at utilizing the official power he has and the unofficial powers he’s accumulated by manipulating the Senate’s and the US government’s rules and norms. It is why Senator McConnell is the Senate Majority leader and achieving his strategic objectives and goals and Paul Ryan is out of the game after being a spectacular failure as the Speaker of the House, though raking in a lot of money on NewsCorp’s board.
Senator Sanders made two strategic miscalculations. The first was incorrectly assuming how the future would play out, the second was not realizing that the reason that Senator McConnell, as the Senate Majority Leader, was actually recognizing and allowing Senator Sanders’ holds on President Obama’s nominees to the US Postal Service’s Board of Governors because those holds suited McConell’s objectives, not Sanders’. Senator Sanders placed the holds on these nominations at a time when Senator McConnell was refusing to recognize holds and blue slip responses on nominees by Democratic senators. The fact that McConnell was willing to recognize the holds that Sanders had placed, should have clued Senator Sanders into the fact that something strange was going on. Apparently this recognition by Senator Sanders or his senior staff did not happen. To the point that the holds were STILL NOT LIFTED even after the President managed to eke out a narrow Electoral College victory to succeed President Obama in office. The date on the article I quoted from above is from 20 December 2016. That last member of the US Postal Service’s Board of Governors term ended by statute on 8 December 2016. Given that the reality of who would be president come 20 January 2017 was very clear by December of 2016, the holds should have been dropped at that point, which would have been strategically smart as it would have prevented the incoming president, guided by Senator McConnell’s recommendations, from filling a majority of the open seats on the US Postal Service Board of Governors. We do not have to conduct a mental exercise and create a counterfactual, we know just how bad the President’s appointments to the US Postal Service’s Board of Governors are and just how damaging they are to both the US Postal Service – a long standing Republican and conservative goal – and to actual Americans. And this all could have been prevented if one man was a better strategist. had better senior advisors and staffers, and was better at his job.