This story was written by David Sirota and Matthew Cunningham-Cook.
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.
The Trump administration is facing allegations that it is deliberately sabotaging the United States Postal Service to try to prevent an expansion of vote by mail and swing the 2020 election, after the president this week said he would block emergency funding for the agency. News reports also revealed that the postal service has begun removing mail sorting machines, prompting Democratic lawmakers to launch an investigation into the politicization of the agency and request an inspector general probe as well.
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.
In 2018 federal disclosure filings during his confirmation, Duncan listed himself as the current chairman of the Senate Leadership Fund -- a $100 million Senate-focused Republican super PAC whose 2020 electoral goals could hinge on vote-by-mail systems during the coronavirus pandemic. Duncan was listed as a director of the Senate Leadership Fund in an annual report the super PAC filed in Virginia in August 2019. CNN reported in January 2020 that the Republican effort to retain the Senate includes “McConnell's super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, which is helmed by Mike Duncan, the former RNC chairman and a Kentuckian.”
“Outside of government service, he served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2007 to 2009,” Duncan’s official USPS biography notes. “As RNC Chairman, he raised an unprecedented $428 million and grew the donor base to 1.8 million -- more donors than at any time in RNC history.”
The biography also says “Duncan was also President and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity,” which represents the coal industry that Trump has sought to bolster.
As Jesse Lehrich of the advocacy group Accountable Tech pointed out, Duncan has also served on the board of American Crossroads, a super PAC with ties to the Senate Leadership Fund that has spent nearly $1.9 million this year to boost Trump’s re-election campaign.
Duncan posted a photo of himself with Donald Trump, Jr. in the fall of 2018.
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The USPS website says the board “directs the exercise of the powers of the Postal Service, directs and controls its expenditures, reviews its practices, conducts long-range planning, approves officer compensation and sets policies on all postal matters.”
During his 2018 confirmation, Duncan issued a statement declaring: “I consider the Postal Service a public trust as every American citizen enjoys universal service. Referenced in the Constitution, the organization has served to bind America together for over two hundred years. The Postal Service is in daily contact with virtually every business and citizen. The local postal employees are the primary contact of most Americans with the federal government.”
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Duncan has myriad links to companies with a direct interest in the postal service policy he oversees.
For instance, Duncan’s 2018 Senate disclosure documents said he was currently on the executive committee of the Republican Party of Kentucky and serves as chairman of the party’s Budget Committee, since 1992 and 1996, respectively.
Package delivery company United Parcel Service’s political action committee contributed $53,000 to McConnell and the Republican Party of Kentucky since 2003. FedEx Chairman Fred Smith and his wife have contributed $56,000 to McConnell and the state Republican Party, including $30,000 since Duncan’s confirmation in late 2019.
In his statement to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Duncan wrote that he had been “advised that it is the Postal Service's position that an appearance of impropriety may be created by my holding any financial interests in its competitors,” including Amazon. As a result, Duncan pledged to divest his Amazon holdings, which he said he had acquired through a “profit sharing plan.”
Andrew Perez and Walker Bragman contributed to this story. This story has been updated to include mention of Duncan’s role with American Crossroads.
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