The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

USPS: Carrying Water (Not Mail) for Secretary Clinton

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On July 19, 2017, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs (HSGAC) held a hearing titled, “The Postal Service’s Actions During the 2016 Campaign Season:  Implications for the Hatch Act.”  During testimony from both the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), it was revealed that the USPS violated federal law, the Hatch Act, during the 2016 campaign cycle.

The Hatch Act, which was enacted in 1939, is a federal law that prohibits employees in the executive branch from engaging in some forms of political activity that may advance an employee based on political affiliation, rather than merit.  Employees are barred from soliciting political contributions at any time or express opinions on issues or candidates while on duty or in the workplace (including on social media).  

Upon investigation of potential Hatch Act violations, the OIG found that, from September through November 2016, 97 mail carriers took leave without pay to participate in political campaigns ranging from four to 50 days, totaling 2,700 days off.  Those who took time off were associated with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), which endorsed former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for the presidency.

The OIG found that the leave without pay negatively affected the operations of local offices through increased overtime and delayed delivery of mail; in some cases, remaining carriers were required to work on their normal days off.  According to the OIG, the campaign activity resulted in $90,000 in overtime costs at 22 facilities.  In its testimony, the OSC concluded that “the USPS practice of facilitating and directing 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 OIG faulted USPS for failing to properly manage its personnel, while the OSC determined that the USPS “engaged in systemic violations” of the Hatch Act.  These conclusions are only symptoms of greater problems at USPS.  USPS has worked hard for its reputation of poorly managing Americans’ mail, ineffectively using its funds, and limiting the transparency of its operations (most recently, a postal rate increase and new vehicles).  Instead of worrying about upsetting a union, USPS should refocus its efforts on effectively carrying out its core mission:  Carrying the mail, not carrying water for its political cronies.

 

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