There has been talk of the Biden administration reappointing Trump-appointee Donald “Lee” Moak to another one-year term. Given Moak’s tenure on the board and his outside ties, this would be a mistake. The Administration and Senate leadership should instead seek to fill Moak and William Zollars’ seats on the board with public servants who have the time, passion, and desire to act in the best interests of the Postal Service and its workers, to lead the institution towards innovation needed for a robust and sustainable future, and represent the postal workforce and the U.S. population (not the case with the current majority white, majority male board). Lee Moak does not fit that bill.
Lee Moak falls short of the high bar needed to save the United States Postal Service for three main reasons:
1. Support for Postmaster General (PMG) Louis DeJoy
Lee Moak has refused to hold DeJoy accountable for failed leadership strategies, despite wide bipartisan criticism of the PMG’s leadership and conflicts of interest when Trump appointed him in 2020.1 Early in 2021, when questioned about the board’s accountability relationship to DeJoy, Moak was described as displaying “unhinged” conduct towards a sitting member of Congress who leads a House oversight subcommittee.2 For a postal governor to preside over the systematic dismantling of the postal service and say nothing is the ultimate disqualification for continued service. Moak could have stood up for the post office’s workers and its customers at any point in his tenure, and he simply did not.
2. Lack of Clarity Around Moak’s Ties to Dirty Trump White House Ethics Lawyer
While Moak’s rubber stamping of DeJoy’s shrink and cut plan is plenty reason for the Biden Administration to not reappoint him, there are also crucial unanswered questions about his connection to a former Trump White House ethics lawyer.
In 2015, Moak founded a consulting firm, then known as The Moak Group, (now Intrepid) where he currently holds the position of CEO.3 Shortly after Moak’s appointment and confirmation to the USPS Board of Governors in 2020, CNBC broke a story detailing the ties between the GOP, Trump, and the new USPS board.4 The story reveals a 2017 ethics disclosure from former White House lawyer Stefan Passantino showing that he was paid over $5000 by the Moak Group for “legal services.”5 The nature of these services and the extent of Moak’s relationship with Passantino is unclear.
In the time since Moak’s confirmation to the USPS Board of Governors in June 2020, Passantino has gained notoriety for various ethically questionable actions during his time as White House counsel overseeing ethics and as a private attorney since his departure from the White House in August 2018. As Deputy White House Counsel in charge of ethics, he defended Kellyanne Conway’s promotion6 of Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, despite other ethics experts at the OIG assertions that it was clearly a violation.7 After his tenure at the White House, he shopped around the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop8 to reporters, and he is also one of the leaders of the “Lawyers for Trump” coalition that formed to challenge the 2020 election results.9 Additionally, fellow-Georgian and QAnon conspiracy theorist Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is the largest client of Passantino’s Election LLC consulting firm.10
The Biden Administration should not let unanswered questions about the ethical relationships of its political appointees hang in the balance, especially when they concern someone like Passantino with so many allegations of corruption and demonstrated hands-on assistance to those engaged in efforts to undermine our democracy.
3. Complete Lack of Postal Experience
When Moak was appointed by Donald Trump in June of 2020 he told HSGAC members “I am not a postal expert and I am still only at the beginning stages of understanding the Postal Service’s current challenges […].”11 In this confirmation hearing testimony he spoke more about his ability to solve complex problems through his experience in the aviation industry, military, and his affection for the post office operations as an institution, than any care for public service work or workers. While Moak is indeed an accomplished aviation professional and executive operations leader, hundreds of thousands of voters and over 80 organizations agree that the Postal Service needs more from their leadership.12
The unanswered questions around the nature of Moak’s connection to Passantino are concerning in their own right. When taken in conjunction with Moak’s tacit support for DeJoy’s tumultuous leadership, and own admittance to a lack of postal experience—why wouldn’t the Biden Administration and Senate committee leadership instead take their pick from experienced and committed experts ready and willing to serve the best interests of the postal workforce and the nation starting on day one?
The Save the Post Office Coalition came together in the summer of 2020 after Postmaster Louis DeJoy was appointed and began cutting service and slowing down the mail. The coalition’s membership includes over 300 organizations that range from national groups like Public Citizen, ACLU, NAACP, LCCHR, Indivisible, MoveOn, Color of Change, National Farmers Union, VoteVets, and RuralOrganizing.org, to state groups like Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Alaska PIRG, and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. Our asks of Congress and the Biden administration are here.