One of the most visible symbols of government, USPS is experiencing substantial challenges
(Washington, DC) – The Functional Government Initiative released the first batch of documents today received in response to its investigation into the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) – one of the most visible aspects of the federal government in Americans’ daily life. This is part of a series of inquiries into how our government is meeting its legal obligations, serving the public’s interest, and minimizing the dysfunction that appears endemic to large bureaucracies. Other inquiries have focused on the changing norms of independent agencies and the other major organ of the government familiar to almost all Americans – the Internal Revenue Service.
While “checking the mail” has been one of the most ingrained relationships between the American public and the U.S. government, it is also one of the fastest deteriorating relationships. In pursuit of our investigation, FGI submitted multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to better understand how the Postal Service and its federal partners are handling competition from technology and the private sector, efforts to reduce contraband from exploiting the USPS delivery system, and the increasing burden of retiree health costs.
The first to reply with documents was the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which is responsible for transparency and oversight of USPS operations. While USPS’ handling of mail-in ballots has received substantial media attention, less so has been the increasingly cozy relationship between those responsible for overseeing the USPS and those who appear to be benefiting the most from its services – a coalition of package companies such as Amazon and eBay (known as the “Package Coalition”) that have relied on the Postal Service to reduce one of their largest operating costs. Unsurprisingly, records show extensive communications between lobbyists for the Package Coalition, PRC regulators, and staff on the congressional committees with oversight over postal issues.
Throughout the released records, the PRC’s regulatory staff appear to be deeply tied to the messaging and legislative interests of the so-called “Package Coalition.” Some of the communications reveal an unusual display of agency deliberations and frankness with a lobbyist representing an interested party. Taken together, the frequent behind-the-scenes communications raise concern about the objectivity and potential for arbitrary decision-making being undertaken at the PRC.
As additional documents become available on this and other aspects affecting USPS operations and potential taxpayer obligations, FGI will release the records and our unvarnished analysis.