A U.S. Postal Service board member, who reportedly played a key role in the selection of Louis DeJoy to lead the agency, called the Black Lives Matter movement violent and floated a conspiracy theory that it may be financially backed by foreign entities.
In June, John M. Barger, who serves on the Postal Service’s six-member Board of Governors, engaged in a back-and-forth on LinkedIn with a contact in Hong Kong. The exchange is publicly accessible on Barger’s profile on the platform. It began with that contact posting a photo of the strict public health measures in effect in Hong Kong due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When Barger’s contact offhandedly mentioned Black Lives Matter in the course of explaining the Chinese government’s aggressive posture toward Hong Kong, Barger teed off.
“Ummmm… BLM is a movement that is neither state sanctioned, nor about race these days,” responded Barger. “Further, its divisive violent core may be receiving ‘foreign funding.’”
There is no evidence that the Black Lives Matter movement, which includes an official foundation of the same name but also many decentralized, unofficial groups nationwide, is benefitting from any kind of organized funding effort orchestrated from abroad. In his post, Barger cited nothing specific. The Black Lives Matter Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, bills itself as a “global movement,” but accepts donations through the online fundraising platform ActBlue, which prohibits non-Americans from making contributions.
Barger did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast. But his comments could spark additional criticism that the USPS’ board of governors—already under scrutiny for DeJoy’s handling of postal reforms—is stacked with overtly-partisan conservative figures.
Barger’s theory about Black Lives Matter echoes some writings from conservative media, which hold that the movement is the beneficiary of shady foreign interests. Pro-Trump corners of the Internet are rife with theories that BLM is a front for a left-wing coup or revolution. More established Republicans have raised broader questions about who is funding the movement. This week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called for a federal investigation into that very question.
A recently-deleted Twitter account, accessed by The Daily Beast via web cache, that appears to have belonged to Barger contains endorsements of Black Lives Matter criticism. On June 30, the account shared a post from the right-wing personality Ian Miles Cheong, which purports to show a BLM supporter assaulting a Black man who was removing BLM signs. “Outrageous,” was Barger’s apparent comment in retweeting the post.
Barger, a Los Angeles-based financier, was nominated by President Donald Trump to serve on the USPS Board of Governors and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August 2019. He is an active GOP donor, having given over $70,000 to Republican candidates for office since 1989, according to federal campaign finance records. Barger has continued making campaign contributions since joining the USPS board, cutting a $10,000 check to the Republican National Committee in December.
An August 2020 investigation from House Democrats into the tenure of Postmaster General DeJoy, who took over the post in June, claimed Barger played a significant role in getting DeJoy in that post.
Barger was the USPS board member tasked with leading the search for a replacement for Megan Brennan, who held the Postmaster General position until October 2019. DeJoy, a fellow GOP mega-donor with no USPS experience, was not on an initial list of potential candidates provided to the board by an independent agency, Russell Reynolds Associates.
The Democratic probe found evidence that Barger got DeJoy’s resume in the mix. An August 20 letter to Barger from Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Katie Porter (D-CA) cited “individuals familiar with the process” in saying “DeJoy was never recommended by this firm but was rather introduced by you to the selection committee. It would have been irregular for a member of the USPS Board of Governors, such as yourself, to recommend Mr. DeJoy without the consultation, research, or support of the contracted hiring firm Russell Reynolds Associates.”
A former member of the USPS Board of Governors who briefed House Democrats on the selection process, David C. Williams, said he raised concerns about DeJoy to Barger. When Williams resigned in April, he cited concerns over the process in his letter.
Barger claimed to the New York Times that Williams had never expressed concern over the Board’s consideration of DeJoy, and that if he had heard Williams’ concerns, he would have taken them seriously. He also told the Los Angeles Times that it was the Board’s chairman, Robert M. Duncan, who had brought DeJoy to the selection committee’s attention.
Duncan, who appeared alongside DeJoy on August 24 in heated testimony before the House Oversight Committee, has himself come under fire for partisan ties. On August 31, Duncan, a former chairman and general counsel for the Republican National Committee, was listed on official filings as the director of the Senate Leadership Fund, the main super PAC that works to elect Republicans to the Senate. The native Kentuckian has a long history with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who reportedly recommended Duncan to Trump as a USPS board member before he was nominated in 2017.