USPS broke law by pushing leave for employees campaigning for Clinton, investigators say
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The United States Postal Service violated federal law by pressing local supervisors to approve time off for letter carriers who wanted to campaign for presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Overnight Tech: Equifax hit by earlier undisclosed hack | Facebook takes heat over Russian ads | Alt-right Twitter rival may lose domain MORE and other Democrats backed by their labor union, investigators told a Senate committee Wednesday.

During a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, officials from the Office of Special Counsel and the Postal Service inspector general's office said that high-level agency officials pressured local managers to release letter carriers for extended periods of time so they could participate in get-out-the-vote efforts for Clinton and other union-backed political candidates.

Those managers who tried to push back against the requests because of their effects on local operations were directed by Postal Service officials to grant the unpaid leave, William Siemer, the acting deputy inspector general for USPS, said in his opening statement to the committee.

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In all, according to Siemer, the USPS inspector general's office found that between September and November of last year, 97 letter carriers took unpaid leaves of absence for periods ranging from four to 50 days to campaign for union-backed candidates. 

Most of that time off — 82 percent — was spent in swing states like Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Siemer said.

All 97 employees belonged to the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), one of the largest unions representing Postal Service employees.

Some local supervisors said that granting leave to the letter carriers resulted in mail delivery delays and increased overtime, according to Siemer.

That high-level USPS officials directed local supervisors to provide time off so that letter carriers could campaign showed an "institutional bias in favor of NALC’s endorsed political candidates," Adam Miles, the acting director of the Office of Special Counsel, told lawmakers on the committee Wednesday.

He said that his office determined that political bias was in violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employers from engaging in certain political activities. 

While federal employers are allowed to campaign for candidates or donate to political campaigns in their time off, USPS officials showed favoritism toward candidates backed by NALC. 

"In many localities, the Postal Service is a citizen’s primary point of contact with the federal government, reinforcing the need for strict adherence to the letter and spirit of the Hatch Act," Miles said in his opening statement to the committee.