A report has accused the U.S. Postal Service of breaking the law by allowing letter carriers to take time off during the 2016 election campaign to support Hillary Clinton and other union-backed Democrats.
According to the investigation's findings, managers gave time off to employees, even if that meant leaving some offices severely short-staffed, the Washington Post reported.
Representatives from the Postal Service, including the Wisconsin letter carrier who brought the practice to the attention of lawmakers, testified at a Senate committee hearing.
"The culture and practice was, 'It's mandatory, it's the directive,'" acting special counsel at the Office of Special Counsel Adam Miles told senators.
While employees are allowed to campaign for political candidates during their time off, the OSC said that USPS showed an institutional bias toward Democratic candidates.
"USPS . . . facilitated [the union’s] political activity by directing local supervisors to approve union official [leave without pay] requests to participate in Labor 2016," the report noted.
Postal workers engaged in door-to-door campaigning, manned phone banks and were involved in other efforts.
97 members of the National Association of Letter Carriers, which endorsed Clinton in June 2016, requested unpaid leave to join the campaign. They were compensated for their work by the union's political action committee.
Local managers in some cases reportedly attempted to reject the requests for leave, but were overruled by senior managers.
"We concluded that the USPS practice of facilitating and directing carrier releases for the union's political activities resulted in an institutional bias in favor of NALC's endorsed political candidates, which the Hatch Act prohibits," Miles added in his testimony, according to Fox News.
"The evidence suggests that USPS engaged in this practice to engender good will with the unions," he added, according to the Post.
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin pushed for the matter to be investigated after receiving information from his constituents.
Postmaster General Megan Brennan stated that USPS had no role in selecting the candidates the union would campaign for. She added that the NALC does not speak on behalf of USPS, and USPS does not represent the union.
"To be labeled as having an institutional bias is pretty damning," Brennan added. "I will communicate that this is heard throughout this organization."
USPS has engaged in the practice for around 20 years.
Republicans reacted strongly to the revelation.
"When supervisors get the message 'You have to let these people off,' that's a pretty clear political operation, quite frankly," Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma stated.