Postmaster General Anthony M. Frank came to Washington, D.C., in 1988 with a mandate to run the United States Postal Service like a business.
That’s why the former California savings and loan executive was furious when he discovered that millions of postal dollars were being spent without his approval.
What angered Frank was that Congress viewed the Postal Service as a cash cow, syphoning off postal revenues to balance the federal budget.
John Nolan, a former deputy postmaster general, said: “The USPS has always been leery about going to Congress because you never know what twists and turns will take place to wind up putting you in a worse position than when you started.”
“There is so little understanding of the USPS and the Mailing Industry on the Hill and the actions from the Hill usually reflect that lack of understanding,” he said.
Lawmakers and presidents alike seem to have a habit of dipping into the postal till.
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it can be a doozy, knocking postal budgets into the red and undermining mail service.
Party doesn’t seem to matter. Democrats and Republicans alike have been unable to resist the lure of postal revenues.
Here are three examples of how lawmakers in Washington have raided the supposedly independent Postal Service.
In the late 1980s, Frank was so upset that lawmakers decided to tap the USPS for about $800 million that he launched a successful campaign to get the USPS taken “off the federal budget.” The postmaster general won that symbolic point, arguing that “we don’t use a penny of tax money.”
But the change in the Postal Service’s budgetary status to “off budget” didn’t change much in Washington.
If anything, Neal Denton, former executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, said the change actually might have made the USPS “an easy target” for money raiders.