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Postal Union Gave Millions to Democrats in U.S. House, Senate

Washington — All but five of Congress’s 255 Democrats and independents received campaign donations from postal worker union groups in the past six years, raising the political risk of Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s move to end Saturday mail delivery.

Political action committees for the seven postal unions contributed $9.6 million from 2007 to 2012 to current members of Congress, 91 percent of it to Democrats and two independents who caucus with them, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.

Democrats control the U.S. Senate, which must agree to most of the changes Donahoe says are needed to save the Postal Service from insolvency. Many of his proposals are intended to reduce labor costs accounting for 80 percent of the service’s expenses. That puts Donahoe in conflict with post office unions, which would lose most of the estimated 22,500 jobs that would be cut if Saturday delivery ends, and have spent years making friends on Capitol Hill.

“That’s why it’s been so hard to come up with a plan for the Postal Service,” said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based watchdog group. “The obvious thing you want to do is cut back on the number of employees, cut back on services, cut back on benefits. That’s something Democrats haven’t wanted to do in part because of the support they’ve gotten from the unions.”

Donahoe is trying to cut $20 billion a year in costs after the Postal Service, in the face of declining mail volume due in part to e-mail and online commerce, lost $15.9 billion last fiscal year and an additional $1.3 billion in the quarter that ended Dec. 31.

The postmaster general Wednesday stood by his position that ending Saturday mail delivery in August is legal, even though appropriations bills for three decades have required six-day mail, with the government operating under temporary funding.

Senate Democrats including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada insist they, not Donahoe, get to decide on ending Saturday delivery. The Senate passed a measure last year that gave Donahoe some of what he wanted, while blocking him from ending Saturday mail delivery for at least two years. The House didn’t vote on that measure or its own plan.

Every elected member of the Senate Democratic caucus has received contributions from postal union political committees, the records show. Of the 55 Senate Democrats, only Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Mo Cowan of Massachusetts, who were appointed, haven’t received donations from at least one postal union PAC. By comparison, 19 of the Senate’s 45 Republican got postal contributions.

In the House, 197 out of 200 Democrats received postal union PAC donations, compared with 72 of the 232 Republicans.