With the media fawning over allegations of Russian influence and hacking of the presidential election, it seems there is no limit to the appetite for tales of intrigue. But this tale is not about foreign agents or a rogue government.
Instead, the culprits are much closer to home: the U.S. Postal Service.
While their actions weren't as nefarious as hacking voting machines, changing voter registration files, or throwing away campaign literature intended for voters, their alleged illegal activities are no less disturbing. And they are part of a larger pattern of unionized government employees working to grow the very programs that benefit their unions.
The Washington Post recently reported that the "Postal Service broke law in pushing time off for workers to campaign for Clinton." The law in question is the Hatch Act, which limits federal employee participation in certain types of political activities.
An internal investigation was launched after several USPS employees approached their union representatives to complain.
But the broader scandal isn't just that government employees were in the tank for the Democratic candidate or even that employees possibly violated the Hatch Act (or that the USPS lost $2.1 billion in one quarter). It's that government unions have for years been incentivizing their workers to spend time pushing their political agenda rather than serving their customers. Campaigning for a candidate who wants to grow government is just a more egregious form of that all-too-common practice.
Unions such as the the American Federation of Government Employees, the AFSCME, and the American Federation of Teachers contribute millions to liberal groups, which then turn around and advocate higher taxes and spending that directly benefit those unions.
The potential for corruption in such a system is obvious. Even President Franklin Roosevelt, the great champion of bigger government, agreed. "All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service," he wrote in 1937.
It should shock no one when organizations that owe their existence to big government do whatever they can to perpetuate it.
In the Clinton campaign case, the Postal Service relieved union members of their postal duties for weeks at a time and encouraged employees to do union-funded work for various Democratic candidates while on leave, even in the face of local post office managers' complaints of understaffing. Door-to-door efforts and phone banks were used to promote Clinton's campaign; while the workers requested leave without pay, they were compensated through the union's political action committee.
These were not just a few rogue postal workers. The National Association of Letter Carriers allegedly sent a list of individuals who would be participating in the campaign to USPS headquarters. Later, a senior labor relations official forwarded the information to other locations across the country.
When faced with these accusations, Postmaster General Megan Brennan said "senior postal leadership did not in any way guide union leadership in selecting the candidates for whom NALC employees could campaign."
But it's no surprise that the NALC lists were interpreted as explicit directives from the top that participants were to be given leave without pay so they could work on campaigns. Investigators said the practice of giving union employees leave to participate in campaign activity was "long-standing" and has been going on for about two decades.
That's not what unions are for. Unionized government employees should have the right to decide if they want their dues to be spent on political activity. And those unions should work to represent their members, not elect political candidates or grow the size of government.
Eric Peterson (@IllinoisEric89) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity. Megan McKinley is an intern at Americans for Prosperity and a student at Oklahoma Christian University.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.