By Angela Greiling Keane and Jonathan D. Salant
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.