According to a watchdog group citing a disclosure to Congress, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) admitted to breaking ethics laws and likely committed mortgage fraud.
The American Accountability Foundation (AAF) says it found that as a congressional aide, Tracy Stone-Manning “took a possibly unethical loan from a Montana developer and political donor” named Stuart Goldberg. The group alleged her testimony at a recent hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Resources revealed “problematic” financial dealings.
More details from the AAF:
In her questions for the record to the U.S. Senate, Stone-Manning describes that in 2008, Mr. Goldberg, who was a close friend of many years, lent her and her husband’s company $100,000 because of financial troubles. As the economy worsened and crashed, Stone-Manning’s business ultimately failed, leaving the outstanding loan from Goldberg unpaid. Rather than pay back in full, Stone-Manning and her husband paid Goldberg $40,000 from the sale of their home and came to a verbal agreement that the remaining $60,000 would be converted to a personal loan, where Stone-Manning would pay Goldberg annual interest until she was able to pay off the principle of the loan.
The AAF describes itself as “a charitable and educational organization that conducts non-partisan governmental oversight research and fact-checking so Americans can hold their elected leaders accountable.” It claims Stone-Manning’s “incriminating statement” proves she “deliberately violated” policies about accepting gifts when she worked for Democratic Senator Jon Tester (MT) from 2007-2012.
“The Senate Gift Rule states that no member of the Senate shall knowingly accept a gift, meaning any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality. loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value,” an AAF statement said.
Stone-Manning took out three different mortgages since Goldberg provided her with a personal loan, according to the group.
AAF determined Stone-Manning “also likely committed mortgage fraud by failing to provide banks with all of the required information,” pointing out that federal loan applications require disclosure of personal loans.
Stone-Manning testified that she did not recall the specifics on those loan applications.
AAF called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation “to reopen Stone-Manning’s background investigation and subpoena each of her mortgage applications to ensure that a senior federal official has not violated federal law.”
On Wednesday, a retired federal investigator claimed Stone-Manning had exhibited “extremely anti-government” behavior during a 1989 probe involving allegations of an eco-terrorism sabotage tactic known as “tree-spiking.”
According to Politico, tree-spiking has been “advocated by some fringe environmental groups in which metal or other material is inserted into trees set for logging.” The foreign objects can endanger lumber mill workers by jamming high-speed saws.
Stone-Manning has repeatedly distanced herself from the tree-spiking, which she was connected to indirectly when she was a graduate student involved with the environmental group Earth First. But the political heat surrounding her nomination is likely to grow following a letter sent to the Senate Energy Committee by retired U.S. Forest Service criminal investigator Michael Merkley, who said Stone-Manning knew she was under criminal investigation at the time.
“She was aware that she was being investigated in 1989 and again in 1993 when she agreed to the immunity deal with the government to avoid criminal felony prosecution,” Merkley wrote in a letter obtained by the committee and shared with POLITICO.
When asked if she had ever been the target of an investigation, arrested or charged with a crime in her official Senate committee questionnaire from earlier this year, Stone-Manning had answered “no.” The designation of target is generally reserved for individuals for whom an investigation finds substantive evidence of their committing a crime.
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