- The Washington Times - Friday, August 6, 2021

Senate Democrats have stood behind President Biden’s nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management despite her role in a tree-spiking plot, but Republicans say the six-figure loan she received as a government staffer from a wealthy Montana developer should also give them pause.

Sen. John Barrasso, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member, urged Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer to delay a confirmation vote to the key Interior Department post until lawmakers can determine if Ms. Stone-Manning broke Senate ethics rules by failing to flag the $100,000 loan.

“I urge you to withhold consideration of Ms. Stone-Manning‘s nomination on the floor until such a time when she provides further information regarding this loan,” Mr. Barrasso said in a Wednesday letter. “It is imperative that before we vote to confirm a nominee to a position of such consequence, we have all the facts available to us so that we can determine if, as it appears likely, she violated Senate Ethics rules or other laws.”

Ms. Stone-Manning, currently the senior adviser for conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation, has said that she paid off last year the loan at 6% interest from real estate developer and Democratic donor Stuart Goldberg, whom she called a personal friend, but Mr. Barrasso said she has provided no documentation of payments in response to requests from Senate Republicans.

He also said she appeared to violate Senate rules by failing to seek a waiver from the Senate Ethics Committee’s ban on gifts from personal friends exceeding $250, which includes loans, while working as regional director for Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, from 2007 to 2012.

“At best, Ms. Stone-Manning has done a poor job of record-keeping,” Mr. Barrasso said. “At worst, Ms. Stone-Manning profited from her senior position in government in which she was capable of influencing federal, state, and local policy.”

Sen. Joe Manchin III, who chairs the committee, defended Ms. Stone-Manning at the panel’s July 22 hearing on her nomination.

“[T]he friend who loaned her the money was not a lobbyist, and there is no evidence that he loaned her money because of her official position at the time or that he ever sought any favors or special consideration from her because of the loan,” said the West Virginia Democrat.

Mr. Schumer has yet to schedule a vote on Ms. Stone-Manning, whose nomination was discharged after the committee split July 22 on a 10-10 party-line vote, setting up a likely 50-50 confirmation vote that would require Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie in her favor.

In the meantime, Republicans continue to fan opposition to Ms. Stone-Manning. Last week, Rep. Bruce Westerman, Arkansas Republican, led 75 House Republicans in calling on Mr. Biden to withdraw her nomination, citing her “ties to eco-terrorism.”

At least nine rural counties in Utah have recently passed proclamations urging the Senate to reject the nominee. The American Loggers Council, which represents timber workers in 30 states, voted earlier this week unanimously to oppose her nomination.

Her involvement in the 1989 tree-spiking incident in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest has dominated the debate, but Republicans have also pressed her for answers about the loan from Mr. Goldberg aimed at helping her save her home-theater business during the 2008 recession.

While Ms. Stone-Manning said she did not view the loan as a gift, both “the Senate rules and federal law consider a loan to be a ‘gift’ with an exception for commercially available loans,” Forbes reported.

Also under scrutiny is whether she committed mortgage fraud by failing to disclose the loan, an issue raised by the ethics watchdog American Accountability Foundation, which said she took out three mortgages from between 2009 and 2017.

Mr. Barrasso said that she “has not provided documentation showing that she disclosed this loan to the banks holding her mortgages over the past 12 years.”

“As such, she likely received a lower interest rate that was not reflective of her actual financial situation,” said the Wyoming Republican.

Ms. Stone-Manning said she did not remember the details in response to written questions submitted by Sen. Steve Daines, Idaho Republican, about her mortgage applications.

“I do not recall the specifics of those loan applications and do not have copies of past mortgage documents,” she said in her response on the AAF’s BidenNoms.com. “I fully honored the unsecured loan to Mr. Goldberg before I took out my current mortgage.”

Mr. Barrasso also sent a letter to Mr. Goldberg asking him for information about his business and personal relationship with Ms. Stone-Manning and her husband, Richard Manning, who managed the home-theater business.

The Interior Department declined to comment on the loan criticism.

As a graduate student, Ms. Stone-Manning retyped, edited and mailed an anonymous letter to the Forest Service warning about spiked trees on behalf of the perpetrators, then testified against them in 1993 after receiving immunity from prosecution. She has said that she wanted to protect forestry workers from harm, while her critics argue that she should have turned in the eco-saboteurs instead of protecting their identities for three years.

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