President Biden’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Land Management. Tracy Stone-Manning, is under fire from Republicans for receiving an allegedly unethical loan while working as a congressional staffer.
“The Senator has concerns with something raised by another senator at the hearing on an ethics issue about Ms. Stone-Manning receiving a heavily discounted personal loan while serving as a congressional staffer,” a spokesperson for Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., told Fox News. “He believes before we can move forward with consideration of Ms. Stone-Manning’s nomination, we need clarity on terms and circumstances.”
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., pressed Stone-Manning on a personal loan of between $50,000 and $100,00 that she took out during her time as the state director for Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., during a Tuesday hearing.
Marshall said that her loan’s interest rate was significantly below the market rate and asked Stone-Manning if she believed it may have posed an ethical problem. Stone-Manning replied that she values ethics and defended the loan as help from a friend when her family was struggling in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
“According to your disclosure it looks like you received that [loan] at an interest rate of 6% but the going rate for a consumer loan was 11%,” Marshall said in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. “Do you feel like that’s some type of conflict of interest?”
“Ethics are deeply important to me,” Stone-Manning said. “Like many families in 2008, we got smacked by the recession and a friend loaned us some money to make sure that we could get through it. And we came to terms and we honored the loan.”
The individual who gave the loan to Stone-Manning is Stuart Goldberg, a Montana developer. Marshall’s concerns about the loan were not eased by Stone-Manning’s answers, Fox News is told, and he plans to submit further questions for the record to Stone-Manning about her history with Goldberg.
Those questions will press Stone-Manning on whether she was aware the interest rate on the loan was below the market rate; whether she interacted with Goldberg in an official capacity when she worked for Tester; whether Goldberg sought assistance from Tester’s office “around the time” of the loan; whether Stone-Manning ceased her official interactions with Goldberg after she got the loan; and whether Goldberg and Stone-Manning previously exchanged gifts.
Under Senate ethics rules, loans are considered a form of gift. Gifts from friends are expressly allowed under Senate ethics rules. But there are factors that are considered to confirm that such gifts are given due to a personal friendship and not a person’s position in the Senate.
According to the loan calculator from Bankrate, a $50,000 loan at a 6% interest rate would cost just over $70,000 over the 12-year term of the loan while a $100,000 loan would cost $140,000. The same loans at an 11% interest rate would cost just over $90,000 and $180,000, respectively.
This means that Stone-Manning may have benefited between $20,000 and $40,000 from the loan arrangement with Goldberg.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Stone-Manning gave a brief answer to a follow-up question from Marshall at the Tuesday hearing, refusing to say whether she believed she “gained something” through the loan arrangement.
“Do you feel like that you gained something by that by not paying the standard interest rate?” Marshall asked. “That you were given an interest rate less than the average consumer interest rate was there?”
“I was grateful for the help from a friend,” Stone-Manning said.