The debate over whether Tracy Stone-Manning should head the Bureau of Land Administration is starting to flare up.
Critics continue to raise questions about the candidate’s recent past, including her ties to an environmental extremist group.
These questions have prompted strong criticism from her defenders, who, in turn, accuse Republican senators of political retaliation against Stone Manning for campaigning against one of them – Montana Senator Steve Danes – in the 2020 elections.
Another attempt was made yesterday to bypass Stone-Manning’s candidacy. analysis from the American Accountability Foundation, a conservative research and fact-checking group formed earlier this year by two longtime GOP officials.
His report concludes that a large personal loan that Stone-Manning received from a Montana-based property developer in 2008 while working for Senator John Tester, Montana, raises “serious questions” about whether the loan was “inappropriate. a gift ”from a political donor.
AAF says the loan – between $ 50,000 and $ 100,000 on the financial disclosure form required as part of the Senate approval process – makes no financial sense because Stone-Manning was only making about $ 59,000 a year at the time.
What’s more, the group claims that the personal loan from Stuart Goldberg, who contributed to Tester’s campaign, was at a 6% interest rate, well below the standard 11% rate in 2008. The difference in annual interest payments exceeds 12 percent. an annual loan term would save Stone Manning tens of thousands of dollars.
“The very appearance of Mrs. Stone-Manning, who has received a huge loan from a wealthy real estate developer on her boss’s staff, raises serious questions that could strip her of her right to work,” AAF co-founder Tom Jones said in a statement.
The AAF’s analysis follows recent reports that Stone-Manning was involved in a criminal case three decades ago in which she testified against two men who fitted trees with metal thorns that were to be cut down in Clearwater National Forest in Idaho (E&E Daily, June 14).
The episode also highlights Stone-Manning’s affiliation with the Earth First radical group. In 1989, as a 23-year-old graduate student at the University of Montana, she sent federal officials a letter – anonymously and unwritten by her at the time – warning that the planned logging operation should not continue.
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, chief Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said last week that Stone Manning’s past associations with thorn trees and Earth First were enough to strip her of her approval as BLM director.
“Tracy Stone-Manning has collaborated with eco-terrorists,” he said in an email statement. “She worked with extremist environmental activists who chopped trees with thorns, threatening the lives and livelihoods of loggers.”
Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, objected: “If Senator Barrasso is so concerned about terrorism, he needs to clean up his own house first.”
Citing the January Capitol riots, she continued, “Barrasso voted against the bipartisan investigation into the January 6 coup attempt, but he believes that whoever did the right thing three decades ago should be removed from the Senate-approved office.”
Two government sources told E&E News that the Biden administration continues to support Stone-Manning’s candidacy.
‘Raises new questions’
The latest questioning about Stone-Manning’s past came after a confirmation hearing in which GOP senators called her “radical” and “extremist.”
For many of them, her recent role as Senior Adviser on Conservation Policy at the National Wildlife Federation was proof that she will be promoting public lands policy at BLM that limits reusability across federal lands despite A few dozens hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation groups with approved her nomination.
But Republicans also wondered if Stone-Manning had a deep dislike for them, as Barrasso focused specifically on her attack on Danes during his 2020 re-election against then-Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat for whom Stone-Manning worked in various senior capacities.
Stone Manning was also called out for her longtime board membership at Montana Conservation Voters, an organization that fought hard against Danes and in Bullock’s favor throughout the campaign.
Danes, who ultimately held his place, was careful not to be perceived as the opposition leader to Stone Manning, especially given that he is a member of the committee that will vote to promote her candidacy in the coming weeks.
For example, it was not Danes who asked Stone-Manning about the terms of her loan during the Senate confirmation hearing, but Senator Roger Marshall (Republican of Canada) (E&E Daily, the 9th of June).
After a hearing at which Stone-Manning called the loan “help from a friend” during the 2008 recession, a Daines spokesman simply said that the candidate “must answer questions” and “clarify whether she received favorable terms that were not available to the general public.”
And it was Barrasso who drew attention to the tree incident, which was never discussed during Stone-Manning’s confirmation hearings, despite being a public document in Montana for years.
“Senator Danes has been informed of the contents of the letter reprinted by Ms. Stone-Manning and alarmed by its hateful tone,” a Danes spokesman said yesterday. “This raises new questions about her decision not to go straight to law enforcement agencies.”
The representative was referring to an anonymous letter that one of the two thorny trees ordered Stone-Manning to send to the Forest Service. Several years ago, Stone-Manning testified in a criminal case against two men that she rented a typewriter and typed a letter so that she would not be identified.
It is not yet clear how all of these issues will unfold in the coming weeks, to what extent they will gain support and whether they will cost her votes among Republicans or, more importantly, Democrats.
More light on the loan issue could have been shed when Stone-Manning’s written responses to subsequent questions from the senators were presented to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
But Marshall told E&E News last week that while he was worried, “she was not aware of the potential conflict of interest she had, but this is clearly not a huge amount of money. [and] it will not be the deciding factor in whether I support her or not. “
He also said that he had no firm plans to find out the source of the loan, admitting that he “didn’t really think about the next step or what happened next.”
And while the press office of Senate Energy and Natural Resources President Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) did not respond to requests for comment, there is no indication that recent events have influenced his candidacy. Indeed, the accusations seem to solidify support for Stone Manning among Democrats and traditional Democratic allies.
“It’s clear that this whole unscrupulous attack is nothing more than Danes and Barrasso’s political malice, not that they are doing the right thing for the people of Montana and the West who deserve a leader like Tracy Stone-Manning of the Bureau of Land Management. – said Rokala.
The tester is also strengthening the support of his former assistant.
“Tracy Stone-Manning is a dedicated civil servant who has dedicated her life to protecting the public lands that drive our economy and serve as the foundation of Montana’s natural heritage,” Tester said in a statement to E&E News.
“Tracy will bring Montana common sense to the Bureau of Land Administration and will collaborate as an impartial steward of our state lands, as well as the thousands of high-paying jobs that depend on them, and I look forward to her confirmation.”